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April 7, 2008 |

By Seth Freilich | Industry | April 7, 2008 |

I’m guessing that most of you have heard the bigger news from NBC’s mini-upfront last Wednesday (or rather, what it so cleverly calls its “in front”), where it announced its schedule for the next year. But if you haven’t, let’s pick it apart, whadda ya say?

The best news is, of course, that Season Three of “Friday Night Lights” is a go. As many speculated about a few weeks back, NBC has indeed brokered a deal with DirecTV to give the show some overtime. And as I speculated a few weeks back, DirecTV viewers will get the show first — the 13-episode season will start running exclusively on DirecTV in October, and then it’ll air on NBC in January ‘09. And the new episodes also won’t show up on NBC’s website or on Hulu until January, which means sorry saps like me are going to have to either twiddle their thumbs in extended anticipation or find more dubiously legal options. While the shortened run of 13 episodes may be a bummer, executive producer Jason Katims notes that that’s about how many games there are in a high school football season, so there’s a chance we could see the show return a little more to its football roots. And having the show’s season tied more closely around a football season would be a step in the right direction, keeping the show more in sync with the latter half of Season Two, rather than the silly murderness of the first half.

Between now and the kickoff of the fall season, NBC is also planning to do some summer webisodes for “The Office,” “Chuck” and “Heroes.” Better yet, there will be “30 Rock 360,” which will include, among other things, business courses from Alec Baldwin’s Jack Donaghy. I’m willing to say this will be the best thing to come out of NBC’s little summer internet play — the other webisodes may wind up being a whole lot of nothing, but we can’t ever get enough Jack Donaghy, right? Right.

Now, with the good news out of the way, we’ll turn to a day-by-day look and check out what’s mostly some pretty ugly shit. And there are basically three schedules for each day, a fall schedule, a winter/spring schedule, and next summer’s schedule. It should go without saying that almost all of this is subject to some serious change. After all, how many times do we see networks announce their schedules in May, only to have the schedule look vastly different by November? So do we really think NBC’s schedule next summer, over a year from now, is really going to look like what it says now? Hell nah.

Sundays. In the fall it is, of course, Sunday Night Football, which would be the best thing on NBC’s schedule if it weren’t for the fact that Al Michaels and John Madden become increasingly more insufferable with each passing season. In the spring, “Medium” gets the 9 p.m. slot nestled between two new shows, “Merlin” and “Kings.” It doesn’t take a wise man or a magician to guess what “Merlin” is about — it follows a young Merlin and Arthur in Camelot, as they try to discover themselves. If it were “Brokeback Merlin,” that would at least be an interesting, albeit slash, take on the tale. But I’m guessing they’re not going that way, so color me bored. And 10 p.m., meanwhile, has “Kings,” the show I mentioned last week that will be a modern retelling of King David Bible stories starring Ian McShane and some other cocksuckers.

In the summertime, the 8 p.m. slot goes to “Monk” reruns, 9 p.m. goes to “Nashville Stars,” 10 p.m. goes to “Kings” reruns, and we all go to another channel.

Mondays. Unsurprisingly, “Chuck” and “Heroes” will be coming back next fall, right where they lived last fall, and they’ll run for most of the “regular season,” except for a break in January, when NBC will throw up some “American Gladiators” and “Deal or No Deal” in their stead, while viewers just throw up. In the fall, the 10 p.m. slot will go to Christian Slater’s new show, “My Own Worst Enemy.” At first blush, it sounds like one half of Mr. & Mrs. Smith, with Slater playing a suburban dad who’s also a spy. But apparently there’s more to it than that, as he’s actually got some sort of dual-personality thing going on, only the manufactured wall between his two personalities breaks down or something, so Slater’s character becomes … his own worst enemy. I hope we get some crazy Slater talking-talking-to-himself scenes.

Of course, that show sounds infinitely better than the springtime 10 p.m. show, the currently un-cast “The Philanthropist.” This shit is about a rich guy who, as the NBC press release puts it, becomes a “vigilante philanthropist.” Yes. A vigilante philanthropist. I don’t know anything about the show aside from its logline, but I know when I’ve heard too much, and I do believe “vigilante philanthropist” done be too much.

Next summer, the Monday schedule goes back to “American Gladiators,” which will be followed by “America’s Toughest Jobs” and “Dateline NBC.” What’s “America’s Toughest Jobs,” you ask? Well, apparently it’s an “extreme competition” show where folks square off against each other in tough jobs like logging and oil drilling. But I suspect the real toughest job is going to be sitting through that show. …See what I did there?

Oh, and in case you were wondering, unfortunately NBC has killed that whole “Heroes: Origins” business. So no Kevin Smith or Eli Roth super heroes coming your way.

Tuesdays. At 10 p.m., “Law & Order SVU” gets to keep its home for another year, which is fine by me. Eight p.m., meanwhile, gets a fall and spring run of “The Biggest Loser,” because why have one season of a show I don’t give a crap about when you can have two? Oh, because the fall one features families, while the spring one features couples. Awesome. Sandwiched between the fat bodies and the dead bodies will be “Kath & Kim,” a remake of an Australian comedy about a mother and daughter. Molly Shannon plays the mom and Selma Blair plays the daughter, which is interesting, given the fact that Shannon is all of eight years older than Blair. In fact, I think that very well may be the only interesting thing about this show, unless exec producer/director Paul Feig is able to pull some magic out of his hat.

