CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- The Television Critics Association is set to conclude its summer press tour this week in which the various broadcast and cable networks talk about their upcoming plans to the nation's top critics and entertainment reporters. The final week of the tour rounds out the rest of the broadcast networks as NBC held its first of two sessions on Thursday for the press.
Here's a breakdown of the highlights of NBC's presentation:
-- As expected, NBC officially announced its plans for "Joey," a spin-off of "Friends," starring two-time Emmy award nominee Matt LeBlanc. The series, which is guaranteed the fall 2004 time slot of Thursdays at 8:00/7:00c, will be executive produced by Kevin Bright, Scott Silveri and Shana Goldberg-Meehan, all of whom are "Friends" veterans, and distributed by Warner Bros. Television. As part of his deal to headline the series LeBlanc has secured starring roles in two yet-to-be-determined feature films for Warner Bros. Pictures. Look for additional details about the series shortly.
-- Fans of "American Dreams" can look forward to another year of high-profile musical guest stars. Already on tap for season two are Kelly Clarkson ("American Idol"), Monica and multi-Grammy winner Alicia Keys as well as sisters Hilary Duff ("Lizzie McGuire") and Haylie Duff ("The Lizzie McGuire Movie"). Clarkson is set as the era's pop princess Brenda Lee and will sing her hit, "Sweet Nothings," in the season premiere. Monica will portray Mary Wells and will sing the former Motown star's hit single, "My Guy." Keys will embody Fontella Bass and will perform her hit "Rescue Me" while Hilary and Haylie Duff will appear as the Shangri-Las and will sing one of the group�s 1960's hits.
-- Former "Fastlane" star Tiffani Thiessen is set to appear in a three episode arc this season on "Good Morning, Miami." She'll play a TV executive who causes trouble among the staff when she arrives at the Miami station.
-- Nia Long ("Big Momma's House") has signed on as a series regular this season on the Monday drama "Third Watch." She'll continue in her role as Sasha Monroe, a young police officer introduced late last season. The network announced it will also begin to broadcast the series in widescreen for its fifth season.
-- The network also outlined its post-Aaron Sorkin strategy for "The West Wing's" upcoming fifth season. In addition to executive producer John Wells (who will write the season�s first two episodes), the producing/writing staff is set to include Eli Attie, Debora Cahn, Carol Flint ("The Court"), Mark Goffman, Alexa Junge ("Friends"), Peter Noah ("War Stories"), Lawrence O�Donnell ("Mister Sterling"), Paul Redford, Josh Singer and John Sacret Young. On the casting front, Steven Eckholdt ("My Big Fat Greek Life") has come on board in a recurring role as President Jed Bartlet's (Martin Sheen) son-in-law, married to his older daughter, Elizabeth (Annabeth Gish).
-- Lastly, the Peacock revealed a new concept called "1MMs," a series of one-minute "mini-movies" set to air throughout its programming. The project is an original idea presented by John Wells Productions and Emmy Award-winning director Paris Barclay ("NYPD Blue"). The original movies will unfold as two 30-second spots, the first of which features a cliffhanger that leads into the next. The current concepts include (via press release):
"Death Do Us Part" (written and directed by Ivan Sergei) - In the first 30 seconds of the "movie," a frantic man (Eddie Cibrian, NBC�s "Third Watch") runs down the street with blood on his shirt and a gun tucked in his waistband, but when he reaches his house, he draws the gun on his surprised wife (Amber Valletta).
"A Special Word Game" (written and directed by Paris Barclay) - During the game the celebrity host offers a word to the three contestants - but when one competitive player gets it right, it leads to a battle of the networked stars. Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon ("NYPD Blue"), Bill Bellamy ("How to Be a Player"), Danny Masterson ("That �70s Show") and Paula Marshall ("Hidden Hills") star.
"Severance Pay" (written by Shawn Ryan, "The Shield," and directed by Philip Atwell) - In a black comedy, an arrogant tycoon (James Remar) berates his assistant (Cathy Ryan) until he is robbed of a briefcase full of money - and a betrayal puts teeth in the concept of "comeuppance."
"The Pussycat Dolls" (written by Steven Antin & Joe Voci; directed by Antin) - Carmen Electra ("Baywatch") dons her rhinestone-studded costume as one of the famed "Pussycat Dolls" performers who seeks to exchange her shiny suit�s stones for a bag of diamonds that could prove to be any girl�s best friend.
"Henry Tammer - Prodigy Bully" (written and directed by Hank Perlman) - A mockumentary boasts of finding the first child prodigy-cum-bully - 8-year-old Henry "The Hammer" Tammer, who oddly is a kick-ass and a smarty-pants. But the reaction yields a radical plan to tame Tammer for the common good of the schoolyard.
"Free Snacks" (written and directed by Corky Quakenbush) - Filmed in Claymation, an unsuspecting male patron (voice of Michael Richards, "Seinfeld") eats unshelled snacks in a bar but is nearly driven nuts by the suggestive compliments of an unseen woman (Jackee Harry, "227") who cannot be found. Tom Arnold voice is heard as the bartender.
Additional details about the "1MMs" including a rollout plan are expected to be announced at a later date.
Upcoming TCA schedule: Thursday-Friday (July 24-25) - NBC