NBC BUILDS ON TOP-RATED SUCCESS WITH ANNOUNCEMENT OF ITS NEW PRIMETIME PROGRAM SCHEDULE FOR 2004-05
Number One Network Delivers on Promise to Spotlight New Ideas as Matt LeBlanc, Drea de Matteo, Heather Locklear, Blair Underwood, Patricia Arquette, Neal McDonough, Kelli Williams, Bill Pullman, Natascha McElhone, Steve Carell and John Goodman Star
LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- NBC introduced its new prime-time schedule for the 2004-05 season today, a line-up that will initially add two new comedy series and three new dramas to America's top-rated television network, and then introduce seven more projects as the season progresses. The new lineup - set to roll out in late August following the 2004 Summer Olympics - includes a spin-off of "Friends," "Joey," and an animated comedy from the creators of "Shrek," "Father of the Pride."
The joint announcement was made today by Jeff Zucker, President, NBC Universal Television Group, and Kevin Reilly, President NBC Entertainment, at NBC's annual Sales Presentation held at the Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
The five new shows debuting in September, totaling just four hours, represents the fewest number of new shows NBC has introduced in five years, but the additional seven series already ordered represents the most aggressive commitment to year-round original programming ever.
Zucker told advertisers, "NBC Universal affords us an exciting new relationship to extend the NBC brand and maintain our position as America's number one network among adults 18-49 for a fifth consecutive year. We've presented an incredibly stable, yet exciting new schedule and our freshman programs will offer viewers some of their favorite returning stars and the next wave of new personalities poised to become breakout stars."
Reilly added: "We have positioned the network to remain in great shape and we will build on that momentum. Our mantra this year is 52 weeks a year of fresh product, programmed when it can best succeed. This has been our objective and today, I think you'll see that we've delivered the goods."
The 2004-05 strategy unveiled today reflects NBC's aggressive approach to the changing nature of prime-time television, with such unconventional elements as the early premieres immediately following the Olympics, innovative scheduling that will minimize encore programming in several key time periods and the introduction of a number of the season's most exciting, new projects over the course of the season, well beyond the fray of the traditional fall premieres.
In addition, the network will feature "Revelations," an eight-episode, edge-of-your-seat thriller about a small group of people struggling to forestall the prophesies put forth in the book of Revelations and "The Contender," the next great unscripted drama from the creator of "The Apprentice" and "Survivor" -- Mark Burnett. The driving force behind the series will be the pursuit of the American dream and the natural trials, tribulations and heartbreak inherent in that quest.
The new comedies include: "Joey," starring Emmy Award nominee Matt LeBlanc in his popular "Friends" role and Drea de Matteo ("The Sopranos"); "Father of the Pride," a CGI-animated comedy series that goes beyond the bright lights and glitz of the iconic "Siegfried & Roy" show featuring the voices of John Goodman ("Roseanne"), Cheryl Hines ("Curb Your Enthusiasm"), Carl Reiner ("The Dick Van Dyke Show") and Orlando Jones ("Magnolia").
Meanwhile, "Crazy for You," starring Josh Cooke ("Century City") and Jennifer Finnigan ("NBC's "Crossing Jordan"); "The Men's Room," starring Scott Cohen ("The Practice") and John Cho ("American Pie"), and "The Office," starring Steve Carell ("Bruce Almighty") will premiere later in the season.
The new dramas are: "Medical Investigation," starring Neal McDonough ("Boomtown") and Kelli Williams ("The Practice"); "Hawaii," starring Michael Biehn ("The Terminator") and Sharif Atkins (NBC's "ER"); "LAX," starring Heather Locklear ("Spin City") and Blair Underwood ("L.A. Law").
"Medium," starring Patricia Arquette ("Stigmata"); "Law & Order: Trial by Jury," the fourth and latest drama in television's most successful franchise from executive producer Dick Wolf, and the limited series "Revelations," starring Bill Pullman ("Independence Day") and Natascha McElhone ("Solaris") are set for later in the season.
