Social Surplus and the Dawn of a New Age

My good friend and general pulp bastard (mad, of course) Bill Cunningham, linked to the video below on his blog the other day. By sheer coincidence I happened across a blog post by the man speaking in that video, Clay Shirky, which happens to be a loose transcription of that speech. I urge you all to read it or watch the video because it speaks to our desired industry, television, in a way that may help you understand the current sea change in entertainment.

The ways people find to spend their time are changing. This blog is an example. Multi-player video games. Interactive web content. Social networks, like Facebook, Yelp, MySpace, YouTube, Twitter, Pownce, Jaiku, Orkut (just google “social network” and look at all the links).

Television is taking up less of people’s time, something that has become very apparent as people watch what they want when they want, and not when programmers put it on the airwaves.

From the blog post/video, which really, you should read or watch right after you finish reading this post:

So how big is that surplus? So if you take Wikipedia as a kind of unit, all of Wikipedia, the whole project–every page, every edit, every talk page, every line of code, in every language that Wikipedia exists in–that represents something like the cumulation of 100 million hours of human thought. I worked this out with Martin Wattenberg at IBM; it’s a back-of-the-envelope calculation, but it’s the right order of magnitude, about 100 million hours of thought.

And television watching? Two hundred billion hours, in the U.S. alone, every year. Put another way, now that we have a unit, that’s 2,000 Wikipedia projects a year spent watching television. Or put still another way, in the U.S., we spend 100 million hours every weekend, just watching the ads. This is a pretty big surplus. People asking, “Where do they find the time?” when they’re looking at things like Wikipedia don’t understand how tiny that entire project is, as a carve-out of this asset that’s finally being dragged into what Tim calls an architecture of participation.

Seriously people, if you aren’t fully plugged in to the new world, you are missing the boat.

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This post was written by Shawna on April 29, 2008

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The Hot Specs of 2008 – The Dramas

This is a work in progress. I encourage everyone to submit their opinions and any information they have regarding the viability of specs for shows I’ve listed or those I haven’t. I will update with your suggestions if it appears reasonable.

It’s time again for my annual list of the “hottest” shows to spec for TV writers. Keep in mind, that is very important now to not only have a couple of good episode specs, but also a spec pilot, a spec feature or a play, to show how you can create your own “universe” and story. Showrunners/agents/managers today want to see both.

But, the traditional TV Spec is far from dead. It’s still a valuable tool many showrunners use to assess new writers, and agents/managers like specs because it gives a good indicator of how well you can mimic voice and tone of a show, important for getting you staffed.

So, without further ado, here are the hottest specs this year, in order of perceived “hotness”:

1. Dexter

Everyone I know is writing a “Dexter” spec. This could be good or bad, depending on your viewpoint. The feeling is you can do a lot of edgy stuff with Dexter you can’t really do with even, say, “Criminal Minds”. Like “House” last year, it runs the risk of being over-specced, but for now, this is a good bet if you have a great idea you can execute for the character and the show.

2. Mad Men

It’s weird — this show is probably the least seen of all the ‘hot specs’ and yet I continue to hear people talking about how this is *the* show to spec. I am a bit dubious, but since so many people are doing “Mad Men” specs, I feel it has to be this high on the list.

3. Pushing Daisies

It’s rare to see a first year show so far up the list, but because this show has such a distinct voice, a lot of people feel like they want to give it a try. How showrunners will respond to a “Pushing Daisies” spec is the question, as there is so little else on the air like it, what would it really help a showrunner understand about your type of writing. I suppose “Ugly Betty” or a couple of other shows with some ‘whimsy’ to them would be plausible.

4. House

It’s still a ‘go-to’ spec for most procedural type shows. It’s more fun to read than your standard CSI/L&O/Criminal Minds spec, but still shows you can do procedural. This has been so popular for so long, I wouldn’t be surpised if it wears out its welcome this year, so write it fast and use it quick before it goes stale.

