Can New Fall Shows Rescue NBC?

Line-up includes four new dramas, two comedies and Chevy Chase.

Last Updated: May 5, 2009 @ 12:12 PM

Despite its controversial decision to cede its 10 p.m. weekday hours to a Jay Leno-hosted talk show, NBC remains very much in the drama business, announcing four new hourlong pickups at what it billed as its “infront” presentation to advertisers Monday.

The new dramas include “Trauma,” a San Francisco-set series about emergency first-responders from producer Peter Berg (“Friday Night Lights”) and Universal Media Studios; “Parenthood,” a TV adaptation executive produced by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer and starring Peter Krause, Maura Tierney and Craig T. Nelson; medical drama “Mercy” from Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun; and the post-apocalyptic “Day One” from “Heroes” Jesse Alexander (“Heroes”). The latter is set for a mid-season bow coinciding with NBC’s coverage of the Vancouver Winter Olympics.

Also announced at the fourth-place network’s New York presentation Monday were the pickups of two comedies: “Community,” a single-camera series starring Joel McHale (“The Soup”) and Chevy Chase; and “100 Questions,” a youth-oriented series about a women seeking love through online dating from James Burrows (“Will & Grace,” “Friends”).

 “These new series will showcase fresh talent and bold, original concepts that are extremely well executed,” said Angela Bromstad, president of primetime entertainment for NBC, at the presentation.

In addition to the new shows, NBC also announced pickups for returning series. After a disappointing third campaign, “Heroes” will be back on the network’s Monday-night schedule next season. Meanwhile, recently launched series including offbeat drama “Southland” and Amy Poehler comedy “Parks and Recreation” will also return on Thursday nights. So will “Saturday Night Live Weekend Update Thursday,” Lauren Michael’s “SNL” half-hour spin-off, which performed well in the weeks leading up to last year’s election.

Breaking with tradition at a challenging economic time for television, NBC presented its wares to advertisers and media ahead of the upfront market, the spring negotiating period during which advertisers purchase the bulk of TV time for the coming season.

For the second straight year, NBC held what it called an “infront,” jumping the gun on rivals CBS, ABC and Fox, which will deliver their presentations two weeks from now.

According to NBC Entertainment/Universal Media Studios co-chair Ben Silverman, doing things early allows the network to form a “deeper engagement” with its marketing partners during a year in which the total broadcast TV upfront could be down as much as $2 billion.

However, there were still plenty of details left unannounced, pending a follow-up presentation to advertisers May 19. Besides fully sketched out scheduling details, also left up in the air were the fates of several established series.

Already picked up were “The Office,” “30 Rock,” and “Law & Order: SVU.” Meanwhile, confirmed goners include the zen-themed crime drama, “Life.”

The network is still pondering the returns of “Chuck,” “Medium” and the “Law & Order” flagship show, which will match “Gunsmoke” for longevity should it get picked up for another season.

Also still to be determined is whether still-unsigned “SVU” stars Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay will be returning to the show.

“We have an offer on the table and we’re waiting for them to sign it,” said Marc Graboff, NBC co-chairman. “The show is coming back with or without them.”

While sketching out its scripted lineup for the 2009-10 season, NBC also revealed its reality plans for the coming summer.

According to Paul Telegdy — the BBC transplant who replaced Craig Plestis as executive VP of alternative programming in December — the network will kick off its summer slate by stripping the new American version of “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!” in June. Fresh installments of “America’s Got Talent” and “The Philanthropist” will follow.

Meanwhile, Silverman and company worked to build momentum for what has been their defining move, Jay Leno at 10 p.m. — a show Silverman billed as “fresh, topical and TiVo-proof comedy.”

“This is not late night at 10 p.m. This is Jay Leno in prime time,” he said.

On Monday, the network’s presentation included a five-minute promo reel featuring Leno, who comically noted the ubiquitous murder themes on 10 o’clock dramas. “We’ll have 100% less murder and 98% more comedy,” Leno proclaimed.

Expanding on the rationale for placing a late-night talk show in prime time, Silverman noted that “The Jay Leno Show” will feature 46 weeks of original shows while rival dramas will have only 22 original weeks.

