Thursday, May 11, 2006

TV (and TV-ish) Dweeb News

USA Net Upfront: Emphasis on Returning Series, Broadband Video Site, WWE
While USA Network continues to ride on the success of its year-old “characters welcome” initiative, few fresh faces will be in the mix this summer, as the NBC Universal property will emphasize returning series over new projects. EDITOR'S NOTE: WHICH, IN THE CASE OF USA, IS A GOOD THING; THEIR RETURNING SERIES ARE GREAT!

At its upfront presentation in New York Monday evening, USA said it will bring back The 4400, EDITOR'S NOTE: YAY! The Dead Zone EDITOR'S NOTE: DOUBLE YAY...THIS ONE WAS ON THE CUSP, LAST I HEARD! and Monk this summer, using the latter as a lead-in for its one new series, the wry one-hour drama Psych, which stars James Roday as a sham psychic who hangs up a shingle as a private investigator.

In keeping with NBC Universal Television Group CEO Jeff Zucker’s “TV 360” initiative, every USA show will enjoy a unique broadband component, offering fans a chance to drill down a little deeper into the characters in an immersive, on-demand environment. EDITOR'S NOTE: HERE'S A RADICAL IDEA FOR NETWORK-RUN WEBSITES...ACTUAL PLOT SYNOPSES FOR EVERY EPISODE. (LET ME TELL YOU HOW HARD IT IS TO FIND TRUE PLOT DETAILS IF YOU WANT TO REFRESH YOUR MEMORY. YOU HAVE TO GO TO FAN WEBSITES. ISN'T THAT SILLY?!)

Thus far, USA has introduced a social networking community, a number of video blogs and some online gaming applications.

The focal point of the network's digital expansion will be a new broadband video site, USA characterclique, which launches Friday. The site will offer exclusive online episodes of Monk and the upcoming drama Psych, as well as a host of user-generated content, behind-the-scenes clips and streaming episodes of returning series such as The 4400 and The Dead Zone.

In order to drive awareness of its various digital platforms, on June 30 USA will also debut the premiere episode of season five of Monk and the inaugural episode of Psych via video-on-demand, a full week before the shows bow on the linear network (July 7). In subsequent weeks, USA plans to stream the first three or four minutes of both series on characterclique and VOD.

On the linear side, USA will introduce new characters to its lineup later this year with a pair of previously announced pilots, including Underfunded, a one-hour dramedy pilot about an agent in the Canadian Secret Service, and In Plain Sight, which tracks a female federal marshal assigned to the Witness Protection beat.

Also in the works are the six-hour limited series Peace Out, which USA is billing as a contemporary M*A*S*H set in post-Saddam Iraq, and three one-hour dramas populated by reluctant contract killers, dissolute tennis pros and an American spy who’s marked for death by the C.I.A. EDITOR'S NOTE: FOR A CHANNEL NOT DOING MUCH NEW STUFF, THEY SURE ARE DOING A LOT OF NEW STUFF!

Having lured the WWE back into the fold six months ago, USA has been the top-ranked ad-supported cable network in the 31 consecutive Monday nights it has run WWE fare, said USA and Sci Fi Channel president Bonnie Hammer. “The WWE is in total synch” with USA’s character-driven brand, Hammer said, adding that the property will be used as a launch pad for a series of action movies and pilots.“We're not going to rest,” Hammer said. “We’re going to bring it to greater heights.” EDITOR'S NOTE: BLAH BLAH BLAH. (MS. HAMMER CAN BS JUST LIKE THE BOYS, HUH?!) NOW STOP BLABBERING NONSENSE, AND GO FIX THE SCIFI CHANNEL, MS. H!

Three dramas, sitcoms get ABC pickup orders
'Degrees,' 'Day Break' get the call

By Nellie Andreeva

ABC got busy putting the pieces of its 2006-07 schedule together Wednesday, handing series orders to the dramas "The Nine," "Six Degrees" and "Day Break" and comedies "In Case of Emergency," "Help Me Help You" and "Notes From the Underbelly.

"NBC, which will kick off the broadcast networks' upfront week Monday, was widely expected to make the bulk of its series pickups Wednesday but did not. Pilots that are expected to get a formal series greenlight today or Friday include the dramas "Friday Night Lights," "Heroes" and "Raines" and the untitled Tina Fey comedy.

