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Desperate Measures

Desperate Measures

Yesterday, NBC decided to release its schedule for Sept 2008-Aug 2009 (in 3 separate schedules for each season of the “season”) a month ahead of schedule:

The announcements were part of NBC’s new strategy to be “in front” of its competitors by presenting a “52-week super-season” of “quality programming” to advertisers and journalists in lieu of the usual May upfront extravaganza.

“New strategy” is codeword for “We’re copying FOX”. FOX programmed “super seasons” for the past few years, and has also shown historic tendencies to shove their programming in everyones face before everyone else to try and get more press. But FOX is the #1 network now. Its NBC’s turn to use superlatives and cheap tactics.

NBC – headed to become by far the 4th highest rated network of the now “Big 4” – particularly its programming chief Ben Silverman, seems quite proud of what I’d consider a pathetic attempt at regaining viewers. But I could easily be totally wrong – there’s obviously a huge market for unoriginal garbage.

Remakes, spin-offs and international stealing pretty sums up NBC’s slate: A Knight Rider rehash; spinoffs of The Office and Saturday Night Live (“Thursday Night Live! In Primetime!); Australian sitcom Kath and Kim redone America stylez; a series starring Christian Slater that Silverman aptly describes as “Think ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ meets ‘The Bourne Identity.'”

I’ll admit that some of the aforementioned I’m actually kind of excited about: Kath, simply because it stars Molly Shannon and Selma Blair, two of my faves (but if The Return of Jezebel James taught us anything..); An Office spin-off could also be great, but I fear it might be a bit of an Office overdose, particularly for a series that – though much loved – is not as massive a ratings hit as NBC seems to pretend; And even though it sucks more than the recent cover of Entertainment Weekly suggested, an election-side extended edition of Weekend Update – live and in primetime – could be kinda great.

My main issues are elsewhere.

Though I’m happy to see Friday Night Lights get a renewal despite insanely low ratings, I don’t think NBC should be patting itself on the back for doing one for the critics and loyal viewers: They didn’t really have many options. See their renewal of low-rated and critically lambasted Lipstick Jungle. Why, you ask? Well, Silverstein tells EW: “The the women of America have spoken.” Yes, all seven of them. The ones that thought Sex and the City was too intelligent for them to get into.

And, seriously, everything just screams overkill. A 15th Season of ER!? A 3 HOUR premiere of Heroes? A “couples” edition of The Biggest Loser? ANOTHER Celebrity Apprentice? And its not bad enough youre bringing back Knight Rider, but youre also gonna encore it every single week on Saturday nights? More over, get a load of some of the new reality programming: America’s Toughest Jobs! Shark Taggers!

But I guess its a tough job, crawling your way from the bottom of the heap. So I do pity the men and women that have to take this on. But if I was you, Silverstein, I’d just clone Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin and play 30 Rock every night.

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