Yes, the Upfronts — where networks reveal which series got renewed, which got canned, and which are moving to new time slots — typically happen in May. But NBC decided to do things a little differently this year, revealing its new programming ideas in a conference call today, a full six weeks before any of the other networks are even going near that stuff. Bold? Silly? Time will tell, I suppose.
Here are some headlines from the call: The Office is getting a spinoff, which will premiere after the Super Bowl. Executive producer Greg Daniels is in charge of it, but that's about the only detail NBC Entertainment President Ben Silverman would reveal. Friday Night Lights will be back at midseason after airing on DirecTV in the Fall. And the new series on the schedule include Christian Slater's My Own Worst Enemy, Molly Shannon's Kath and Kim, and the series version of Knight Rider. Want to see how it all played out? My take on the announcements plus the full schedule can be found over here, and you can check out my liveblog from the call if you just read more.
1:02 p.m.: That's a wrap! I'm gonna process all this and be back later with some more thoughts.
1:01 p.m.: Backtracking a little on his previous ratings comments, Silverman says that people will eventually find the low-rated shows that are really good, citing Steve Carell's "perfect storm" moment with The 40-Year-Old Virgin that drove people to The Office. The same could happen for Tina Fey with Baby Mama, he said.
12:54 p.m.: NBC is recommiting to the miniseries, with two of them lined up for Sunday nights: XIII with Val Kilmer and Stephen Dorff (Stephen Dorff!) and The Last Templar with Mira Sorvino.
12:51 p.m.: Here's the press release.
12:48 p.m.: Some more highlights from the schedule: Kings and Merlin, another fantasy series, will pop up at midseason, along with The Philanthropist, a drama about "a renegade billionaire who uses his wealth to help people."
12:45 p.m.: Here's some good news for ER fans: The final season will air 19 episodes in a row, without repeats. When it's over, The Celebrity Apprentice will take over its time slot.
12:42 p.m.: The full schedule just popped into my inbox. The most interesting thing we haven't talked about yet: There's really going to be an Office spinoff, and it will premiere after the Super Bowl in January!
12:39 p.m.: Someone asks Silverman if he's worried about the future of scripted programming. His answer is kind of Darwinian: "The better shows will continue to deliver the higher ratings," he says. I could probably come up with 10 different ways I disagree with that, but OK.
12:36 p.m.: Forgot to mention: Knight Rider is also becoming a series and will air at 8 p.m. on Wednesdays.
12:34 p.m.: First Q&A starts. Silverman hasn't gotten to Friday Night Lights yet, but he assures everyone it will be back midseason. They've ordered 13 episodes.
12:33 p.m.: We're starting off the season with one-hour episodes of The Office again. Then, in October, we'll have three weeks of Saturday Night Live on Thursdays. "There's nothing better than Saturday Night Live in an election year," Silverman says. Fridays will have the new show Robinson Crusoe and Life, which I believe he just said has added Donal Logue to the cast.
12:32 p.m.: Silverman on NBC's comedies: "They actually make you laugh," something he says he's never done watching comedies on other networks.
12:30 p.m.: First new show announced: My Own Worst Enemy, the Christian Slater project, Mondays at 10 p.m.
12:29 p.m.: Here's the idea of the programming in a nutshell: 8 p.m. hour is "family," 9 p.m. hour is "blockbuster," 10 p.m. hour is "adult."
12:27 p.m.: Saturday Night Live will kick off the season on Sept. 13. That coming Monday, there will be a "three-hour Heroes event" with a clip package followed by the season premiere.
12:25 p.m.: Silverman says something about bringing you "the shows you love . . . including Friday Night Lights." Yay! He then says we deal with bad information every day, so he wanted to give us something more hopeful, where "our characters are trying to be the best we can be."
12:23 p.m.: Here we go! NBC just did this presentation for advertisers and reporters in New York; we're getting the phone version. Ben Silverman is talking about having a "52-week schedule," rather than a regular Fall schedule followed by Summer filler. It helps that they have the Olympics and the Super Bowl all in the same programming year!