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TV Column
Posted at 05:08 PM ET, 05/14/2012

Upfront Week 2012: Fox has Britney Spears, Demi Lovato; NBC has a monkey


Justin Kirk as Dr. George Coleman, Bobby Lee as Dr. Yamamoto, Tyler Labine as Dr. Doug Jackson, Crystal as Dr. Zaius in “Animal Practice.” (NBC - CHRIS HASTON )

Fox will plant four comedies on Tuesday — including one originally developed at NBC for NBC star Mindy Kaling, which will immediately follow this season’s most promising Fox fall launch, “New Girl.”

Making the announcement to advertisers Monday afternoon at the Beacon Theater in Manhattan, Fox programming chief Kevin Reilly seemed actually stunned to have found another actual chick who can actually write a comedy series for TV (Liz Meriwether is the show runner of Fox’s “New Girl”). He patronizingly called Kaling a member of the “fempire.” That Kevin Reilly; once he gets one foot on the ground he’s really quite a knucklehead.

Pop trainwrecks Britney Spears and Demi Lovato have joined Simon Cowell’s singing competition, “The X Factor,” where theywill mentor young aspiring pop stars, proving once and for all that network suits have a sense of humor.

“We delivered! Rumors are one thing, delivering is something else,” a puffy Cowell simpered as he stood up on stage next to BritBrit and Lovato during Fox’s dog and pony show.

“We started off well last year, but this year we’re going to seriously kick butt with the addition of these guys,” he said complacently.

“I’m so excited about this whole experience,” BritBrit gushed. “This is going to be so much fun and so different from anything I’ve ever done and I’m ready to find the true star!”

“I’m totally stoked to be here,” added Lovato. As you can see, they are a huge improvement.

“The Rolls Royce of Television, right here!” “X Factor’s” only surviving non-Simon mentor, LA Reid raved, pointing at Lovato and BritBrit.

“X” returns to Wednesday and Thursday nights at 8 in the fall.

The network will protect its investment in flailing “Glee” by moving it to the safe zone, aka the post-singing show timeslot

on Thursdays, following “The X Factor” in the fall -- and “American Idol” in the spring.

Kiefer Sutherland’s number crunching thriller “Touch” is moved to Fridays to join “Fringe’s” final season and Jordana Spiro’s “Mob Doctor” will replace Hugh Laurie’s angry-doctor drama “House” on Monday nights.

At midseason, Fox on Mondays introduce a new drama called “The Following,” in which Kevin Bacon plays an FBI guy chasing a serial-killing cult that’s headed by James on Monday. Fifteen episodes will run without interruption and without reruns, a la “24.”

“The audience has consistently asked us ‘Where is the next ‘24’? We think we found it!” Reilly enthused. Landing Kevin Bacon for the role, Reilly said, is “the casting coup of the year.” That’s because Reilly hadn’t met the capuchin monkey named Crystal who stars as Dr. Zaius in NBC’s new comedy “Animal Practice” - yes, seriously - and who totally stole the show, and the hearts of jaded Madison Avenue execs, at NBC’s new-schedule unveiling Monday morning.

Never bet against a TV show with a cute monkey.

And, as promised, Fox’s “Cops” is toast in the fall, and Saturday is the new “Fox Sports Saturday.” The network says “Cops” will return at midseason. Put it on your calendar in pencil.

Sunday’s Animation Domination comedy lineup will start with the always hilarious NFL football and “The OT” in the fall, followed by “The Simpsons,” “Bob’s Burgers,” “Family Guy” and “American Dad.” “The Cleveland Show” will be back after football season.

In “The Mindy Project” — which “The Office” writer/star Kaling developed at NBC for NBC (NBC passed on it, though it will produce the series) Kaling plays a skilled (thank goodness or it would not be a comedy) OB/GYN pursuing her dream of becoming the perfect woman, finding the perfect man and getting her perfect romantic comedy ending.

“Ben and Kate” — the other new comedy rounding out Fox’s Tuesday four-com block — stars Nat Faxon, of “Bad Teacher” fame, who recently won an Oscar as co-screenwriter of George Clooney flick “The Descendants.” He plays a goofy guy who becomes the manny for his uptight single-mom sister’s kid.

Sometime during the season, Fox will swap out one of its Tuesday comedies to introduce “The Goodwin Games,” starring Scott Foley, Becki Newton, and Jake Lacy as estranged siblings who are forced back together to compete in a game of Trivial Pursuit, in order to inherit $20 million, after eccentric dad Beau Bridges dies.

