TV Upfronts 2012: NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, and the CW Announce Schedules
Jace Lacob and Maria Elena Fernandez take a look at what’s coming up and what’s coming back on TV this fall as television's network upfronts week comes to a close. The CW moved Supernatural to Wednesdays, ordered five new shows, renewed Hart of Dixie, and canceled Secret Circle and Ringer. CBS moved Two and a Half Men to Thursdays and The Mentalist to Sundays, while The Good Wife is staying put. ABC renewed Revenge (moving it to Sundays at 9 p.m.), Modern Family, Grey's Anatomy, Suburgatory, and several others. Fox renewed Touch (and it moved it to Fridays), canceled Alcatraz, moved Glee to Thursdays, and ordered Kevin Williamson's The Following and several comedies, including one from The Office's Mindy Kaling. NBC renewed Community (which moves to Friday this fall), Parks and Recreation, Parenthood, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and 30 Rock, and ordered 10 new shows, including a comedy with Matthew Perry, serial killer drama Hannibal, the Dick Wolf-produced Chicago Fire, and J.J. Abrams action drama Revolution. Read our analysis of all of the networks' 37 new series and counting!
We're now at the end of the broadcast networks' upfronts week, when advertisers and reporters descend each year on New York City for the spring rite in which CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and the CW announce their schedules, attempt to stir up enthusiasm for returning shows, and break viewers’ hearts by canceling more than a few others.
This year’s crop of pilots was heavy on fantasy and fairy tales, cults, prequels and reboots, and scripts based on imported Israeli formats, as well as maids, murderers, hoteliers, and not one, but two takes on Beauty and the Beast. (In the end, it was the CW's that won out.)
In ordering their new shows, the networks were willing to take a few risks, along with the usual slew of family comedies and procedural dramas. Kevin Williamson’s psychological thriller The Following, which stars Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy, is already emanating an eerie vibe, thanks to some Scream-style scares from its serial killer plot. CBS has taken a chance on Dennis Quaid’s real-life 1960s Vegas cowboy sheriff Ralph Lamb, and a modern take on Sherlock Holmes. (Not to be confused with PBS/BBC's Sherlock.) ABC ordered 666 Park Avenue, a supernatural drama about a devilish apartment building owner, and a nuclear sub drama from The Shield creator Shawn Ryan. NBC has a quirky medical workplace comedy that features an adorable monkey as one of its characters. (And, of course, there are the usual suspects: cops, doctors, and lawyers aplenty.)
Which returning shows are coming back? Below is a scorecard—broken down by network—to help you keep track of which current shows will be returning next season and which are now six feet under, as well as notes on any surprising developments.
ABC Renewed: 20/20, America’s Funniest Home Videos, The Bachelor, Body of Proof, Castle, Dancing With the Stars, Don’t Trust the B---- in Apartment 23, Grey's Anatomy, Happy Endings, Last Man Standing, The Middle, Modern Family, Once Upon a Time, Primetime, Private Practice, Revenge, Saturday Night College Football, Scandal, Shark Tank, Suburgatory, Wife Swap
ABC Canceled/Ending: Charlie’s Angels, Desperate Housewives, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, GCB, Man Up!, Missing, Pan Am,The River, Work It
(In an unexpected development, ABC's Cougar Town has been officially picked up by cable network TBS, which will begin airing episodes from an all-new fourth season in early 2013. Meanwhile, Body of Proof has been renewed for a third season of 13 episodes and will return in midseason.)
CBS Renewed: 2 Broke Girls, 48 Hours Mystery, 60 Minutes, The Amazing Race, The Big Bang Theory, Blue Bloods, Criminal Minds, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CSI: New York, The Good Wife, Hawaii Five-0, How I Met Your Mother, The Mentalist, Mike & Molly, NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles, Person of Interest, Rules of Engagement, Survivor, Two and a Half Men, Undercover Boss
CBS Canceled/Ending: A Gifted Man, How to Be a Gentleman, CSI: Miami, NYC 22, Rob, Unforgettable
(Notes: Rules of Engagement was given a late seventh season renewal of 13 episodes.)