The new schedule kicks off Mondays with the fifth season of the increasingly dominant unscripted drama "Fear Factor" (8-9 p.m. ET) in its same day and time. The series averages the highest 18-49 regular-program rating (5.9) for any network in this slot in seven years. Returning for a second season at 9-10 p.m. (ET) is "Las Vegas," TV's highest-rated freshman drama among adults 18-49 this season. Concluding the resurgent night will be "LAX" (10-11 p.m. ET).
On a revamped Tuesday, NBC leads off with "Average Joe" (8-9 p.m. ET), followed by the new CGI-animated comedy "Father of Pride" (9-9:30 p.m. ET). "Scrubs" (9:30-10 p.m. ET) returns for its fourth season, having retained 99 percent of its 18-49 lead-in from "Fraiser," the best retention for any 9:30 p.m. comedy on any network. Now entering its sixth season, "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (10-11 p.m. ET) begins a second year on Tuesdays where it delivered NBC's most dominant 18-49 victory in the time period in the 17-year history of People Meters (up 26 percent over the 2002-03 time slot).
The successful Wednesday lineup resumes largely intact with "Hawaii" (8-9 p.m. ET) jump-starting the night. "The West Wing" (9-10 p.m. ET) shares the distinction with "The Apprentice" for delivering the #1 and #2 indexes in most key upscale categories (measuring percentage representation of upscale homes in their audiences). The venerable "Law & Order" - now guaranteed in its new deal through the 2005-06 season - has won the hour by a 29 percent or greater margin in each of the last four seasons.
The legendary "Must-See" Thursday schedule takes on a new viewer-friendly face with the series premiere of "Joey" - starring Matt LeBlanc as he reprises his role as Joey Tribbiani from "Friends" - from 8-8:30 p.m. (ET) followed by the Emmy-winning "Will & Grace" (8:30-9 p.m. ET), the #2 comedy in the 18-49 demo behind only "Friends" in each of the last four seasons. Next up is the current season's biggest monster hit, "The Apprentice 2" - which bolted to become the #1 new series among the 18-49 set - and stars business and media colossus Donald Trump. Anchoring NBC Thursday night for an 11th year will be the Emmy-winning "ER" at 10-11 p.m. (ET), television's #1 drama in 18-49 for each of its 10 seasons (a feat unprecedented in television history).
Fridays means "Dateline NBC" (8-9 p.m. ET) which has won its Friday time period in 18-49 versus regular programming for the last seven seasons in a row (including one tie). "Third Watch" (9-10 p.m. ET) comes back for its sixth season and after moving to Fridays in 2003-04, is now the night's #1 series among adults 18-49 this season. Concluding the night will be "Medical Investigation" (10-11 p.m. ET)
Saturday remains the night for major theatrical films on NBC. Additionally, encore telecasts of "The Apprentice" will air at 8-9:00 p.m. ET.
The growing Sunday lineup returns virtually intact from last spring as "Dateline NBC" launches the night again (7-8 p.m. ET). The upbeat "American Dreams" enters its junior year (8-9 p.m. ET) and scores the highest upscale indexes of any Sunday drama on any network. Once again, the investigative drama "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" (9-10 p.m. ET) follows, having gone undefeated this season in 18-49 versus regular competition. The night concludes with the rejuvenated crime drama "Crossing Jordan" (10-11 p.m. ET) in its fourth season. Since its return in Spring 2004, it represents NBC's top-rated original series in the slot in five seasons and wins the hour in 18-49 against regular programming by a whopping 44 percent.
Zucker also announced that Dennis Farina will join the cast of "Law & Order;" "Scrubs" is renewed for two additional seasons; Late night host Carson Daly re-ups with the network for three more years and Kelsey Grammer will star as Scrooge in the two-hour movie musical "A Christmas Carol."
Zucker stressed the following points concerning NBC's current successful lineup:
NBC is winning its fourth season in a row among adults 18-49 and eighth out of the last nine seasons.
NBC's 18-49 lead has increased to 8 percent (from 5 percent last season) and grows to a commanding 16 percent in non-sports averages (from 10 percent last season).