Silverman added that, at least early on, NBC’s grand plan of moving Leno to 10, Conan O’Brien to 11:30 and placing Jimmy Fallon into the 12:30 slot was working, with “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” beating its competition on all 40 nights since it premiered.

Of course, it probably didn’t help the oft-lampooned co-chair of the last-place network when a few chuckling advertisers and media members noticed the erroneous “Late Show with Jimmy Fallon” graphic that was situated behind Silverman as he made that proclamation. 

Other nonscripted shows in the pipeline include the Jerry Seinfeld produced “Marriage Ref,” “Breakthrough with Tony Robbins” and celeb-themed “Who Do You Think You Are.”

Here’s the complete line-up of new shows:

New Dramas

PARENTHOOD
From the executive producers of the box-office hit "Parenthood" — Ron Howard and Brian Grazer (Oscar winners for "A Beautiful Mind"), and writer/executive producer Jason Katims ("Friday Night Lights") — this contemporary re-imagining of the blockbuster film depicts the colorful and imperfect Braverman family — four grown siblings sharing the headaches, heartaches and joy of being parents. The star-studded cast includes Peter Krause, Maura Tierney, Craig T. Nelson, Dax Shepard, Bonnie Bedelia, Monica Potter, Erika Christensen and Sarah Ramos. When Sarah Braverman (Tierney, "ER"), a financially strapped single mother, returns home to her parents and siblings in Berkeley, Calif. after packing up her Fresno apartment and uprooting her two inconvenienced kids, Amber (Mae Whitman, "In Treatment") and Drew (Miles Heizer, "ER"), she is greeted by her opinionated father, Zeek (Nelson, "Family Stone," "Coach"), and strong mother, Camille (Bedelia, "Heart Like a Wheel"), who are privately dealing with their own marital issues. As Sarah is reunited with her siblings — sister, Julia (Christensen, "Traffic"), and brothers Crosby (Shepard, "Baby Mama") and Adam (Krause, "Six Feet Under") — all struggling with issues of their own, it’s clear that the Braverman reunion is just what they need to face the everyday challenges of modern family life. "Parenthood" is a production from Imagine Entertainment and Universal Media Studios. Emmy winner Thomas Schlamme ("The West Wing") directs the pilot.

TRAUMA
Executive producer Peter Berg (NBC’s "Friday Night Lights") delivers "Trauma," the first high-octane medical drama series to live exclusively in the field where the real action is. Like an adrenaline shot to the heart, "Trauma" is an intense, action-packed look at one of the most dangerous medical professions in the world: first responder paramedics. When emergencies occur, the trauma team from San Francisco General is first on the scene, traveling by land, by sea or by air to reach their victims in time.

From the heights of the city’s Transamerica Pyramid to the depths of the San Francisco Bay, these heroes must face the most extreme conditions to save lives — and give meaning to their own existence in the process. Starring in "Trauma" are Derek Luke ("Notorious"), Cliff Curtis ("10,000 B.C"), Anastasia Griffith ("Damages"), Aimee Garcia ("George Lopez"), Kevin Rankin ("Friday Night Lights") and Jamey Sheridan ("Law & Order: Criminal Intent"). "Trauma" is a production of Universal Media Studios and Film 44. Berg, Sarah Aubrey ("Bad Santa," "Friday Night Lights"), Dario Scardapane and Jeffrey Reiner ("Friday Night Lights") serve as executive producers. The pilot was written by Scardapane and directed by Reiner.

