the industry

NBC Pretty Much Cancels Three Shows Before They Premiere

Last May, NBC announced plans to add a whopping thirteen new shows to its lineup during the 2010-11 season. Ten have debuted, and virtually all have failed (Chase, Undercovers, The Cape) or floundered (The Event, Law & Order: Los Angeles, Outsourced). But what about the other three — the romantic anthology Love Bites and sitcoms Friends with Benefits and The Paul Reiser Show — which were also unveiled nine months ago with so much fanfare, but remain both unbroadcast and unscheduled? Green-lit when Jeff Zucker was still in control of NBC, these shows, now under Robert Greenblatt’s control, are technically not dead, but Vulture has learned that, barring an unexpected strategy shift, Love Bites (starring Ugly Betty alum Becki Newton) won’t air until this summer at the earliest, while the other two shows are also long shots to get any sort of serious launch until after the season wraps in May. So why is NBC giving up on three shows which, collectively, cost more than $25 million to produce?

Nobody at NBC is talking, but according to industry insiders, the answer is pretty simple: Greenblatt simply wasn’t enamored with any of them. That’s not a shocker, since even the Peacock brass who put the series in development (including ex–NBC Entertainment president Angela Bromstad) weren’t convinced they had found surefire hits in the programs, as evidenced by the fact that the shows were never given premiere dates. But even if the trio were better regarded, it would be hard for NBC to find a way to properly launch them this season: NBC’s current schedule makes it hard to air new comedies on any night but Thursday. Trying to build a comedy block on another night this late in the season would be suicidal, particularly with Glee and American Idol occupying key time slots on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

It’s still possible — but not likely — that Greenblatt could decide to test out Friends with Benefits or Paul Reiser this season in place of Thursday night underperformers Perfect Couples or Outsourced. But if he does, it probably would only be for a few weeks in April, and the shows would likely be given very little promotional support. NBC’s programming priority this spring is expected to be The Voice, a new music-competition series the network is rushing onto the air in April in order to try to blunt the September debut of Fox’s The X Factor.

The most likely scenario for the three orphan shows is that they’ll be burned off in the summer; that was the fate of 100 Questions, a once-hot NBC comedy pilot that quickly went south and ended up quietly airing on Thursdays last May and June. But in a sign that NBC isn’t holding out any hope of long-term survival for the shows, last month Greenblatt told the stars of Love Bites that they were free to start looking for jobs on other TV shows. Love regular Greg Grunberg promptly found work on the A&E pilot Big Mike, while casting agents (including some working for NBC) immediately began descending on Newton’s reps in the hope of securing her services on one of their pilots. One other clue that NBC has given up on Zucker’s orphans: Visitors who surf over to the official NBC websites for “>Paul Reiser get a “Video Not Found!” message when clicking on promo trailers for the shows. Ouch.

NBC Pretty Much Cancels Three Shows Before They Premiere