She already has an Oscar, a Golden Globe a Grammy. Now Jennifer Hudson is going for an Emmy. The Dreamgirls co-star is set to appear in a multi-episode arc on NBC’s musical drama Smash next season, beginning with the second-season premiere. Hudson will play Veronica Moore, a Tony Award-winning Broadway star who impacts the lives of Karen (Katharine McPhee) and Ivy (Megan Hilty). “This series is a showcase for some of the best musical talent in the business and that’s a fitting description for Jennifer Hudson,” NBC chairman Bob Greenblatt said. “Her character will represent someone who reached their Broadway dream but also paid a price for it.” The stint reunites Hudson with Smash executive producer Steven Spielberg whose company DreamWorks also produced Dreamgirls. “I have no doubt Jennifer will continue to deliver even more inspiration to the audience responsible for giving us a second season on NBC,” he said. Smash will now feature two famous American Idol alumnas next season: McPhee, who was a finalist in Season 5, and Hudson, who was on the third season of the reality series.
NBC is bringing back 13 comedy series — seven new and six returning — vs. 9 dramas — five new and four returning, so it was clear its schedule was going to be comedy-heavy. But the network is making a big statement with comedy blocks on four nights: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. That is a very rapid expansion since for a number of years the network had comedies solely on Thursday until opening a second night on Wednesday last season. This fall, the network is launching two more blocks, one from 9-10 PM on Tuesday, following The Voice results show, with Go On and The New Normal, and one on Friday at 8 PM with Whitney and Community. Loading up on comedies was intentional, NBC chairman Bob Greenblatt said. “Comedy once was the backbone of NBC, and I think we need to really plan for the future. It is good for the health of the network. People are open to comedy more than they have been in long time.”
With the exception of The Office and Parks & Recreation, which were picked up with full-season, 22-episode orders, most NBC returning comedy series have 13-episode orders, including Community, 30 Rock and Up All Night. Greenblatt was quick to note that “a 13-episode order …
Gossip Girl executive producer Josh Safran is finalizing a deal to join NBC’s musical drama series Smashas executive producer for next season. He will succeed creator/executive producer/showrunner Theresa Rebeck who departed the series shortly after it was renewed for a second season last month. A number of showrunners interviewed for the job until Safran was identified as the choice about a week ago. UTA-repped Safran spent the last five years on the CW soap Gossip Girl, rising through the ranks to an executive producer.
EXCLUSIVE: Smash, which was just renewed for a second season, will return next fall without its creator/executive producer/showrunner Theresa Rebeck. I’ve learned that Rebeck is stepping down as showrunner of the musical drama after its maiden season. Details about her future involvement with Smash are still being worked out. Rebeck will keep her executive producer title and may write scripts but will not be involved in the day-to-day running of series, returning to her theater career. Word is NBC will bring in a new showrunner for Season 2. It is unclear how that would affect writing executive producer David Marshall Grant, who joined the series after the pilot.
While the pilot of Smash was universally praised, there have been some qualms about the creative direction of the series — chronicling the creation of a Marilyn Monroe Broadway musical — which became increasingly soapy. Additionally, Smash, which started off big and broad, sometimes meandered into niche territory by focusing too much on the insider Broadway stuff over the human drama of the two singers, played by Megan Hilty and Katharine McPhee, battling it out for the role of their career. Rebeck, a playwright in addition to being a screenwriter, will have a continuing presence on Smash — the female lead on the show, Julia (Debra Messing), half of a successful Broadway writing …
NBC has renewed midseason musical drama Smash for a second season. The initial second-season order is for 15 episodes, higher than the 13 episodes midseason show normally get in their first renewal. The move is not surprising given that fact that Smash was the highest-profile and most heavily promoted new NBC series this season, backed by an elaborate marketing campaign that some estimate cost as much as $25 million. With NBC’s top entertainment show, The Voice, as a lead-in, Smash ranks as the network’s highest-rated drama in adults 18-49 (2.6 rating) and total viewers (7.7 million). After a strong start the night after the Super Bowl, Smash dropped in the ratings but leveled off relatively quickly, staying above the 2 18-49 rating level with the help of its big lead-in. Smash, which posted a 2.3 demo rating Monday, chronicles the birth of a Broadway musical. Stemming from an idea from executive producer Steven Spielberg, the series stars Debra Messing, Christian Borle, Anjelica Huston, Megan Hilty, Katharine McPhee and Jack Davenport. Smash has been a passion project for NBC chief Bob Greenblatt and the first NBC series developed by him, something he did in his previous gig at Showtime. Smash, produced by Universal TV and DreamWorks TV, joins fellow freshman Grimm as the second NBC series to get an early pickup for next season. In addition to Spielberg, it is executive produced by creator Theresa Rebeck, David …
Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA.
