The Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour kicked off last week from Pasadena, Calif. and up first among the Big Media companies were the networks of Comcast/NBCUniversal, which includes Bravo, E!, and NBC itself.
This portion covers two days (Friday and Saturday), and what’s listed here is not listed chronologically, but by order of network:
- The fourth-place network’s entertainment chief (Robert Greenblatt) admitted at the press tour on Friday that NBC isn’t at the place where it wants to be. Greenblatt pointed out that new part-owner Comcast is investing money and patience into the network and it would actually take four or five hit shows to turn around a network as opposed to one during a similar period for NBC in the mid-1980′s (The Cosby Show).
- Greenblatt announced that Harry Connick Jr. will make four appearances on Law & Order:SVU while Margita Harskay remains with the show; NBC plans to both stream the premiere of musical Smash and make it available on-demand to Xfinity customers; Greenblatt also wouldn’t elaborate on the future of Community – but did say the series hasn’t been canceled. Greenblatt also said if Smash fails, it wouldn’t put NBC “into receivership” (but renewing Whitney probably will.) Other NBC news from TCA:
- Ben Silverman is back at NBC! – only this time as an executive producer of Project Runway rip-off Fashion Star. Party All The Time appeared on stage with one of the judges (Jessica Simpson) to discuss the show (the other two are Nicole Ritchie and John Varvatos.) Look for the series this Spring.
- The Firm’s panel appeared, trying to convince critics this isn’t the next Playboy Club. Good luck with that. The series debuted Sunday and runs Thursday night in Prime Suspect‘s old slot.
- Next was the panel for Are You There, Chelsea? featuring That ’70′s Show alum Laura Prepon in a sitcom based on the best-selling book written by E! talk show host Chelsea Handler, who will play Chelsea’s sister on the show. Ms. Handler said it was easier to play someone else on the show than herself, which has Prepon in the title role.
Think about this: fellow ’70′s show co-star Mila Kunis is now a movie star while lead Laura Prepon is now in what seems to be in a bad sitcom for NBC. Wow. But if there’s any consolidation, Kunis also voices hapless character Meg Griffin on Family Guy.
- Monday nights could be a big one for the network as singing competition The Voice returns on Feb. 6 (after the season premiere airing after the Super Bowl) followed by the most anticipated series of the new season, Smash – described as Glee – but with a plot.
- Grimm, NBC’s surprise hit series on Friday nights, will stay there.
- Just what we needed: NBC said more Fear Factor is on the way.
- NBC also isn’t about Howard Stern regarding his new role as judge on America’s Got Talent. But the thing to watch is whether or not Stern gets along with his Talent co-host Nick Cannon.
- Also on tap for summer – NBC has picked up CTV medical drama Saving Hope. Flimed in Toronto, think of it as a Canadian version of Grey’s Anatomy.
- Finally, Betty White appeared at TCA to hawk her new show Betty White’s Off Her Rocker, a Punk’d for the older generation. The series “previews” during a special Betty White birthday party special next month, but no word yet on a regular day and time.
There was a lot of action for Bravo during TCA, as the cable net announced it was expanding its original programming slate by 25 percent for 2012. Here’s what to look for:
- The big story here was the expansion of Bravo’s Watch What Happens from a weekly series to a five night-a-week strip (running Sunday-Thursday), which started this past Sunday. Instead of the usual Real Housewives skanks who show up, Happens plans to attract more celebs to the show.
- And if there weren’t enough annoying personalities on Bravo now… Oak Park native Kathy Griffin sealed a deal with Bravo for a new weekly talk show which will basically follow the basic talk show format – standup routine, interview celebrities, and rants about pop culture. Look for it this April.
- Jeff Lewis has a new show about flipping houses. What does that mean? Turning a house on its roof?
- Million Dollar Listing is taping new episodes in New York for airing later this year. Take it they won’t skip Park Avenue.
- Even though this was not announced at TCA, Bravo exec and St. Louis native Andy Cohen (who also hosts What Happens Live) may launch a Chicago version of Real Housewives. If this happens, look for former Chicago pol Carol Moseley-Braun to be in the cast.
- Other new shows announced include Love Broker, Shahs of Sunset, and Don’t Be Tardy For The Wedding, featuring Kim Zolciak from Real Housewives From Atlanta. When the series concludes, look for her to turn up on a episode of Divorce Court. It won’t be long, trust me.
Trying to figure out the last time SyFy actually aired a science fiction series other than Battlestar Galactica… (sorry, Caprica doesn’t count:)
- Bad news for Galactica fans hoping to see spin-off Blood & Chrome – the series has been delayed until 2013 – that is, if SyFy even plans to pick it up.
- But coming this spring instead is a new game show hosted by Family Matters’ Jaleel White (yes, you read that right), titled Total Blackout. Adapted from a Danish format, the series challenges contestants who battle their phobias – and each other. In three rounds, players have to identify objects in the dark At TCA, four TV personalities played a “demo version” of the game, with contestants identifying objects in three tanks – a feather duster, a foot, and live eels.
They obviously forgot to invite a fifth person to play this game: Willie Aames, who in 1990 was the last former child to host a game show which was syndicated tripe The Krypton Factor. Yeah, this will work.
- E! announced it was expanding Fashion Police to a full hour starting March 9. Hosted by Joan Rivers, features comedic commentary from a panel (Rivers, Kelly Obsourne, Giulana Rancic, and George Kotsiopoulous) on what styles the celebrities wear. Premiering as a weekly series on September 10, 2010, the show features regular segments like Rack Report and Bitch Stole My Look, and is adding two more – Street Style and Guess Me By My Style. I’m not making this up!
- While her life is being prepared for the small screen on sister network NBC, Chelsea Hander’s Chelesa Lately is getting a new home – Conan O’ Brien’s old home on the Universal lot, where he hosted The Tonight Show for seven months. Of course, she didn’t mention O’Brien by name at the TCA presentation – Handler referred to the soundstage – Studio One as “Jack Benny’s old studio.” Studio One is where The Jack Benny Program was shot, and ran from 1950-64 on CBS and 1964-65 on NBC.