The TV Column: No presidential run for Trump, but an ‘Apprentice’ pitch

May 16, 2011

“I will not be running for president. See you for a great season,” “Celebrity Apprentice” star Donald Trump announced Monday at NBC’s new-schedule presentation to advertisers at a Hilton hotel in midtown Manhattan.

Trump, of course, has been much in the news lately, saying he was mulling a run at the White House and jumping on the whole “birther” movement and holding news conferences to congratulate himself.

“I maintain the strong conviction that if I were to run, I would be able to win the primary and, ultimately, the general election,” Trump said in a statement released Monday simultaneous with his announcement at NBC’s programming presentation.

“I have spent the past several months unofficially campaigning and recognize that running for public office cannot be done half-heartedly. Ultimately, however, business is my greatest passion and I am not ready to leave the private sector.”

And about that: On Sunday afternoon, NBC suits had said they would bring back “Celebrity Apprentice” in the first quarter of 2012, with or without Trump in the boardroom firing C-listers.

Monday’s announcement came as something of a surprise, buried as it was in the last few minutes of NBC’s presentation. And yet, the timing made perfect sense: NBC was there to persuade advertisers — upfront — to buy commercial time in next season’s prime-time lineup. And a Trump-less “Celebrity Apprentice” would surely have commanded a lower CPM (that’s Cost Per Thousand, as in sets of eyeballs) than a “Celebrity Apprentice” with Trump in the boardroom whacking celebrities.

“I love ‘Celebrity Apprentice,’ ” Trump told advertisers, noting that it has raised “tens of millions for charity.”

The sea of gray-suited ad execs in the hotel ballroom seemed confused by Trump’s political contribution to NBC’s dog-and-pony show, shortly after they’d seen a clip from a new crime drama series in which Little Red Riding Hood is updated as Little Red Jogging Hoodie. The rest of the NBC upfront presentation was equally confusing.

The fourth-place network’s new programming chief, Bob Greenblatt, told advertisers that he hopes to start NBC “on the road to recovery,” and new NBC Broadcasting Chairman Ted Harbert promised advertisers that the network would now be “a little less ‘reinvention of the wheel’ and a lot more of TV101.”

But nobody had briefed “Saturday Night Live’s” Seth Meyers on the current state of NBC. Meyers kicked off the presentation with some real We’re King of the World material:

“This is like getting the hot girl first in speed dating,” Meyers cracked — NBC being the first broadcast network to make its pitch to advertisers this week.

Meyers continued, saying that the retirement of TV vets Regis Philbin, Larry King and Jim Lehrer means “CBS is gaining three new viewers!” Except CBS — the old folks’ network — now attracts 26 percent more of the younger viewers than does NBC.

Fox’s prime-time lineup

Fox swears that Steven Spielberg’s oft-delayed dinosaur drama, “Terra Nova,” really will debut. This fall. Mondays at 8. Honest!

And J.J. Abrams’s time-traveling prison drama, “Alcatraz,” will air during midseason — scout’s honor!

And Kiefer Sutherland is returning to Fox — sometime!

And you only have to wait two years for Seth MacFarlane to exhume “The Flintstones.”

Fox suits unveiled all those things Monday afternoon to advertisers at its Upfront Week Palooza at the Beacon Theatre in Manhattan.

And of course, Simon Cowell’s back. With Paula Abdul.

Oh, and Fox has canceled “America’s Most Wanted” as a weekly series, in favor of — reruns. So what if you have a missing child or other relative and had hoped to have the case profiled on the long-running Saturday reality series. You’ll have to wait for a quarterly two-hour special and hope for the best?

On Mondays, “Terra Nova,” from Spielberg (and former Fox-parent honcho Peter Chernin), follows an “ordinary” family on a journey back to “prehistoric” Earth as a small part of a daring experiment to save the human race — and, we hope, do something about cable TV prices.

Fox has been talking about “Terra Nova” for ages and, most recently, the show was supposed to launch this very month. But you know how it goes at Fox — the network’s schedule is always its best guess.