As for the summer, we all might be missing “The Biggest Loser,” when the 8 p.m. slot gives way to “Most Outrageous Moments,” which is going to be outtakes from NBC shows, plus other hi-larious shenanigans. Think “TV’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes” without Ed McMahon, Dick Clark, the practical jokes or the fun little Sergio Aragones janitor cartoons. Nine p.m. will have “America’s Got Talent” (uhm, no, it doesn’t), and 10 p.m. will have “L&O: SVU” reruns.

Wednesdays. You knew “Deal or No Deal” would get more than just a month on Mondays, and here’s one of the places where you’ll be able to find, sitting at 9 p.m., comfortably sandwiched right in between “you’ve got to be” and “fucking kidding me.” Those come to us in the form of the inexplicably picked-up “Knight Rider” and the amazingly renewed “Lipstick Jungle.” I know I say this a lot about shows, but it’s as true here as every other time I say it — not only do I not know anybody who watches “Lipstick Jungle,” but since the pilot aired I haven’t even heard of someone watching the show. Amazing.

The schedule stays the same in the spring, except that the “Law & Order” mothership will take over the 10 p.m. slot from the lipstick ladies. And in the summer, we get “Shark Taggers,” followed by the “America’s Got Talent” results show, followed by “L&O” reruns. Yes, “Shark Taggers.” It’s a reality show following around marine biologists as they chase after some sharks. And nothing says engrossing reality TV like marine biology!

Thursdays. At first blush, things don’t look much different here. “My Name is Earl” and “30 Rock” get the first hour, and “The Office” gets the second hour. Which means that, yes, there are going to be more of the weak-ass hour-long episodes of “The Office.” Which sucks. But interestingly, this is also where we find NBC’s best idea of the whole schedule. In October, we’ll get normal half-hour episodes, and the other half-hour of the 9 p.m. time slot will go to prime-time “Saturday Night Live” episodes, focusing on politics (skits and a mini-Weekend Update). “SNL” boiled down to just the politics and a half-hour may be the smartest decision NBC has made in years. (Remember this statement, because I’ll be making a call-back to it in a minute.) At 10 p.m., meanwhile, “ER” is coming back for one more honest-to-goodness-this-time-we-mean-it last season, but it’s only getting 19 episodes to say goodbye. So when it finishes its run next February, it’ll get swapped out for a sophomore “Celebrity Apprentice.” All things told, “Celebrity Apprentice” wasn’t nearly as heinous as I thought it would be. But since reality shows generally degrade logrithmically, I’m not expecting much out of round two.

You may have noticed that there was no mention of “Scrubs.” That’s because the show is done, as far as NBC is concerned. So after the five remaining episodes air this spring, it’ll either be going to an early grave or ABC (when NBC’s Ben Silverman was asked if he was ok with ABC picking the show up, he cracked that “if they can go 1 for 21, good for them”). While that might be bad news, it pales in comparison to this news, which may be the worst decision NBC has made in years (callback alert!) — “The Office” is getting a motherfucking spinoff. It’s untitled, and uncast, and all we know is that it will premiere after the Super Bowl and will be exec produced by Greg Daniels, with most of the rest of “The Office” creative team on board, too. Which means those folks won’t only be strained by dealing with full hours of “The Office,” but with dealing with this crap too. So this decision could end up being a double-whammy bad idea. Just fucking terrible.

During the summer, the 8 p.m. hour will air reruns of “The Office” and that goddamned spinoff, while 9 p.m. gets a new run of “Last Comic Standing.” And at 10 p.m., it’s “The Listener,” which is about a paramedic. But lest you think it’s the same old paramedic show, oh no no no. This one will have irreverent humor.

Oh yeah, and the paramedic fucking reads minds.

Fridays. Ah, the dumping ground, the place where NBC puts its new show “Crusoe,” showing us just how much faith it has on the new take on the classic Robinson Crusoe story. The story of the man who spends 28 years on an island will be followed by more “Deal or No Deal,” because, really, people aren’t sick of this show yet. Query — how long did we have to suffer through “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” before it became spoiled and fetid? Because maybe that’ll be a good guide-post for when we can expect “Deal’s” death knell. In any event, “Deal” will be followed by “Life.” Good news for fans of that show, at least, is that Donal Logue is joining.

In January, “Deal” will slide to the 8 p.m. slot so that “Friday Night Lights” can have its less-than-direct airings at 9 p.m. And in the summer, we get “Chopping Block,” followed by two hours of “Dateline NBC.” “Chopping Block” comes from the producers of “Hell’s Kitchens,” and it sounds basically the same except I don’t think the contestants are cooks or something. I dunno — I couldn’t make it through that paragraph of the press release because I don’t care now, and I won’t care next summer.

Saturdays. Reruns.

Seth Freilich is Pajiba’s television editor. He didn’t tell you about NBC’s two miniseries/”events” — “The Last Templar” and “XIII” — because, trust him, you don’t want to know.

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Seth is a Senior Editor and sometime critic. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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