“Glee,” moved to the protected post-’X Factor”/”Idol” Thursday timeslot, is on the brink of a “creative renaissance,” Reilly said. “We’re very excited about the quality of talent looking to join the show,” he said, noting Kate Hudson has signed on for a seven-episode story arc and they’ve just signed Sarah Jessica Parker for a multi-episode arc as well, adding that neither would have been possible had the show remained on Tuesday - apparently celebrities weren’t so keen on the show without an “Idol” leadin.

On the morning phone conference call with reporters, Reilly conceded that “Idol” this season “was a bigger [ratings] drop-off than we anticipated,” and said there would be creative “tweaks” to the show, but none they would discuss at that time because the show’s current season is still airing. In round numbers, that would appear to mean one of the show’s judges - Stephen Tyler, Jennifer Lopez, Randy Jackson — is about to get whacked.

Hours before Fox’s dog and pony show, at the Beacon Theater, NBC had unveiled its schedule to advertisers. Finally emerging from the bread-and-water Upfront Dark Ages of NBC’s Jeff Zucker era, which had included new-schedule presentations in musty NBC conference rooms or even mustier midtown hotel ballrooms, NBC was finally back at Radio City Music Hall.

Advertisers felt like guests instead of prisoners.

To break the ice, NBC aired a video in which all of its programs had been turned into musicals - a joking reference to NBC

Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt, who famously developed this season’s “Smash” for the network. Those who saw “Meet the Press” anchor David Gregory reclining on a table, a come-hither look on his face, and a lineup of gold-lamed dancers at his back, as he sang some ditty about the network, will not forget it soon. Even if they want to.

Among the things advertisers learned at the presentation:

Hot off his successes with “Person of Interest,” “Undercovers,” “Six Degrees,” “Alcatraz” - oh, wait….. - JJ Abrams has created NBC’s new Monday drama “Revolution” about a world in which there is no power to run things and in which nobody bothers to cut back the Kudzu.

“If you long for the day when your Blackberry stops working, this could be your show,” NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke promised advertisers.

“Rock Center,” NBC’s Brian Williams-anchored newsmag that’s barely showing a pulse, has been put on at 10 Thursdays after a lineup of young-skewing upscale sitcoms - Disconnect TV, as we like to call it - because it will be a good lead-in for NBC stations’ late local newscasts, Greenblatt explained, clearing up that big mystery.

And, “Community” has been moved from Thursday - the biggest night of the week for the TV biz - and over to the wasteland that is Friday, precisely because its small but rabid group of fanboys and girls are crazy enough to follow it there, Greenblatt explained.

“ ‘Community’ has the loudest fanbase,” he told advertisers gleefully, adding, “Calling all fans of ‘Community’: come to Friday!

Start tweeting!”

Yes, it’s ironic.

But no one explained why, during a clip promoting NBC’s new, ultra-patriotic midseason reality series “Stars Earn Stripes,” in which celebrities are put through the same kind of training exercises as inductees to various branches of the military, exec producer Mark Burnett appeared to be wearing a Confederate flag around his neck. We can’t be sure - it was folded up to make a sort-of ascot.

More from Upfront Week:

VIDEO: Check out previews of NBC’s new shows

CBS officially cancels “CSI: Miami”

NBC reveals schedule: ‘Community’ to Friday, ‘The Voice' to launch in fall

CW orders five new shows including ‘Carrie Diaries,’ renews ‘Gossip Girl,’ ‘Nikita,’ ‘Hart of Dixie’

ABC picks up more seasons of ‘Happy Endings,’ ‘Scandal,’ ‘Wife Swap’

NBC renews ‘Parks and Recreation,’ ‘The Office,’ ‘Up All Night,’ ’Whitney’

An early look at Upfront Week 2012

NBC renews ‘Community,’ '30 Rock,’ ‘Parenthood’

‘Cougar Town’ moves from ABC to TBS

Fox picks up mob doc, serial killer show, Mindy Kaling comedy

Fox re-ups ‘Touch,’ abandons ‘Alcatraz’

NBC renews ‘Law & Order: SVU’ for a 14th season

NBC orders comedy about dysfunctional First Family

NBC picks up shows starring Anne Heche, Matthew Perry; plus, Ryan Murphy comedy and JJ Abrams drama

PHOTO GALLERY: Which shows are on the bubble?

PHOTO GALLERY: Which shows are already dead?


By  |  05:08 PM ET, 05/14/2012

Tags:  Upfronts, Upfronts 2012, NBC Upfronts

 
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