MERCY
"Mercy," a new medical drama with a unique point of view, portrays the lives of the staff at Mercy Hospital as seen through the eyes of those who know it best — its nurses. Nurse Veronica Callahan (Taylor Schilling, "Dark Matter") returns to Mercy from a military tour in Iraq — and she knows more about medicine than all of the residents combined. Together with fellow nurses Sonia Jimenez (Jamie Lee Kirchner, "Rescue Me") and Chloe Payne (Michelle Trachtenberg, "Gossip Girl"), Callahan navigates through the daily traumas and social landmines of life and love both inside the hospital and out in the real world. The cast also includes: James Tupper ("Men in Trees") as Dr. Chris Sands, a new doctor at the hospital who complicates Veronica’s life; Diego Klattenhoff ("Supernatural") as Mike Callahan, Veronica’s husband; and Guillermo Diaz ("Weeds") as Nurse Angel Lopez. "Mercy" is a production from Universal Media Studios and Berman Braun. Joining writer/executive producers Liz Heldens (NBC’s "Friday Night Lights") and Gretchen Berg & Aaron Harberts ("Pushing Daisies," "Pepper Dennis") are executive producers Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun. Emmy Award winner Adam Bernstein (NBC’s "30 Rock," "Rescue Me") is the director.

DAY ONE
From executive producer/writer Jesse Alexander ("Heroes," "Lost," "Alias") and director Alex Graves ("Fringe," "Journeyman"), "Day One" tells the story of life on earth following a global catastrophe that has devastated the world’s infrastructures. Beginning with the immediate aftermath of the cataclysmic event, an eclectic band of survivors — played by Adam Campbell ("Date Movie"), Catherine Dent ("The Shield"), Julie Gonzalo ("Eli Stone"), David Lyons ("ER"), Derek Mio ("Greek"), Carly Pope ("24"), Thekla Reuten ("Sleeper Cell") and Addison Timlin ("Cashmere Mafia") — strives to rebuild society as they unravel the mysteries of what happened and face their uncertain future. The group, all residents of one apartment building in suburban Van Nuys, Calif., embarks on a quest for survival and discovers that hope is found in small victories — and heroes are born every day. "Day One" is a Universal Media Studios production.

New Comedies

100 QUESTIONS
Emmy winner James Burrows ("Will & Grace," "Friends") directs "100 Questions," a new comedy series written and executive-produced by Christopher Moynihan ("For Your Consideration") that provides hilarious answers to 100 questions about love. Charlotte Payne (Sophie Winkleman, "Peep Show") is looking for love and has rejected multiple marriage proposals — but she has yet to meet Mr. Right. When she joins a popular online dating site, she gets a little help from her dating counselor Ravi (Amir Talai, "The Ex List") – who requires her to take a 100-question compatibility test. The questions aren’t easy for Charlotte to answer, and each one requires her to recount a poignant and humorous time in her life with friends Leslie (Elizabeth Ho, "Women’s Murder Club"), Jill (Joy Suprano, NBC’s "Law & Order"), Mike (Christopher Moynihan "For Your Consideration") and Wayne (David Walton "Quarterlife"). The test becomes a journey of self-discovery for Charlotte who begins to realize what she truly wants in a relationship. Ron West ("Psych"), Kelly Kulchak ("Psych") and  Michelle Nader ("King of Queens") join Moynihan as executive producers. The series is produced by Universal Media Studios and Tagline.

COMMUNITY
From Emmy Award-winning directors Joe and Anthony Russo ("Arrested Development") comes "Community," a smart comedy series about higher education — and lower expectations. The student body at Greendale Community College is made up of high-school losers, newly divorced housewives, and old people who want to keep their minds active. Within these not-so-hallowed halls, "Community" focuses on a band of misfits, at the center of which is a fast-talkin’ lawyer whose degree has been revoked (Joel McHale, "The Soup"), who form a study group and end up learning a lot more about themselves than they do about their course work. In addition to McHale, the series also stars: Gillian Jacobs ("The Book of Daniel"); Yvette Nicole Brown ("Rules of Engagement"); Danny Pudi ("Greek"); Alison Brie ("Mad Men"); and comedy legend Chevy Chase ("Saturday Night Live"). "Community" is a Krasnoff Foster Entertainment, Harmonious Claptrap and Russo Brothers production in association with Sony Pictures Television and Universal Media Studios. Russ Krasnoff ("The Soloist"), Dan Harmon ("The Sarah Silverman Program"), Joe Russo ("Arrested Development"), Anthony Russo ("Arrested Development") and Gary Foster ("The Soloist") serve as executive producers. Joe and Anthony Russo directed the pilot that was written by Dan Harmon.
 

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