NBC’s multimillion-dollar, Steven Spielberg-produced new musical drama Smash rolled out at TCA this afternoon, carrying with it the primetime hopes and dreams of struggling NBC. To generate maximum sampling and word-of-mouth in advance of the show’s February 6 premiere, the network has launched an extensive promo campaign. It includes consumer screenings in 10 major markets next week, digital downloads over Apple iTunes and Amazon Video, VOD and in-flight screenings on American Airlines. (Fingers crossed that American’s declaration of bankruptcy won’t be a bad omen.) NBC.com and Hulu also will stream portions of Smash from January 23 through February 6. The heavy marketing push is understandable given the stakes for an expensive series whose pilot reportedly cost $7.5 million. And there’s its heavyweight pedigree — not just Spielberg but film, TV and Broadway producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan and many others. While there is an idea for the musical show about a theater staging a musical about Marilyn Monroe to spawn a real Broadway production of Merilyn, that is not the main goal, creator-exec producer Theresa Rebeck said. “What we are aiming to do is write a great television show. That is really what we’re all about. And what happens in the future, who knows? Like we could all die tomorrow or something.”
In her first series gig, Uma Thurman has been tapped for a major five-episode guest-starring arc on NBC’s midseason musical drama Smash. On the series, about the process of creating and staging Marilyn, a Broadway musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe, Thurman will play a famous and somewhat difficult movie star who flirts with the idea of starring in the production. The Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill star won a Golden Globe for one of her rare TV stints, in the HBO movie Hysterical Blindness. She will next be seen in the film Eloise in Paris. Smash, which stars Debra Messing, Christian Borle, Katharine McPhee, Megan Hilty, Anjelica Huston and Jack Davenport, premieres on Feb. 6.
NBC’s Midseason Schedule: ‘Up All Night’, ‘Whitney’, ‘Rock Center’, ‘Harry’s Law’ Move; ‘Community’ Benched; ‘Suspect’ Pulled
After a pretty dismal fall, NBC is shaking things up in midseason with several scheduling changes. Gone from the lineup is struggling freshman Prime Suspect (NBC says it hasn’t made a final decision on its cancellation), while four series — Whitney, Up All Night, Harry’s Law and Rock Center With Brian Williams — are on the move. NBC is creating a multi-camera comedy block in the 8-9 PM Wednesday hour with Whitney and midseason comedy Are You There, Chelsea (formerly Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me Chelsea; No alcohol-flavored title in the family hour.) The block, which will debut January 11, brings together two female comedians with similar sensibility in Whitney Cummings and Chelsea Handler, on whose books Chelsea is based. A month later, the two comedies will be followed by low-rated newsmagazine Rock Center With Brian Williams. It will take over the Wednesday 9 PM slot from Harry’s Law, which is moving to Sundays. Rock Center had to move out of the Monday 10 PM slot to make room for NBC’s highest-profile new series this season, Broadway drama Smash, which will premiere on February 6 and run in the post-The Voice slot as originally scheduled. NBC’s other changes for midseason include new comedy Up All Night moving to Whitney‘s Thursday 9:30 PM slot; 30 Rock replacing Community on Thursdays at 8 PM; and the John Grisham adaptation The Firm, originally slated for a Sunday midseason run, sliding into Prime Suspect‘s Thursday 10 PM slot. The order for Community has not been reduced, so it’s unclear what NBC will do with the remaining episodes of the college-set comedy. Missing from the midseason lineup is NBC’s ambitious new drama series Awake, which recently took an unplanned break to work on scripts. Here is NBC’s midseason schedule (with premiere dates) that also includes new reality series Fashion Star on Tuesdays at 10 PM and the return of Celebrity Apprentice on Sundays:
TV Castings: Will Chase Joins ‘Smash’, Raul Esparza Boards ‘Gifted Man’, Judy Greer To Do ’2.5 Men’, FearNet’s ‘Holliston’ Adds 2
Broadway actor Will Chase has joined NBC’s upcoming Broadway-themed drama Smash as a recurring. On the show, which chronicles the mounting of a Broadway musical and stars Debra Messing as the musical’s lyricist, he will play Steven, who has a history with Messing’s character. Chase, repped by Gersh and AC Management, has appeared in such Broadway productions as Billy Elliot, High Fidelity and Rent. On TV, he recurred on Rescue Me.
