Friday, May 13, 2011

2011 Upfronts: Early Decisions for NBC

As they did last year, NBC and Fox have already made most (if not all) of their new-series pickups in the week before their scheduled upfronts. They've each also renewed and/or let some shows go, so let's start dissecting NBC's early decisions.

New Drama Pickups

Awake (formerly REM)
The Playboy Club (formerly Playboy)
Prime Suspect

New Comedy Pickups

Are You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea
Free Agents
Up All Night (formerly Alpha Mom)

Recent Renewals

Harry's Law

Recent Cancellations

The Event
Law & Order: LA

Fate Still to Be Determined
Law & Order: SVU

So NBC took a lot of the expected route this week. If you read my fantasy schedule a few weeks ago, you'll see that I guessed almost everything above. In just the past few hours there has been a huge outpouring of shock and suprirse over the renewal of Chuck for a final season of 13 episodes; I thought that was obvious considering how close the show is to syndication and how rabid its fan base is.

I'm still curious to see if NBC will pick up one more new drama, though word is they will not. I think that's pretty adventurous of them, since that will leave only one new drama for midseason (or the return of Chuck at midseason). However, since they picked up so many new comedies, I suppose they will try for another comedy hour on a night other than Thursday. Speaking of, the comedy pickups were slightly surprising. I was only able to correctly guess three of the six ordered series (Are You There...?, Whitney, Up All Night), since the others came completely out of left field. The comedy pickups are always hard to guess since things can go so wrong from when the script is written to when the pilot is delivered, but even considering that these three other pickups (Free Agents, Bent, BFFs) were very surprising since none had much or any buzz surrounding them the past few weeks. Word is that BFFs screened poorly the first go-round but got a much better second cut; plus, it was very cheaply done so only a minor gamble for the network. Free Agents is a remake of a British comedy (apparently NBC hopes it will do as well as their other British comedy remake, The Office) and Bent features film star Amanda Peet in a plot very similar to that of ABC's Cougar Town.

On the drama side, all the frontrunners received pickups: Smash, Prime Suspect (also a remake of a British series) and The Playboy Club. NBC is taking a gamble with the complex Awake and playing it safe with Grimm. All five shows actually have interesting qualities, and I'll likely give most of them a shot in the fall depending on how they lineup on the schedule. Harry's Law and Parenthood always looked likely for renewal, and both The Event and Law & Order: LA always looked likely for cancellation; no surprises there.

And with that, the only decision left to make concerns the renewal of veteran drama Law & Order: SVU. Its ratings suggest it should return, without a doubt. The only issue with the long-running series may come with the main cast's contracts, which took several months to negotiate before its last two-season renewal (up at the end of the this current season); it will be interesting to see whether or not this will be the final season of the last surviving Law & Order series.

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