NBC's leads are also bigger in key upscale categories, where the network continues to dominate.
NBC is #1 in non-sports averages among adults 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54 and is the only network competitive across all key adult groups.
In non-sports 18-49 averages, NBC is #1 or #2 on six of seven nights of the week.
NBC's schedule includes the top two comedies, six of the top nine dramas and the #1 new series of the 2003-04 television season among adults 18-49.
NBC is #1 in key demographics in every major daypart (primetime, late night, daytime, morning news, evening news and Sunday-morning public affairs) for the past three seasons in a row. No other major network has done this even once.
Following is NBC's primetime schedule for the 2004-05 season, followed by show descriptions. (Titles are "working titles"; all times are Eastern Time):
NBC PRIMETIME SCHEDULE FOR 2004-05
*New programs in CAPS
8-9 p.m. "Fear Factor"
9-10 p.m. "Las Vegas"
10-11 p.m. "LAX"
8-9:00 p.m. "Average Joe"/"THE CONTENDER"
9:00-9:30 p.m. "FATHER OF THE PRIDE"
9:30-10 p.m. "Scrubs"
10-11 p.m. "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit"
8-9 p.m. "HAWAII"
9-10 p.m. "The West Wing"/"REVELATIONS"
10-11 p.m. "Law & Order"
8-8:30 p.m. "JOEY"
8:30-9 p.m. "Will & Grace"
9-10 p.m. "The Apprentice 2"
10-11 p.m. "ER"
8-9 p.m. "Dateline NBC"
9-10 p.m. "Third Watch" - new time
10-11 p.m. "MEDICAL INVESTIGATION"
8-11 p.m. "NBC Saturday Night Movie"
7-8 p.m. "Dateline NBC"
8-9 p.m. "American Dreams"
9-10 p.m. "Law & Order: Criminal Intent"
10-11 p.m. "Crossing Jordan"
Following are program descriptions for NBC's new Fall and mid-season series.
JOEY -- The still-single Friend strikes out on his own as Emmy nominee Matt LeBlanc reprises his "Friends" role as charming Joey Tribbiani in this spinoff that continues the beloved "Friends" tradition. LeBlanc is backed by the award-winning writers and director who contributed to the unforgettable "Friends" phenomenon. Joey leaves New York for Hollywood in order to take his acting career to the next level. He also says goodbye to a time when his friends were his family and welcomes the chance to turn his family into his friends. After reuniting with his high-strung sister Gina (Drea de Matteo, "The Sopranos"), Joey moves in with Michael (Paulo Costanzo, "Road Trip"), his 20-year-old genius nephew, who unbelievably is literally a rocket scientist. However, what Joey lacks in book smarts he makes up for with people smarts - making him the best new friend his nephew could ask for. Ashley Scott ("Birds of Prey") also stars as Joey's attractive neighbor. "Joey" is produced by Warner Bros. Television. Kevin S. Bright ("Friends") returns as executive producer and director; Shana Goldberg and Scott Silveri (both "Friends") also return as executive producers and writers.
FATHER OF THE PRIDE -- NBC teams with the creative powerhouse studio that brought the world "Shrek," along with some all-star voices, to create a computer-generated-imaging (CGI) series of the highest caliber. Viewers will journey inside the lives of a pride of white lions who perform in the world-famous Siegfried and Roy show and will also explore their lush Las Vegas habitat. The lions are led by zoo-raised Larry (John Goodman, "Roseanne") and his wife Kate (Cheryl Hines, "Curb Your Enthusiasm"), a showbiz veteran. In fact, Kate's father, Sarmoti (Emmy winner Carl Reiner, "The Dick Van Dyke Show"), is a Las Vegas legend who is used to headlining the show. However, when Sarmoti's age begins to catch up with him, he reluctantly passes the crown to Larry -- and sets the Las Vegas "neighborhood" abuzz. Other animals in the mix include a mischievous gopher named Snack (Orlando Jones, "Magnolia"), a karaoke-performing orangutan, and an easily agitated pink flamingo. Oddly enough, their world is a lot like ours - except for the whole talking animals thing. CGI versions of Siegfried & Roy (voiced by Julian Holloway, "Michael Uncle Silas," and Dave Herman, "Office Space) will be featured in the series. Danielle Harris ("Rugrats Gone Wild") and Daryl Sabara, "Spy Kids") also star. "Father of the Pride" will be the first primetime television show with feature film-quality CGI animation. Created by Jeffrey Katzenberg ("Shrek") and developed by Jonathan Groff ("Late Night with Conan O'Brien"), the series is executive-produced by Katzenberg, Groff, Jon Pollack ("Spin City," "Just Shoot Me") and Peter Mehlman ("Seinfeld"). The series is produced by DreamWorks Television and DreamWorks Animation.