Fox Renewed: American Dad, American Idol, Bob’s Burgers, Bones, The Cleveland Show, Family Guy, Fringe, Glee, Kitchen Nightmares, Mobbed, New Girl, Raising Hope, The Simpsons, Touch, The X Factor
Fox Canceled/Ending: Alcatraz, Allen Gregory, Breaking In, The Finder, House, I Hate My Teenage Daughter, Napoleon Dynamite, Terra Nova
(Notes: Fringe has been renewed for a final season of 13 episodes. Mobbed will return as a series of specials. American Dad and Family Guy have already been renewed through the 2013-14 season.)
NBC Renewed: 30 Rock, Betty White’s Off Their Rockers, The Biggest Loser, Community, Celebrity Apprentice, Dateline, Football Night in America, Fashion Star, Grimm, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, The Office, Parenthood, Parks and Recreation, Rock Center with Brian Williams, Saturday Night Live, Smash, Sunday Night Football, Up All Night, The Voice, Whitney
NBC Canceled/Ending: Are You There Chelsea?, Awake, Bent, Best Friends Forever, Chuck, Fear Factor, The Firm, Free Agents, Harry's Law, The Marriage Ref, Minute to Win It, The Playboy Club, Prime Suspect, The Sing-Off, Who Do You Think You Are?
(Notes: Despite comments made earlier this week by NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt, this will be the final season of 30 Rock, which received a 13-episode pickup and will air a one-hour finale. Community received a fourth season order of 13 episodes. While initially reported that it would be back for 13 episodes, Parks and Recreation received an order of 22 episodes for its fifth season.)
CW Renewed: 90210, America’s Next Top Model, Gossip Girl, Hart of Dixie, Nikita, Supernatural, Vampire Diaries
CW Canceled/Ending: H8R, One Tree Hill, Remodeled, Ringer, Secret Circle
(Note: This will be the final season of Gossip Girl, which received an 11-episode pickup.)
With the broadcast networks now teasing their fall (and, in some cases, midseason schedules), here are our reactions to their decisions, as they're being announced, as well as additional news and quotes from the network presidents, and trailers for the networks' new shows:
NBC has gone comedy-heavy next season, with four comedy blocks on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and even on Friday nights, which will now house the bizarre pairing of Whitney and cult favorite Community. (At press time, conversations were underway between NBC, studio Sony Pictures Television, and creator Dan Harmon about whether he would be returning to oversee the day-to-day running of Community. NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt was cagey, saying that Harmon may not "running it day to day" and may be "consulting" on it: "I expect Dan's voice to a part of the show somehow," Greenblatt told press.)
The polarizing musical-drama Smash will be held until midseason, when it will return with roughly 15-18 new episodes, according to Greenblatt. (Of Smash, Greenblatt told the press, "I couldn't be happier with Smash. It's one of our most successful drama launches in a long time…") Instead, returning musical competition series The Voice will be paired with new drama Revolution in the 10 p.m. hour on Mondays.
The two-hour comedy block on Thursdays returns more or less intact (save for Community, which moves a night later) with 30 Rock, Up All Night, The Office, and Parks and Recreation all returning. Rather than launch a new drama in the 10 p.m. hour (which failed miserably this past year with the ratings for Awake, Prime Suspect, and The Firm), NBC will use the timeslot for Rock Center with Brian Williams, a surprising, last-minute renewal.
For midseason, NBC is holding back quite a lot, including dramas Do No Harm, Hannibal, and Infamous, and comedies Save Me, the promising White House family comedy 1600 Penn, and Dane Cook's Next Caller. (And, as previously mentioned, Smash will return in midseason as well.) For his part, Greenblatt indicated the challenge for NBC for the year ahead: "I'm determined to build momentum from night to night, something that has eluded us in recent years."
Watch a preview of NBC’s shows.
Not too many waves being made at Fox this year, which will again hold most of its new offerings until midseason, including Kevin Williamson's serial killer drama The Following, starring Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy, and comedy The Goodwin Games, from the creators of How I Met Your Mother. Bones will remain on Mondays next season, joined by new medical drama The Mob Doctor. Fox indicated that The Following will run without interruption for 15 episodes in the spring.
