TV Nation
The Fall Season 2006-2007



it’s the most exciting time of year for television. Just as season finales get viewers in a lather for next season, networks are publishing their new schedules to get advertisers interested in buying time. Last week, the annual upfronts were presented to much avail, showcasing what we can expect come September (and August), from the Big SixFive in 2006-2007.



Last Season
Can anyone under the age of 40 write about this network and not wonder how it continues its dominance? It almost pains this writer to type the words “hit Jennifer Love Hewitt show Ghost Whisperer” and “more math-related mysteries abound on Numb3rs.” That being said: all credit is due to CBS, who seemingly has the most stable and powerful line-up of any major network this year. When you have a hit franchise, the highest rated reality show ever still going strong, and Don Johnson, though, what else do you need?

Who’s Back
The hit franchise, the highest rated reality show ever, and Don Johnson, naturally. Along with most other networks, CBS has forsaken the sitcom (somewhere Ray Romano weeps), leaving only Monday as the place that you can find Jon Cryer, not-sleazy-at-all Charlie Sheen, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and the gang from How I Met Your Mother bringing up kids (Doogie Howser being, by far, the most charming sitcom child in years). Also back: the nameless cop and procedurals you’ve grown to forgot existed: Criminal Minds, Cold Case, Without a Trace. The fat guy from Queens with a used-to-be-hot wife? Look for them at mid-season.

Who’s New
You know you’re running a successful network when…you have barely any new shows to talk about. Smith is Ray Liotta seeking that one last payday to live peacefully with Virginia Madsen, Shark stars James Woods as the attorney seeking that one last chance at redemption by becoming a DA, and Jericho is one Kansas town seeking to figure out whether anyone is alive after a nuclear blast appears on the horizon. Major Dad stars. Will these shows succeed? CBS has a show based on Mathnet that’s a bona fide hit. How the hell should I know?

The Verdict
I’ve resigned myself to the idea that CBS needs to be checked out twice a year: once at the beginning of the year to confirm suspicions regarding new shows, once at the end of the year to make sure nothing has happened in the interim. That, and to watch How I Met Your Mother. And Survivor. And Close to Home. And 60 Minutes. And The Amazing Race. Let’s try this again: the winning streak will most likely continue for the well-deserving CBS.
[Charles Merwin]


Last Season
After the last two seasons, it seems that ABC can’t be stopped. The network has managed to spin the Desperate Housewives/Grey’s Anatomy/Lost juggernaut into the sole reason the network has existed for the past year. Less noted are the several failures that filled the gaps between these shows. Commander-in-Chief, Alias, and a Freddie Prinze Jr. sitcom that time has thankfully forgotten were all shuffled around and then eventually cancelled. While the network can continue to milk the big three for all they’re worth, one day someone is going to recognize that their next highest-rated show is Boston Legal and start to ask why.

Who’s Back
The big ones are back for their third seasons. While fans and critics sometimes complained this past season that the shows had become too schmaltzy (Grey’s Anatomy), too convoluted (Lost), or too ridiculous (Desperate Housewives), nothing has seemed to slow them down much. Lost and Housewives will remain in their timeslots in the fall, but Anatomy will be put up against CBS’s CSI on Thursdays. Though it’s a big move for the show, its ratings will unlikely be affected. ABC has also hung onto most of its low production cost, but ratings safety net reality shows, as Dancing with the Stars, Supernanny, Wife Swap, and The Bachelor will all be back. ABC has one again cancelled its Friday night TGIF comedy line-up, which never regained its 90s popularity from when Full House and Family Matters reigned. Rest assured (all three of you who care) that According to Jim and George Lopez will be back in the fall.

Who’s New
To fill out the gaps between the winners, ABC has booked a few shows that seem to be based on other hits on other networks. Day Break (starring Taye Diggs) seems to be a reimagining of 24 and Groundhog Day, in which a detective relives the same day over and over. The Nine follows nine survivors of a bank robbery, in a cross between Prison Break and FOX’s short-lived Reunion. The hour-long comedy Betty the Ugly is an update of a hit South American show about a plain girl in the world of fashion (think Just Shoot Me or, conversely, try to put that show out of your head forever). The most advanced acclaim is centered around Let’s Rob… in which a group of thieves plot to rob Mick Jagger. But even that response has generally been muted. Once again, it seems that ABC is going to renewing a What About Briant and canceling a whole host of first-years. Whither Heather Graham?

The Verdict
With a less than spectacular line-up of new shows this fall, it doesn’t yet seem that ABC will be able to translate its individual show dominance in the ratings to weekly network wins just yet. To be honest, it really doesn’t matter, as the advertising rates for Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy, and Lost are the highest on network television right now. So long as they can get a few people watching on the nights in between these shows, ABC will do fine for itself, and fans won’t complain if they’ve got their favorites somewhere on the schedule.
[George Jenkins]


Last Season
FOX solidified its stranglehold on third place last year, although, admittedly NBC was hardly up to the task of taking it back. House emerged even more strongly as a hugely show in the network’s line-up, even taking into account the show’s move out of American Idol’s lap, Prison Break was a solid new placeholder and eventual lead-in to 24, and even Bones did well enough to stay on the schedule for another season. The axe finally fell on the ratings-anemic Arrested Development, but for FOX it was a no-brainer. When reruns of Girlfriends brings in more viewers, you’ve got problems.

