Exactly 20 years ago, German rock band Scorpions released Wind of Change, which became an anthem for our generation of young Eastern Europeans going through a dramatic political change: the fall of communism. Coming back from the broadcast upfront presentations in New York last week, I’ve been having a hard time getting the catchy tune out of my head. While less far-reaching and profound, there is a clear sense of changing of the guard and a new direction for the broadcast networks this year. I can’t remember a time where the majority of the networks had new heads at their upfront presentations. Paul Lee took over for Steve McPherson at ABC, Bob Greenblatt for Jeff Gaspin and Angela Bromstad at NBC, and Mark Pedowitz is succeeding Dawn Ostroff at the CW. There is a similar changing of the guard among the top TV producers this year. Upstart Chernin Entertainment and DreamWorks TV, which is re-entering the broadcast arena, topped the pods with the most new series, three each, with another recently launched company, Aaron Kaplan’s Kapital Entertainment, scoring two new shows. And in its first season, Marty Adelstein and Shawn Levy’s 21 Laps/Adelstein Prods.got one pilot, Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing, picked up to pilot, with another, Fox’s Family Album, in serious contention. Meanwhile, such longtime upfront fixtures as Jerry Bruckheimer TV, Mark Gordon Co. and Wonderland didn’t land any new series for next season.
Running out of slots for comedy series and striking out with new dramas in the fall, NBC and ABC in midseason expanded their existing two-hour comedy blocks on Thursday and Wednesday, respectively, to three hours, to largely uninspiring results. Going into next fall, the 10-11 PM comedy hours are being scrapped in favor of opening up more traditional 8-9 PM comedy blocks on other nights. In another sign of the resurgence of the comedy genre, for the first time in six years, each of the Big Four broadcast networks will have two comedy blocks on the fall schedule. Interestingly, both NBC and ABC opted to launch their new comedy blocks in the time periods where they most recently ran comedies. And just like the last time, both NBC and ABC populated the blocks with new comedies. In fall 2006, NBC launched 30 Rock and Twenty Good Years from 8-9 PM on Wednesday, the same time slot the network is using this year for new comedies Up All Night and Free Agents. ABC, which is going with the Tim Allen vehicle Last Man Standing and Chris Moynihan’s Man Up Tuesdays 8-9 PM, last tried comedies on the night in the fall of 2007, with then-newbies Cavemen and Carpoolers.
Something else happened this season: the return of the 10 PM drama. Scores of new dramas met their demise trying to get off the ground in the hour over the past few years, with the only shows to make it were modest hits Brothers and Sisters, Castle and The Good Wife. Uncertain about the prospects of 10 PM dramas, NBC even tried a Jay Leno talk show in the slot two seasons ago and had since kept the hour comedy/reality branded. But this season, all four freshman dramas to make it to Season 2 were 10 PM shows: CBS’ Hawaii Five-0 and Blue Bloods, ABC’s Body of Proof and NBC’s Harry’s Law. What’s more, for the first time in five years, all Big 3 networks have scheduled dramas in the 10 PM slot every night Sunday through Thursday.
We already told you what several advertisers thought of NBC’s and Fox’s upfront presentations. As for the last two major networks, the people with whom we spoke were much more impressed by CBS than ABC and identified four shows that seem to have a better-than-even shot at succeeding: CBS’ 2 Broke Girls, How To Be A Gentleman and A Gifted Man, and ABC’s Man Up. Some dinged ABC for providing little insight into the eight shows the network will introduce this fall. “I guess you throw something against the wall and hope,” says Brad Adgate of Horizon Media. By contrast, he says that CBS demonstrated that “the shows they’re really high on are protected” in time slots where they either face anemic competition or where they are flanked by hits. Targetcast’s Gary Carr says that CBS “did a great job” of explaining the strategies behind its five new shows. ABC, he added, ”was down and dirty — one hour with no entertainment and no celebrities.”
ABC Unveils 2011-12 Primetime Schedule
We may have the first head-to-head faceoff of two-hour comedy blocks in years this spring. ABC, which is launching a new Tuesday 8-9 PM comedy block with the Tim Allen starrer Last Man Standing and Chris Moynihan’s Man Up, leading into the Dancing With the Stars result show, plans to extend the block to two hours between the two cycles of Dancing, ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee announced at a press conference this morning. In what could be dubbed “men vs. women,” the two comedies with male leads will be followed by Courteney Cox’s Cougar Town and freshman Apartment 23 starring Krysten Ritter. Fox, of course, already has a 8-10 PM comedy block anchored by Glee at 8 PM and announced yesterday that it will convert it into a four-show block in March when Glee goes on hiatus. Since Dancing usually returns at the end of March, there is a good chance for the two four-comedy blocks to go toe to toe for a couple of weeks, a return to the old times when comedy ruled primetime with blocks on virtually every night of the week.