I hear that NBC is about to make some scheduling moves. The network is keeping mum, but there is speculation that rookie comedies Up All Night and Whitney, both with full-season orders, may be swapping places. Up All Night is getting murdered in the Wednesday 8 PM slot, so it will probably benefit from a protected run behind The Office. It also is single-camera and has a workplace element like the rest of NBC’s Thursday’s lineup. Up All Night will likely move to the Thursday 9:30 PM spot, but Whitney may be a bit too racy for the Wednesday family hour. Also possibly on the move is NBC’s new fairytale drama Grimm, which started off strong in the Friday 9 PM slot but has been slipping since. While the series’ long-term potential is still unclear, given the dearth of strong prospects at NBC this fall — especially on the drama side — the network probably should give the newbie a shot.
It turns out Modern Family was the Robin that signaled the comedy spring at the broadcast networks. Two years after the Emmy-winning ABC series became the first out-of-the-gate big comedy hit in years, the genre’s comeback is complete, while dramas appear headed for a down cycle. Here are the facts:
Four new series have been given full-season orders so far this fall — all of them comedies: Fox’s New Girl, CBS’ 2 Broke Girls and NBC’s Up All Night and Whitney. For the first time in a long time, there has been no breakout new drama 3 weeks into the season, and no hourlong freshman series has been given a back-nine order. What’s more, two of the four renewed new comedies, New Girl and 2 Broke Girls, have become rare instant hits. In comparison, it took CBS’ The Big Bang Theory a couple of seasons to find its footing and rose to a hit status after being put behind Two And A Half Men in its third season. And CBS’ How I Met Your Mother just found a new gear with series highs in its seventh season.
With many veteran dramas fading, comedies dominate the fall schedule, especially in the key adults 18-49 demographic. A comedy series has been the top entertainment program in 18-49 on every night that features comedies during …
PREVIOUS: The inevitable happened this morning after another poor showing from NBC’s freshman comedy. Free Agents averaged a paltry 1.0 rating in 18-49 and 3.3 million viewers last night. The underperforming new comedy got a stay of execution last week, when it also posted a 1.0 demo rating, for one more shot at improving — but that didn’t happen. There is no final decision yet what NBC will put in the Wednesday 8:30 PM slot, but reruns of new comedy Whitney are a strong possibility. NBC’s boss Bob Greenblatt earlier this week replaced canceled The Playboy Club with repeats of new drama Prime Suspect for additional sampling. I won’t be surprised if Whitney eventually migrates to Wednesday with originals while 30 Rock rejoins NBC’s Thursday lineup. Production on Free Agents was stopped right away. As one commenter noted, “They canceled the show in the middle of an episode and in the middle of a work day. Actors were just called to not come to set today. Harsh.” Based on the British series of the same name, Free Agents starred Hank Azaria and Kathryn Hahn as co-workers who start sleeping together. Azaria started the season with two series on the air, Free Agents and The Simpsons. With Free Agents just cancelled …
Second Time No Charm For ‘Playboy Club’ ‘Charlie’s Angels’ & ‘Prime Suspect’: What Went Wrong?
UPDATED: NBC is giving new comedy series Up All Night and Whitney a major vote of confidence with early full-season pickups. Meanwhile, as we indicated in the ratings story earlier this morning, low-rated new drama The Playboy Club has become the first new series to be canceled this fall. The 1960s drama is being pulled from the schedule effective immediately and will be replaced by Brian Williams’ new primetime newsmagazine, Rock Center With Brian Williams, which will premiere October 31. For the next three weeks, NBC will air repeats of its other struggling new drama, the well-received Prime Suspect, in the Monday 10 PM hour for additional sampling, while keeping originals on Thursday. “We made comedy an important goal for us this season and I’m very pleased to be making full-season commitments to both Whitney and Up All Night,” NBC chairman Bob Greenblatt said. “We’re thrilled with the creative direction of both shows as well as the potential for them to continue to build loyal audiences over the coming months.”
While not breakout hits of the size of Fox’s New Girl or CBS’ 2 Broke Girls, Up All Night and Whitney have been solid in their first couple of weeks, especially compared to the performance of NBC’s new drama series. The pickup of Whitney, which will be joined shortly by a full-season order for 2 Broke Girls at CBS, will give Whitney Cummings, who created and stars in Whitney and co-created 2 Broke Girls, two successful new shows this fall. As for Playboy, the series was expected to get the ax last week after its low-rated premiere was followed by a Week 2 decline, but Greenblatt gave the period drama another shot. Unfortunately, the series dropped again last night to a 1.2 demo rating despite its lead-in actually improving a bit.
It worked big time for the premiere of Fox’s comedy New Girl, and NBC will now stream the second episodes of its promising new comedies Up All Night and Whitney in their entirety before they air. NBC has struck a deal with Yahoo to have the Wednesday episode of Up All Night and the Thursday episode of Whitney streamed and promoted on Yahoo’s site starting tomorrow morning. Following a 2-week stint of having the pilot of New Girl pilot available on iTunes, VOD, airplanes, Hulu and in hotels, the Fox comedy blew past any ratings projections to open with a 4.8/12 in adults 18-49 and 10.3 million viewers last week. The Yahoo deal does not include NBC’s third new comedy, Free Agents, which appears headed to a quick cancellation.