MEDICAL INVESTIGATION - Based on true accounts, these are the stories of the National Institute of Health, America's most elite unit of medical experts. But these doctors don't operate in a hospital. At a moment's notice, they're summoned anywhere in the country, authorized to take over treatment of any case. Each assignment is a life-or-death rescue against time and the leader is Stephen Connor (Neal McDonough, "Boomtown"), a doctor consumed by his job -- with a broken marriage to prove it. Equally passionate Dr. Natalie Durant (Kelli Williams, "The Practice") is the heart and soul of the team. Investigations are complicated by a harried government administrator who consistently pushes Bowman to go by the book, -- which is unlikely to happen. Completing the unit are a chief investigator Troy Winbush ("John Q."), the team's press liaison (Anna Belknap, "The Handler") and a young doctor (Christopher Gorham, "Jake 2.0") new to the team. A saltshaker, a cigarette butt, a flower petal -- anything could be the clue to crack the case. Part cop show, part medical drama - and a great hour of mystery. Michelle Ashford, Bob Cooper and Scott Vila are executive producers for this series from Paramount Network Television and NBC Universal Television. The pilot episode was written by co-executive producer Jason Horwitch and Michelle Ashford.
HAWAII - Hawaii can seduce just about anyone...cops and criminals alike. Murder, drug-running and organized cartels filter through the unique island culture to represent just some of the big-city casework that this big island police force confronts. Where else would cops discover a smoldering torso at the base of an active volcano? The diverse group of cops and detectives may work against a breathtaking backdrop of jungles and seascapes, but they can never take a vacation from the tangle of local and international criminals who constantly cross their paths. It's never a typical crime scene and these are not TV's typical cops - which is exactly what makes "Hawaii" so alluring. Michael Biehn ("Terminator"), Sharif Atkins (NBC's "ER"), Ivan Sergei (NBC's "Crossing Jordan"), Eric Balfour ("Six Feet Under"), Aya Sumika and Cary Tagawa star. Jeff Eastin is the creator and executive producer. Daniel Sackheim ("The Lyons Den") directs. "Hawaii" is from NBC Universal Television.
LAX - Television favorite Heather Locklear ("Spin City") returns to primetime -- full-time -- in this off-beat dramatic series centered in a world unto itself: a major international airport. Security breaches, tearful reunions, illegal immigrants, missing children, runaway animals, drug busts, drunken pilots -- there are countless stories to tell in "LAX." Whether it's the ongoing power struggle between the Airfield Chief (Locklear) and the Terminal Manager (Blair Underwood, "L.A. Law"), the romantic misadventures of the Airline Supervisor Tony (Paul Leyden, "As the World Turns") or the trial-by-fire of a young, naive Immigration Office clerk Nick (David Paetkau, "Final Destination 2"), viewers will be pulled into this unique world. Then there are the passengers, loading, unloading and passing through each episode. Each week will feature their compelling dramas -- from chance encounters between strangers to surprise reunions of long-lost lovers to - "the sky's the limit." Wendy Hoopes ("Daria"), Chad Todhunter ("Party of Five") and Frank John Hughes ("Band of Brothers") also star. "LAX" is from NBC Universal Television. Mark Gordon and writer Nick Thiel are the executive producers. Joe and Anthony Russo ("Lucky") directed the pilot.