The comedies "20 Good Years," "Community Service" and "The Singles Table" are understood to be in contention for the remaining NBC comedy slots.

Sources said NBC is passing on "Andy Barker, P.I.," Conan O'Brien's single-camera gumshoe comedy starring Andy Richter, and the project will be shopped to Fox. EDITOR'S NOTE: THE CONDOLENCE NETWORK?

Similarly, the single-camera half-hour "Him and Us," starring Kim Cattrall, is believed to be a no-go at ABC and may be shopped elsewhere.

David Arquette, Greg Germann and Jonathan Silverman lead the ensemble cast of the Touchstone TV-produced "Emergency," which follows a group of high school friends who reunite when their lives face comic crises. The project originally was picked up with a series commitment.

In Regency TV's "Help," Ted Danson plays a troubled celebrity shrink who hides his own problems from the patients in his group therapy sessions.

"Underbelly" is a single-camera comedy from Warner Bros. TV and the Tannenbaum Co. that examines how a married couple's lives change in anticipation of their first child.

On the drama side, "Break," from Touchstone TV, stars Taye Diggs EDITOR'S NOTE: YUMMY. LET'S HOPE THIS ONE IS BETTER THAN THE LESS-THAN-TOPNOTCH LAST SHOW HE WAS IN. (IT WASN'T BAD, BUT IT WASN'T REALLY GOOD ENOUGH TO WATCH, EITHER). as a cop trying to discover who framed him for murder.

"Nine," from WBTV, traces the aftermath of the hostages in a bank robbery; Chi McBride and Kim Raver co-star.

Touchstone TV's "Six Degrees" chronicles the connection between six strangers brought together through a mysterious web of coincidences.

ABC is expected to pick up a few more series, with dramas "Traveler," "Secrets of a Small Town," "Ugly Betty," "Drift," "Men in Trees" and "Brothers & Sisters" battling it out for the remaining one-hour slots and the untitled Burnett/Beckerman and Hunt/Lake half-hours in the running on the comedy side.

If the network's hot medical drama "Grey's Anatomy" makes the move to Monday 9 p.m. as speculated, "Six Degrees" and "Secrets of a Small Town" are rumored as possible companions to launch behind it.

From the network's returning series, the comedies "According to Jim" and "George Lopez" are said to be looking good to come back, with "Freddie" also a possibility.

Things look grimmer on the drama side for "What About Brian" and "Invasion." If "Invasion" is not picked up at ABC, the sci-fi drama might be taken to the CW, sources said. EDITOR'S NOTE: FOR WHEN FOX ISN'T LOW ENOUGH?

A lot of pieces on ABC's schedule will depend on whether the network opts for a Thursday/Friday or Wednesday/Thursday pattern for "Dancing With the Stars," with "Day Break" rumored for a possible Thursday berth and "Traveler" said to be in consideration for a midseason run in the Tuesday 10 p.m. slot.

Over at NBC, the network has canceled its midseason comedy "Teachers."

While NBC has yet to officially pick up its new series, a speculative fall schedule already was making the rounds Wednesday.The rumored schedule has "ER" staying put on Thursdays at 10 p.m., though a possible move of the veteran medical drama to Tuesday or Wednesday to make room for a new series, possibly "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," has been widely speculated.The speculative NBC schedule has the untitled Tina Fey comedy and "Community Service" joining "My Name Is Earl" and "The Office" on Thursday and "Studio 60" going to Monday, along with "The Black Donnellys," and "Medium" moving to Friday.EDITOR'S NOTE: SO ARE THEY TRYING TO KILL "MEDIUM", OR BUILD FRIDAY? The new drama "Heroes" is rumored to lead NBC's Tuesday lineup, while "Kidnapped" could join the current Wednesday bookends "Deal or No Deal" and "Law & Order.

"Legal drama "Shark" continues to look sharp at CBS with "Smith," the untitled Carol Mendelsohn project, "Jericho," the untitled Peter Ocko project and "Company Town" also in contention. EDITOR'S NOTE: RULE NUMBER ONE OF QOTD'S SHOWS-THAT-DON'T-MAKE IT LIST.....TITLES THAT CHANGE A LOT IN THE PILOT PHASE (OR CAN'T COMMIT TO A TITLE) ARE DOOMED.

Meanwhile, the freshman drama "Close to Home" is said to be looking good to return next season.