Comedy is big at all the networks this year: Fox will launch a two-hour comedy block on Tuesdays, anchored by returning comedies Raising Hope at 8 p.m. and New Girl at 9 p.m. They'll be joined by Ben and Kate at 8:30 p.m. and--as expected--The Mindy Project (formerly known as It's Messy) will lead out of New Girl at 9:30 p.m. There will be no baseball-related preemptions on Tuesdays, said Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly. There will be a preemption for the presidential debate and election.
The "big" changes aren't immediately noticeable from glancing at Fox's new schedule: Glee will move from Tuesdays to Thursdays at 9 p.m. (leading out of The X Factor) while Keifer Sutherland's Touch moves to Fridays at 8 p.m., leading into Fringe. (While a renewal was a suprising vote of confidence in the show--more in Sutherland than creator Tim Kring, perhaps--the scheduling doesn't bode all that well for the drama.) Regarding Glee's move, Reilly said, "Ultimately, we want that four-comedy block [on Tuesdays]… We've seen before that Glee is very compatible… We thought this was a way to propel it through the next few seasons."
No decision announced about what will replace Fringe on Friday evenings once the science-fiction drama finishes its run after its 13-episode final season, though the network has a bank of reality series such as Kitchen Nightmares.
The biggest change that ABC has taken is moving buzzy soap Revenge from its perch on Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. to Sundays, where it will inherit the timeslot vacated by now-concluded Desperate Housewives and square off with CBS' The Good Wife, unless CBS opts to shift the legal drama elsewhere on the schedule as a result. (CBS will announce their schedule tomorrow, which means that we have a game of chicken on our hands. Will CBS blink and move critically acclaimed Good Wife, which has suffered somewhat ion the ratings from football overruns? Or will it hold its ground?)
Lee defended Revenge's move to Sundays, saying that it has the "highest HUT levels" of any night and the show has a "fabulous drama lead-in." "This is a show our audiences love," he said. "A solid time period for it." (Lee also confirmed a full season for Revenge: "The intention is to have Revenge do 22 episodes.")
Revenge will lead into ABC's new supernatural soap, 666 Park Avenue, at 10 p.m., which features some familiar network faces in Terry O'Quinn and Vanessa Williams. ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee said that Revenge's pairing with lead-in Once Upon a Time made sense because both were "cinematic." Other new dramas pop up elsewhere on the schedule: Nashville takes over for Revenge at 10 p.m. on Wednesdays, while Shawn Ryan's Last Resort gets an 8 p.m. slot on Thursdays, leading into Grey's Anatomy.
Asked about the network's failure to launch similar action-oriented fare in the timeslot and whether that could pose trouble for Last Resort, Lee said, "Don't forget, we've opened strong action shows in that timeslot: Lost, FlashForward. There's an audience for it." He went on to say that Last Resort tested really well with women and is action-packed and "emotional." "We think it's a big, broad tentpole show, we believe in it, and we're certainly going to market it in the fall."
Fox's new comedy block on Tuesdays will have even more competition now that ABC has announced their own intentions to launch a two-hour block on the same night in January, once Dancing With the Stars has ended. Happy Endings (a surprise hit after nearly getting canceled) and Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 will be joined by newcomers How to Live Your Life with Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life)--which allegedly, according to Lee, had the highest-testing title of the year--and The Family Tools, going head-to-head with Fox's Tuesday comedy lineup. Lee described the comedy lineup as a "very strong upscale" programming block leading into Private Practice. ABC has also dipped its toes into comedy on Friday nights, with returnee Last Man Standing and newcomer Malibu Country kicking off the night at 8 p.m.
Whether Happy Endings and Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 succeed on Tuesdays outside of ABC's already well-established Wednesday night programming block remains to be seen. A risky move, but one that could pay off if ABC is looking to go head-to-head with Fox.
Watch a preview of ABC’s shows.
Not typically known for making sweeping changes to their schedule, the watchwords for CBS were again stability and consistency this year, with only two major timeslot moves for the fall.
Two and a Half Men will move from Mondays to Thursdays this fall, slotting in at 8:30 p.m. behind The Big Bang Theory. (Its Mondays at 9 p.m. timeslot will be filled by sophomore comedy 2 Broke Girls.) CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler said of the move, "We continue to develop and help our shows." In this case, it's helping successful returning drama Person of Interest continue to build its audience: the J.J. Abrams/Jonathan Nolan drama will lead out of Two and a Half Men and into new Sherlock Holmes drama Elementary at 10 p.m. "It's a reflection of our confidence in the show in putting it on one of the most important nights of the week," CBS scheduler Kelly Kahl told reporters.