Another veteran Broadway actor, Raul Esparza, will do an arc on another new series, CBS’ medical drama A Gifted Man, about a neurosurgeon (Patrick Wilson) whose dead wife (Jennifer Ehle), the former head of a free clinic, starts appearing to him. Esparza will play Ehle’s boyfriend, who is on the board of the clinic. Esparza, repped by ICM and Elin Flack Management, recently starred in Arcadia on Broadway.
Judy Greer has been tapped for an arc on CBS’ revamped Two and a Half Men, playing new lead Ashton Kutcher’s soon-to-be-ex wife. This is the second time Greer plays a love interest on the show. She once played a squeeze of the former lead character, Charlie Sheen’s Charlie Harper.
Seven broadcast and one cable series made the cut in the Most Exciting New Series category at the inaugural Critics’ Choice Television Awards. The category, voted by broadcast journalists who have seen the pilots and any available episodes, recognizes shows premiering after June 1, 2011. Some of the most buzzed-about new series, including NBC’s Smash and Fox’s New Girl and Terra Nova, made the list, while others, including CBS’ Person of Interest and 2 Broke Girls and ABC’s Pan Am, didn’t. Here are the honorees (there will be no winner in the category, with all eight shows acknowledged at the awards show June 20):
Alcatraz – Fox – Warner Bros.
Apartment 23 - ABC – 20th Century Fox
Awake – NBC – 20th Century Fox
Falling Skies – TNT – DreamWorks
New Girl – Fox – 20th Century Fox
Ringer - CW – CBS Studios
Smash - NBC – DreamWorks/Universal Media
Terra Nova – Fox – 20th Century Fox
Columbia Records Teams With NBC For ‘Smash’ Music Albums, Inks Solo Recording Deal With Co-Star Katharine McPhee
EXCLUSIVE: Following in the footsteps of Fox’s Glee, NBC has signed a deal with Columbia Records for the soundtrack of the network’s new musical drama series Smash. Additionally, Columbia has signed a solo recording pact with Smash breakout star and American Idol alumna Katharine McPhee. I hear Columbia, which also handles the soundtracks for Glee and the upcoming X Factor, landed the rights to Smash after a bidding war. The deal, brokered by NBCUniversal TV Consumer Products Group, gives Columbia Records worldwide, digital and physical rights to the first season of Smash, with options to subsequent seasons. It includes both original songs, written exclusively for the TV series by the Tony Award-winning duo Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, and covers of hit songs featured on the show. “Our Columbia Records partners will guide the soundtrack of Smash into a big component of the show’s success,” said NBC chairman Bob Greenblatt. Added Rob Stringer, Chairman of Columbia/Epic Label Group, “Music is at the heart of Smash, and with our wonderfully creative broadcast partners, we will develop innovative strategies to present this music to a huge audience.”