LAW & ORDER: TRIAL BY JURY - The television benchmark of crime and justice arrives with the fourth edition of the history-making phenomenon. In many respects, "Law & Order: Trial by Jury" represents the pinnacle of executive producer Dick Wolf's remarkable franchise: it's courtroom justice - pure, but not so simple. The ripped-from-the-headlines stories will be entirely court-based, with a feel of contemporary "Perry Mason" mystery offering trademark twisting toward resolution. The complicated cases will begin with a criminal arraignment and will take viewers through all the twists and turns of a trial. Audiences will see the judges, prosecutors, public defenders and other legal players like never before - inside their chambers and offices, inside their minds and machinations. Stars from other "Law & Order" series may also appear, though the real star will be the stories as they unfold, weaving a fascinating tale of legal drama as only "Law & Order" can. This series is from Wolf Films and NBC Universal Television.
CRAZY FOR YOU -- Welcome to the funny and highly unusual courtship of New Yorkers Nate (Josh Cooke, "Century City") and Marni (Emmy winner Jennifer Finnigan, NBC's "Crossing Jordan"). On the surface, they couldn't appear more different; Nate's the heir apparent to a long line of geniuses whose mental ability has caused them all to go insane. Then there's Marni, an occupational therapist and perpetual optimist, who ponders whether to take one more dip in the city's dating pool. Somehow, they meet and ironically find a connection that could become love. Although he's negative to a fault, she's likewise positive to a fault, so these total opposites may just be made for each other. Now they just have to figure that out if they don't get in the way first. Darius McCrary ("Kingpin"), Tammy Lynn Michaels ("The L Word") and Tom Poston ("Newhart") also star. Eileen Heisler and DeAnn Heline ("Three Sisters") wrote the pilot and serve as executive producers. Gary Halvorson (NBC's "Friends," "Everybody Loves Raymond") directs the pilot for this series from NBC Universal Television.
THE MEN'S ROOM -- Along a sunlit stretch of Southern California beachfront paradise co-exist the not-always-idyllic lives of next-door neighbors Charlie (Scott Cohen, "The Practice"), Bob (John Cho, "American Pie") and Michael (Eric Lively, "Uprising"). Charlie -- 42 and married for 20 years -- wonders if life, love and those gorgeous, young roller-blading babes are passing him by. At the other end of the generational spectrum, Michael is 22 going on 50-something, trying to be less "responsible" and a lot more "fun." Both men have no clue how to grasp the happiness that eludes them, so they turn to Bob, a 32-year-old budding male guru, in this comedy about guys helping guys be better guys. Suzanne Cryer ("Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place") and Shelly Cole ("Prey for Rock") also star. "The Men's Room" is produced by NBC Universal Television. Danny Zucker is the executive producer and writer. Marc Cendrowksi is the director of the pilot.
MEDIUM - In this drama, Allison Dubois (Patricia Arquette, "Stigmata," "Flirting with Disaster") sees dead people - and in fact, she hears them constantly too. No, she's not crazy, although her husband Joe (Jake Weber, "U-571"), a rocket scientist, thought that was a possibility at first. So did Allison herself, until she realized that her "gift" could not only change fate -- but provide justice for those who no longer had a voice. Don't think Allison is totally comfortable with all of this -- in fact, she's as creeped out as everyone else. Imagine a dead father-in-law popping up unexpectedly at the foot of someone's bed. Plus, there are the jarring slices of disturbing crime scenes that pepper Allison's thoughts, added to her ability to sometimes know exactly what those around her (dead or alive) are thinking. Luckily, Allison has a great sense of humor along with her sixth sense. Even Joe, whose whole career is based on logic and fact, has become a bemused believer. The real challenge is convincing law enforcement agencies around the country that Allison is the real deal. "Medium" is from Picturemaker Productions and Grammnet Productions in association with Paramount Network Television. Glenn Gordon Caron ("Moonlighting") and Kelsey Grammer ("Frasier") are executive producers.