Comedy-wise, "The Class" is still considered the front-runner, with "Inseparable," the untitled Tom Hertz project and "The Big Bang Theory" in the mix.

Fox, which already picked up three dramas -- "Primary," "Vanished" and "American Crime" -- is said to be mulling a possible pickup for another, with "Damages," "Beyond" and "Southern Comfort" in the running.

On the comedy side, "The Winner" is all but set to join previously picked up " 'Til Death.

"CBS' drama pilot "Ultra" is said to be in serious consideration for a pickup at the CW, which is said to be not very pleased with its drama pilots.

This bodes well for the chances of UPN's "Veronica Mars" EDITOR'S NOTE: YAY YAY YAY! (CAUSE VERONICA MARS JUST HAD ONE OF THE RIPROARING'EST SEASON FINALES EVER). and WB Network's "One Tree Hill" and "Everwood" to make the move to the CW.

"Flirt" is still considered hot on the comedy side.


HBO going '12 Miles' for pilot
HBO has given a pilot order to "12 Miles of Bad Road," a comedy from executive producers Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and Harry Thomason, sources said.

In addition, the premium cable network is in negotiations to order five half-hour episodes of "In Treatment," a serialized drama that would be redeveloped from a hit Israeli series, sources said.

"Bad Road" is described as a comedy about a Dallas matriarchy. It's believed that the pilot, which is in preproduction and will be shot in the summer, will be an hour. But should the project get picked up to series, sources said it's likely to be a half-hour show.

Regis Philbin Heading Back To Reality EDITOR'S NOTE: 'BACK'?
Regis Philbin, the former host of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, has found his way back to reality television. This time around, he will be hosting the new NBC reality show, America's Got Talent.

"For years I've thought about hosting a variety show on television but I could never put it together in my mind," said Philbin. "Finally, here it is and I'm thrilled to be a part of it."

America's Got Talent will feature hopeful stars performing in front of a panel of judges who will decide which acts are fit to advance. Singers, dancers, comedic performers and unique acts of all ages will be eligible.

The show, created by American Idol judge Simon Cowell and FremantleMedia, will premiere with a special two-hour broadcast on Wednesday, June 21, 2006. It will air normally on Wednesdays from 9-10 p.m. ET with 30-minute results shows airing on Thursdays beginning July 13, 2006.

The show sounds like an Idol rip-off, but with the ratings boom American Idol currently enjoys ... who can really blame them? EDITOR'S NOTE: WELL...AND AS LONG AS THEY ARE RIPPING OFF THEMSELVES, IT'S OK, RIGHT?

Bravo Upfront: Million Dollar Listing, Workout Joins Summer Slate; Trio Goes Broadband

Bravo is carving out a space for itself on Tuesday and Wednesday nights with a slate of unscripted programming that the network hopes will build on the successes of genre-defining series like Queer Eye and Project Runway.

At the network’s annual upfront luncheon in New York, Bravo president Lauren Zalaznick introduced a new lineup of Tuesday night summer programming, and said that the network would develop shows for its Wednesday night “creative competition” format year-round.

This summer, Bravo will introduce three new unscripted series to its Tuesday night lineup, including: Million Dollar Listing, a look at a high-end California real estate agency (June 12), Workout, which chronicles the various intrigues that take place inside celebrity trainer Jackie Warner’s Hollywood gym (July 19) and the previously announced Tabloid Wars, which takes viewers inside the news roon at the New York Daily News (August).

The network is also developing Can We Dish?, a Tuesday night talk show hosted by comedienne Joan Rivers. EDITOR'S NOTE: EEK. JUST WHEN WE THOUGHT IT WAS SAFE.

Bravo will beef up its Wednesday night slate with three new series that pit contestants against one another, including: Top Decorator, Heads Up and The Inn Crowd. Bravo has also picked up War of the Wives, a competition/reality hybrid that the network characterizes as “the ultimate in spousal nightmares.”

While much of the network’s upfront pitch was dedicated to developments in the broadband space, Zalaznick said that linear television is still Bravo’s bread and butter. “We’re proud of that old thing called TV,” Zalaznick said, adding that while the Tuesday/Wednesday initiative is uppermost on the agenda, Bravo is getting ready to start marketing recent off-net acquisition Six Feet Under. Set to debut some time this fall, the oft-racy Six Feet Under should not pose any significant challenges in the editing suite, Zalaznick said, as HBO shot plenty of coverage and recorded dub tracks to replace any questionable dialogue.