EXCLUSIVE: Former Malcolm In the Middle star Jane Kaczmarek has joined the cast of NBC’s upcoming comedy series Whitney as a recurring. Created by Whitney Cummings, the multicamera comedy revolves around Whitney (Cummings) and Alex (Chris D’Elia), a happily unmarried couple. Kaczmarek will play Whitney’s outspoken mom who has been married several times. Beverly D’Angelo played the role in the pilot, and those scenes will now be reshot. Whitney premieres Sept. 22 in the plum post-Office Thursday slot. Kaczmarek, repped by ICM and Greenlight Management, earned seven consecutive lead comedy actress Emmy nominations for her role on Malcolm. After a drama stint on TNT’s Raising the Bar, she recently returned to comedy with a guest spot on last week’s episode of FX’s new irreverent comedy Wilfred.
Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA.
Whitney Cummings, the actress-comedian who was introduced by NBC programming honcho Bob Greenblatt as the ‘It’ Girl circa 2011, met the press at TCA this afternoon, fresh from a wildly overachieving upfront season that’s poised to take her from relative obscurity to double-threat superstardom virtually overnight. Cummings was on hand to hype her new self-titled comedy Whitney that she created and executive produces as well as stars in. But another series she co-created with Sex and the City guru Michael Patrick King, CBS’ 2 Broke Girls, also got picked up after having been the network’s best-testing pilot ever. Oh, and her new four-camera sitcom also has the prime placement on NBC Thursday nights at 9:30 coming out of The Office. All in all, not too shabby for a standup comedian and actress whose biggest previous credits were on MTV’s Punk’d and hanging out late nights with Chelsea Handler on E!
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.
After getting to the brink of extinction on ABC, NBC and Fox last year, multicamera comedies staged a comeback this upfront season. While the genre has been alive and well on CBS, the number of multicamera comedies on the other broadcast networks had steadily declined in the past few years to three during the 2009-10 season — the short-lived ABC’s Hank, Fox’s Brothers and NBC’s 100 Questions, which didn’t even air in-season — then to only one this season, ABC’s Better with You, which also has been canceled. But sitcoms rebounded this year, with ABC, Fox and NBC ordering a total of five multicamera comedies: NBC’s Whitney and Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea, ABC’s Last Man Standing and Work It and Fox’s I Hate My Teenage Daughter. Three of them, Last Men Standing, Whitney and I Hate My Teenage Daughter, are on the fall schedule in key slots — Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing is launching a new comedy block for ABC on Tuesday, while Whitney and Teenage Daughter landed their networks’ cushiest time periods: after The Office and The X Factor, respectively.
How many new comedy series with a female lead were picked up last May? Zero. How many have been picked up so far this season? Every single one. All four new comedy series ordered so far by Fox and NBC this season have female leads. That is how many the four broadcast networks combined have on the air this season: NBC’s 30 Rock starring Tina Fey and Parks and Recreation starring Amy Poehler, and ABC’s The Middle starring Patricia Heaton and Cougar Town starring Courteney Cox. Half of those were created by women. All four of the newly picked series come from female creators. While not at 100%, female-centered series are also dominant on the drama side. One of the two new Fox dramas, Alcatraz, has a female lead, Sarah Jones, and was co-written by a female writer, Liz Sarnoff. Of the two NBC drama pickups, one is the female-centered Prime Suspect starring Maria Bello and written by Alexandra Cunningham and the other the female-skewing Smash, which has two leads, one played by Debra Messing. And the two locks at ABC are all about ladies (though penned by male writers), Charlie’s Angels and Good Christian Bitches.
The four newly picked up half-hour series will probably be joined by 3-4 more for a complete domination of the freshman comedy class of 2011 the way ensemble relationship comedies were all the craze last year. What’s more, it looks like as many as three new comedy series are two-female lead shows.
UPDATE 5:30 PM: And we’re done. Word is that NBC won’t be making more series pickups beyond the four shows from in-house studio UMS, thus prolonging the agony of producers awaiting word on the fate of their pilots until tomorrow. Also, I hear that the UMS-produced pilots that didn’t get a nod today are not necessarily dead, with dramas Grimm and Reconstruction said to be alive, and possibly comedies Bent, Parham/St. Clair and Dan Goor.
UPDATE 5:20 PM: The Emily Spivey comedy, starring Christina Applegate as a professional woman and new mom, is now officially a go as a series order with a new name, Up All Night.
PREVIOUS 4:55 PM: NBC opened its own pickup season today with a series order to the untitled Whitney Cummings comedy pilot, now titled Whitney, a romantic comedy created by and starring the racy comedienne; the Broadway-themed Smash, exec produced by Steven Spielberg and starring Debra Messing; and Prime Suspect, a Maria Bello-starring adaptation of the classic British series. A pickup of the untitled Emily Spivey comedy starring Christina Applegate is also said to be under way. It seems like NBC is starting off by ordering the projects from its own studios (all four pilots above are from UMS) before moving onto outside suppliers, such as 20th TV, which has hot dramas REM and The Playboy Club as well as Metro, which is also in contention, and Warner Bros, which has the Chelsea Handler comedy in contention, while its Wonder Woman appears doubtful and Mann’s World highly unlikely at the moment.