REVELATIONS -- Bill Pullman ("Independence Day") stars as a scientist faced with the toughest personal, professional and philosophical challenges of his life. Dr. Richard Massey is searching for reasonable explanations -- to explain signs that seem to indicate the apocalyptic end as foretold in Scriptures is in motion. To save humanity, Massey will have to let go of scientific facts and embrace faith. His first step in his quest to conquer the impending evil is to align himself with a nun (Natascha McElhone, "Solaris") whose devout beliefs are unshakeable. Despite many obstacles, including their own fears and doubts, the two remain determined to prove that Man can regain control of fate. Time is literally running out in their thrilling, fast-paced race around the globe to thwart Armageddon -- and restore hope. Michael Massee ("Se7en"), newcomers Chelsea and Britney Coyle and Tobin Bell ("The Road to El Dorado") also star. "Revelations" is a production of Pariah. Vivian Cannon and Jessika Borsiczky will oversee the project for Pariah. "Revelations" is directed by David Semel (NBC's "American Dreams").
THE OFFICE -- Based on the popular British series of the same name, this faster-paced American version follows the daily interactions of a group of idiosyncratic office employees via a documentary film crew's cameras. Regional manager Michael (Steve Carell, "Bruce Almighty") thinks he's the coolest, funniest, best boss ever - which, of course, makes him the uncoolest, most obnoxious and annoying boss as far as his staff is concerned. His co-worker Jim (John Krasinski, "Kinsey") lusts after engaged receptionist Pam (Jenna Fischer, "Miss Match") when he's not sabotaging his "cube-mate" -- the know-it-all Dwight (Rainn Wilson, "Six Feet Under"). Meanwhile, the entire office is constantly worried about the impending staff cuts. Will there be layoffs? Will there be office romance? Will Michael ever shut up? If it's truly a typical office, then the answers are "maybe," "yes," and "absolutely not." B.J. Novak ("Raising Dad") also stars. Ben Silverman, Greg Daniels, Howard Kelin, Golden Globe winner Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant are the executive producers. Ken Kwapis executive-produced and directed the pilot. The series is produced by Reveille in association with NBC Universal Television.
THE CONTENDER - "The Contender" will follow 16 aspiring boxers from training camp through an evolving series of ring challenges and boxing matches over 16 episodes - with the final victor claiming a million dollar prize. The driving force behind the series will be the pursuit of the American dream and the natural trials, tribulations and heartbreak inherent in that quest combined with the drama and tension of the sweet science. The canvas of the show is much broader than boxing - it will give viewers a first hand look into the real life hopes, triumphs and defeats of the contestants. "The Contender" will be a joint production of Mark Burnett Productions, DreamWorks Television and Rogue Marble. Stallone, Burnett and Katzenberg are the executive producers.
FOR LOVE OR MONEY 4 - "For Love or Money 4" - the newest version of last summer's hottest unscripted drama -- returns for a fourth edition. Jordan Murphy ("Boston Public") returns as host of the series, guiding the 16 beautiful female contestants through the numerous twists and turns as they try to win the heart of a handsome and charming bachelor. The upcoming season of "For Love or Money" breaks new ground by introducing an all-new game and a whole new twist. This summer, they women are forced to answer the question "What is the price of love?," since they are each playing for an undisclosed amount between $1 and $1 million. Although the
women do not know the value of their checks, their handsome suitor will, leading them all back to the ultimate question . . . who is in it for love and who is in it for money? "For Love or Money" is a production of Nash Entertainment & 3 Ball Productions. Bruce Nash (NBC's "Who Wants to Marry My Dad?," "Mr. Personality") is the executive producer, along with J.D. Roth ("Endurance," "Moolah Beach"), Todd Nelson ("Endurance," "Moolah Beach") and John Foy ("The Martin Short Show").
AVERAGE JOE - The next installment of the NBC smash series "Average Joe" that posed the challenge: Can a drop-dead gorgeous woman actually fall for an ordinary-looking guy? "Average Joe" is from NBC Universal Television; the executive producers are Stuart Krasnow ("Average Joe," "Weakest Link") and Andrew Glassman ("Average Joe").