As is the case with all NBC Universal properties, Bravo has made digital distribution a major priority, readying several digital launches for this summer.

The previously announced broadband site, will go live on May 23. Born out of the former Trio programming block of the same name, the site will serve as a repository of old series that were critically acclaimed but largely ignored by viewers. Full length episodes of shows such as the ‘90s CBS crime drama EZ Streets will be available as ad-supported streams. Individual episodes will be broken up into three-to-five-minute segments, thereby increasing the number of pre-roll advertising opportunities. EDITOR'S NOTE: IF IT WEREN'T SO UNCOMFORTABLE TO SIT AT MY COMPUTER AND WATCH STUFF, THIS SOUNDS LIKE A VERY GOOD USE OF A BROADBAND CHANNEL.

To kick off the new launch, Bravo will present an episode of the stillborn NBC show, The Jake Effect, on four different platforms: TV, broadband, DVD and through Apple’s iTunes’s Music Store.

Next, on June 1, through a partnership with, Bravo will launch, a second broadband platform that will feature full length episodes of former gay-themed Trio series, including Boy Meets Boy and Manhunt. will also feature some originals, including a cooking show hosted by a drag queen. EDITOR'S NOTE: OK. I'M NOT THE TARGET AUDIENCE FOR THIS ONE, SO I'M JUST GOING TO LEAVE IT UNSNARKED.....BUT IT HURTS TO WALK AWAY.....

That same week, the network portal will be relaunched on June 6, shifting “from being a promotional site to a stand-alone content site,” said Jason Klarman, senior vp, marketing and brand strategy.

Bravo execs said they have redesigned the site to be a daily destination for pop culture on the Web, bringing news content and blogs to forefront. One blog is already being penned by Andrew Cohen, the network’s vp, production & programming.

On the ad sales front, Zalaznick emphasized how important it was in the current marketplace to be able to offer “full packages” to advertisers, while acknowledging that there is “a lot of debate over whether there should be a digital upfront.”

Lastly, the brilliant-but-cancelled linear net, Trio, will be reintroduced as a broadband site after an earlier online incarnation proved to be unfocused. Version 2.0 of will be centered around music and documentary video footage.


Apple to sell Fox's '24,' and 'Prison Break' on iTunes

News Corp. finally joined the iTunes menu Tuesday with a licensing deal to make "24," "Prison Break," "The Shield" and other hits available on Apple's download-on-demand online service.

The deal includes a total of 16 series, including shows from Fox Broadcasting Co. and FX as well as library titles from the 20th Century Fox TV production unit, including cult-fave drama "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," the short-lived sci-fi drama "Firefly" and the 1960s vintage series "Lost in Space." EDITOR'S NOTE: CHECK IT OUT, DWEEBPALS! (OF COURSE, TRUE DWEEBS PROBABLY ALREADY OWN THESE ON DVD, RIGHT?)

Apple said it was largest single TV show licensing pact it has completed since it began offering TV shows on iTunes in October with its groundbreaking deal with the Walt Disney Co

Warner Bros. Teams with BitTorrent to Offer Movie Downloads
Content Available Same Day That Retail Sales Begin
By Jay Sherman

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment said Monday that it was teaming up with peer-to-peer file sharing service BitTorrent to offer Web-based downloads of movies and television shows owned by the studio.

Starting this summer, more than 200 films and TV episodes will be available for download on the BitTorrent service for a fee. The movies and films will be available the same day they go on sale at retail outlets.

The price of a download has not been announced, but the company said it expects it to be comparable to the $1-per-download rate charged by other legal Web downloads for TV shows; movies are expected to sell for about the price of a DVD.


The alliance between Warner Bros. and BitTorrent is the latest in a string of agreements that large media companies are striking to make movies and television episodes available on iPods, cellphones and PCs. The efforts are designed to key into what media executives believe is a growing consumer need for video to be delivered on a raft of platforms beyond the television and movie theater screen.

In joining with BitTorrent, Warner Bros. is pairing with a company once vilified by the entertainment industry for contributing to the proliferation of illegally distributed video fare. However, BitTorrent reached an agreement with the Motion Picture Association of America in November to develop software that is supposed to block illegal distribution.

BitTorrent's technology works by relying on other users to contribute bits of a file to a single download.


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