Who’s Back
FOX effectively splits their programming season into two parts: getting shows started in advance of other networks to get viewers hooked before the MLB playoffs start and hoping that they remember three months later what shows they cared about. It’s a risky strategy, but with FOX starting to creep even further up the ratings ladder, it’s working. This year, both American Idol and 24 anchor the second-half of the schedule, while Prison Break and The O.C. will attempt to win viewers on both sides of the playoffs. Hell’s Kitchen fans will be excited to know that, yes, Gordon Ramsay will be cursing all throughout the summer.

Who’s New
FOX’s unique programming situation allows them to try out new shows quickly before the playoffs and decide whether they’re worth pursuing afterwards. That’s why you saw Reunion last year for a minute. Expect to see Thursday sitcoms Happy Hour and ’Til Death for just as long. More promising is the second-season Rob Corddry vehicle The Winner, which will be helmed by Family Guy’s Seth MacFarlane. Or, if drama is your game, try out Standoff, which stars Ron Livingston (Office Space) as a hostage negotiator. Finally, those who can’t get enough Simon Cowell will have reason to cheer, Duets (think Bungee Jumping without an Auto-Tune) will be premiering presumably after the playoffs, as well.

The Verdict
FOX has made its name as the network willing to take risks. In the past, this was because they had to. Now, the network has a solid base of shows from which to work and, judging by this year’s slate of pilots, the spark is nowhere to be found. Look for more American Idol than you can handle, Jack Bauer getting out of even more preposterous situations, and lots of dream sequences featuring Mischa Barton next year on FOX. If it weren’t for The Winner (which will inevitably get canceled for re-runs of the crotch-shot-happy The Loop if things go according to plan), there’d be nothing to look forward to here. Finally at FOX: business as usual.
[Charles Merwin]


Last Season
The 2005-2006 season marked an important transitional year for NBC after several seasons of grasping for a post “Must-See TV” identity. While several promising newcomers (Four Kings, Conviction, The Apprentice: Martha Stewart) tanked alongside severely down-turned ratings for former hits ER, The Apprentice, and Will & Grace, NBC surprised critics this past year by pulling off a few key victories. Few suspected that the cerebral comedy block of My Name Is Earl and The Office would help NBC reclaim some lost ground on Thursday nights, and most everybody was shocked that Deal Or No Deal brought back the primetime game show phenomenon of the early 2000s. With a few scattered successes to go on, NBC is looking to jump ahead of FOX in order to compete with the likes of ABC and CBS once again in 2006-2007.

Who’s Back
NBC has played it safe by bringing back some of its major shows without shuffling the line-up too much. First, the three-night-a-week blitz of the Law & Order franchise has returned—without any new Wolf projects (Conviction, Trial by Jury) to distract. The network has wisely chosen not to expand Deal Or No Deal beyond the two nights a week that have made it a success in the past several months, and has chosen to hold off on the next season of The Apprentice until January, in hopes that some time away will create a buzz for a stale show. My Name Is Earl and The Office have been moved up to 8:00 PM on Thursdays in hopes of creating the anchor for a Thursday comedy line-up.

Who’s New
Two themes are prevalent in NBC’s new shows for the fall line-up: football and sketch comedy. The network will show primetime sports regularly for the first time since before the network’s 90s heyday in the form of Sunday Night Football. This will provide a welcome alternative for those mourning the loss of ABC’s Monday Night Football and also as a Sunday night alternative for the Desperate Housewives/Grey’s Anatomy behemoth on the other network. NBC will also premiere Friday Night Lights this fall, based on the hit film about high school football. NBC has drawn major critical concern over its decision to debut two shows about the behind-the-scenes life of fictional sketch comedy shows, in the form of 30 Rock and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. As the network has stated before, the duo is similar to the comedic Scrubs and the dramatic ER’s take on life in the emergency room.

The Verdict
The 2006-2007 programming year will be critical in determining whether the network can overcome the troubled downturn of the past several years. With hits such as Will & Grace gone, and former giants like The Apprentice barely hanging on, new methods and ideas must be found to save this ailing network. Let’s hope something besides Deal Or No Deal succeeds, lest we be left with three or four days a week of Howie Mandel in primetime next year.
[George Jenkins]



Last Season
Nice try. The CW premieres next year as the unholy marriage of the WB and UPN’s best (notice the word “hit” was not used) shows. What happened last year? A lot of bad television was aired by UPN and the WB. So, what’s the big deal? With their powers combined, can The CW eventually pull itself out of the cellar? It’s obvious that it won’t be happening next year, but we have hope that they’ll keep on Veronica Mars as long as possible. And thank them for putting Everwood out to pasture.

Who’s Back
7th Heaven was on the verge of “series finale” status until executives saw the “season finale” numbers and decided to re-up for another go-round. The Gilmore Girls sans Amy Sherman-Palladino (you have a new network, you decide not to pay the showrunner for one of your most popular shows to come back for another season, uh…), Chris Rock will still be putting it to whitey on Everybody Hates Chris, and another America’s Next Top Model will enter the world without a chance of ever becoming anything more than a talking head on E!. Did we mention another season of Veronica Mars?

Who’s Back
Since The CW has literally one new show set to start in the fall (Runaway, aptly titled), let’s talk about the Sunday night line-up: Everybody Hates Chris, All of Us, Girlfriends, and sorta-new-but-actually-just-a-spin-off The Game. We’re all for blocks of programming, but could you try to make the blocks less “let’s-put-all-of-our-black-people-here” and more “anything-else”? Chris Rock, himself, said it best at the CW upfronts last week when he warned advertisers that if they don’t pony up the cash, Chris will be re-cast as a white girl next season to boost ratings.

The Verdict
Tuesday nights: Gilmore Girls, Veronica Mars. The rest? Eh…
[Charles Merwin]


By: Stylus Staff
Published on: 2006-05-25
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