They saved the cheerleader. They saved the world. Can they save NBC?
Yesterday, through a haze of smoke, the cast of Heroes rose up through the floor of Radio City Music Hall, kicking off NBC's somewhat tense and defensive pitch of its fall shows to advertisers. The fourth-place network admitted it's recently been a "big fat disappointment" in the ratings, blamed "a zillion hours of American Idol," and unveiled a sci-fi-heavy slate of fall shows that mimic Heroes superpowers hour. There's a time traveler on Journeyman; an electronics-store salesman who downloaded government secrets into his brain on Chuck. The Bionic Woman is back, this time both brunette and bitchy about her unrequested upgrades. NBC also ordered extra episodes of Heroes, adding a six-hour miniseries spinoff called Origins.
In a slate of shows mostly featuring male leads, be it geeks or football jocks, (not that too much Kyle Chandler is ever a problem), two fortysomething-women shows sneaked in. Candace Bushnell's Lipstick Jungle stars Brooke Shields as a movie exec (in New York) with high-powered girlfriends (Promo line: "They're not looking for Mr. Big, they are Mr. Big") and The Age of Love, a reality dating show that pits "kittens against cougars" — younger woman against older woman — for the attention of a man, because ABC's The Bachelor apparently isn't demeaning enough.
NBC flew few stars in for the fête, but, echoing its glory days, trotted out Jerry Seinfeld, who was affable but seemed confused about being there. In other underwhelming moments, they premiered a new Website that they announced "is not just a web site." Viewers will be able to open their own online branch of Dunder Mifflin or run their own Hollywood fantasy talent agency, Ari Gold style. (Sorry, wrong network.)
In other news, NBC is giving 30 Rock the comfy ratings hammock between My Name Is Earl and The Office; Tom Selleck replaces James Caan on Las Vegas, Law & Order moves to Sunday at 8 p.m., teen couples get to raise kids on the new reality show Baby Borrowers, and, because we all need a few hours to read books, Howie Mandel's Deal or No Deal will now run twice a week. —Alexandra Peers