On a phone call with reporters Monday morning — to talk about the new schedule they would unveil to ad execs in the afternoon — Fox execs once again pointed their finger at the show’s special effects as the reason for the delay — 250 in the first two hours alone! Or so they say.

Following “Glee” on Tuesdays: “New Girl” stars Zooey Deschanel as an “offbeat” girl who has a “bad breakup” and moves in with three single guys and “essentially sets a bomb off in their lives.” Fox programming chief Kevin Reilly, talking to reporters, acknowledged it is a “familiar premise” but swore it would “sound like the voice of a new generation.”

He also used the word “sweet.”

This season’s Fox freshman comedy “Raising Hope” returns that night.

On Wednesdays, there will be 90 minutes of Cowell on the new singing-competition series “The X Factor,” in which he will be joined on the judges’ panel by nutty Abdul, record-label exec “L.A.” Reid and Brit pop star Cheryl Cole. To air after that, Fox has scheduled a good old-fashioned, multi-camera, shot-in-front-of-a-studio-audience, enhanced-with-laugh-track sitcom with female leads: “I Hate My Teenage Daughter.”

Reilly said Fox actually sought out a chick-com “to pick up the energy coming out of ‘X Factor.’ ” Jaime Pressly (“My Name Is Earl”) and Katie Finneran (“Wonderfalls”) star as two former school nerds who have raised the kind of mean girls who used to torment them. Hilarity ensues.

“Bones” is back on Thursdays, but after the one-hour “X Factor” results show. And when star Emily Deschanel goes on maternity leave, that spinoff you saw pretending to be an episode of “Bones” the other day will fill the time slot as “The Finder.” It’s about a guy who finds things.

“Fringe” will wind up next season on Fox’s Friday schedule, airing after “Kitchen Nightmares.”

Saturday will consist of “Cops” and “Cops” reruns, followed by something Fox is pretentiously calling “Encores.” That’s “reruns” to you and me.

The reporters seemed fairly knicker-knotted over the announcement about “America’s Most Wanted”; they complained on the call after word got out about a week ago, and Fox reps indicated to them it was hooey. Reilly insisted the show is “important” to the network — and a public service — but said the network “has not made money on the show in quite a while.”

Reilly went on to say that next season’s schedule is so jammed with new shows debuting in the fall — and at midseason — that the network simply will not have a time slot in which it can air reruns almost the entire year. And for business reasons, they need a time slot to play reruns — because, of course, when a network buys a show, it’s buying the right to air the episodes twice. Since no series ever fails on Fox — which means the network will have no gaping holes just begging to be filled with reruns of some show that’s doing okay — some program had to take one for the team, and “AMW” got elected.

We think the actual answer as to what happened is lurking back there somewhere around the bit about Fox having not made money on the show for years — it comes right after Reilly’s “public service” gag.

And Sunday, after Fox’s NFL post-game blah-blah-blah, the fall lineup of animated programming will consist of: “The Cleveland Show,” “The Simpsons,” “Family Guy,” “American Dad” and a new animated series called “Allen Gregory.”

“Allen Gregory” is about a “pretentious” 7-year-old leaving home schooling to attend school with other children. It’s from Jonah Hill, star of many Judd Apatow flicks.

Also on Sunday, starting midseason, the 8:30 p.m. hammock between “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy” goes to “Napoleon Dynamite,” which, Fox promised, features the voices of the entire original cast of the big-screen flick.

Those cockeyed optimists at Fox always announce their midseason schedule as well during Upfront Week. It’s best to write it into your schedule in pencil.

That schedule includes Abrams’s “Alcatraz” (Mondays at 9), followed by “House,” which will be moved back to 8 while the “Terra Nova” gang takes a well-deserved holiday from saving mankind.

“American Idol” will be back on Wednesdays and Thursdays while Cowell vacations.

Sutherland’s new series, “Touch,” has not been scheduled; Fox has seen scripts, but nothing has yet been shot while Sutherland stars on Broadway in “That Championship Season.” In “Touch,” the former “24” star is the dad of a special-needs child who, Dad discovers, “sees patterns and connections no one else can,” Reilly told reporters.

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