(The move will likely further injure the already vulnerable NBC comedy block on Thursdays, given that The Big Bang Theory has already lured many viewers to CBS. The one-two punch of Big Bang with Two and a Half Men at 8:30 p.m.—likely a much better pairing than what CBS has tried in the timeslot this year, such as How to Be a Gentleman and Rob—will further weaken NBC in the 8 p.m. hour.)
The other major change is that The Mentalist will move to Sundays at 10 p.m., where it will take over the timeslot vacated by the now-canceled CSI: Miami. CBS brass wanted to move The Mentalist to Sundays and it came down to a "a ball jump" between CSI: Miami and CSI: NY, which was renewed for another season, leaving CSI: Miami as "the odd man out."
Despite conjecture that CBS might move The Good Wife to another night rather than go head to head with ABC in a showdown with its newly relocated drama Revenge, CBS is holding its ground: The Good Wife will remain on Sundays at 9 p.m. after all. "Desperate Housewives was there and we fought against Desperate Housewives," said Kahl, who added that Revenge's ratings are, in fact, lower than that of DH. "We moved [The Good Wife] there successfully and brought almost all of the audience from Tuesday. We feel very good about Good Wife there."
As for the ratings being adversely affected by football overruns on the East Coast, which have pushed back the start of episodes of The Good Wife by 20 minutes at times, Kahl denied the notion outright. "It does help Good Wife," he said. "The highest numbers The Good Wife had all year were when it started late." This would seem to fly in the face of reason, as viewers have been grumbling since the timeslot change whenever the show doesn't begin on time, as it tends to mess up DVR recordings.
CBS has held onto several new offerings for midseason, including cop drama Golden Boy (starring Downton Abbey's Theo James), comedy Friend Me, and unscripted series The Job, from executive producers Michael Davies and Mark Burnett. Undercover Boss will also return in midseason, while Tassler said that the network hasn't yet made a decision on a possible midseason return for Rules of Engagement.
Arguably the network making the widest sweeping change this year, the CW had the most alterations to their schedule, moving several returning shows around on the lineup, and mostly launching new shows at 9 p.m. out of established returning shows. (The exception to this being vigilante superhero drama Arrow, based on DC Comics' Green Arrow, which will anchor Wednesdays at 8 p.m.) The CW also announced its intentions to roll out its programming in October, rather than September. While the rationale is still unclear, it's possible that it's an effort to reduce the number of repeats during the season.
The most noticeable change to the CW's schedule is the move of Supernatural, which shifts from Friday nights to Wednesdays at 9 p.m., perhaps a rare occasion of a show moving out of the graveyard shift and back into mid-week rotation. Taking its place: unscripted returnee America's Next Top Model which kicks off Fridays at 8 p.m. (after eight years on Wednesdays!), leading into Nikita in a new timeslot. The latter will now go head to head with Fox's Fringe, a risky proposition given the overlap in demos. However, just how much support Nikita will get from ratings-starved Top Model (a stranger pairing was perhaps never invented) remains to be seen.
Elsewhere on the schedule, 90210 moves to Mondays at 8 p.m. Gossip Girl's final season will begin in the fall, with 11 episodes on order, as the show moves to a new 9 p.m. timeslot. When Gossip Girl wraps up, the timeslot will be filled by midseason drama The Carrie Diaries, the prequel to Sex and the City.
The pairing of female-centric medical dramas Hart of Dixie and Emily Owens, M.D. (formerly known as First Cut) on Tuesdays is likely a smart one, with Hart of Dixie moving to Tuesdays at 8 p.m. in order to kick off the night. Whether Dixie has enough support to lead off a night remains an unknown, particularly on a highly competitive night like Tuesdays. Likewise, it's a smart move to pair Arrow and Supernatural: both male-centric series with crossover appeal.
Still an unknown quantity: where Rockne S. O'Bannon's Cult will end up on the schedule. Held for midseason, unlike The Carrie Diaries, its eventual timeslot was not announced by the network, though the CW could be waiting to see how its fall shows perform before making the decision.