5. The Closer

Also good for showing chops at witty lead character and procedural elements, it seems to have really gained in appreciation the last year or so.

6. Ugly Betty

Only in its second year, it’s still fresh enough. If the ratings continue their downward slide however, it may not last longer than another year. Time will tell.

7. Brothers & Sisters

I had a tough time determining whether this was #6 and UB was #7, but ultimately, I think this one has longer term potential, but there’s still a lot of people out there who haven’t seen it. Still, if you need a serialized spec to go with a procedural for your portfolio, this one might meet your needs but if you like writing teens…

8. Gossip Girl

Another first year show with some upside. This will continue to gain in popularity. You might wait until summer to write this one — just to see what kind of changes are in store for next year. (of course, if you can suss out any show changes, it’s a good thing for any of these).

Lukewarm They aren’t as hot as they used to be, but they still get some mileage:

Desperate Housewives
Nip/Tuck
Rescue Me
Big Love
Grey’s Anatomy (the love affair is waning)
Heroes
Supernatural
Lost

The Wildcards These shows may become popular specs this year, but right now I can’t find many people willing to take on the challenges they present. Still, I think this category of specs should be considered:

The Riches
Chuck
Damages
Friday Night Lights
Burn Notice
The Sarah Connor Chronicles (now that it has been renewed)
Dirty Sexy Money
Life (I have a great idea for this one, but I don’t know that the popularity of the show is high enough to rate)

The Aged and Infirm These specs are nearing or past their expiration date. Even if you have a great one of these, it may be time to consider writing a new spec. An agent or manager might read it, but you know, it pays to stay timely:

Criminal Minds
L&O, L&O: SVU and L&O: Criminal Intent
Cold Case
The Sopranos (seriously? it’s over! move on)
Without a Trace
Boston Legal
Smallville
Medium

AVOID AT ALL COSTS! You may love the show, or think you have a great idea for it, but I can assure you, no one will read it if it is for any of these shows:

The Ghost Whisperer
NCIS
ER
Prison Break
Battlestar Galactica (unless you are trying to get staffed on ‘Caprica’)
Men in Trees
The Unit (all but cancelled)

Other thoughts or opinions on the dramas? I’ll post the comedies tomorrow.

Posted under writing

This post was written by Shawna on April 28, 2008

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Sad news – Larry Hertzog has died

A sad day for tv writers and some fans familiar with Hertzog’s contribution to TV. He worked on classic TV shows such as “Hart to Hart”, “Hardcastle and McCormick”. He also created “Nowhere Man” for UPN and was a showrunner for the last three seasons of “La Femme Nikita”.

You can check out his entire history in TV here.

He died from cancer at age 56.

Story link:
Variety

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This post was written by Shawna on April 25, 2008

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Pilot news!

God Bless Nikki Finke and her insider-y knowledge. She’s posted some pilot news on her blog today.

If you haven’t listened to my radio show (prominently featured in the sidebar over there) I make my own predictions as to what will make it to the schedules, particularly for dramas. I’d say I’m almost right on so far…

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This post was written by Shawna on April 24, 2008

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Sarah Connor Chronicles Renewed by Fox

In the Hollywood Reporter this morning. Fox gave a 13 episode order to “The Sarah Connor Chronicles” for next season. No word on whether it will be scheduled for fall or spring…I say this reduces the chances for “New Amsterdam” even further (sorry Mom).

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This post was written by Shawna on April 21, 2008

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Recalibrating

I don’t blog much about the craft of TV writing. You can get far better advice and teaching from Jane or John.

And I don’t blog too much about my own personal writing process. Mostly because I don’t know that my process is relevant to you, as a reader. Everyone has to find a process/method that works for them. Some of my friends LOVE notecards — putting beats or character notes on cards and tacking them on the wall. Some love outlining. Others don’t outline at all (those are the ones I marvel at…if they claim not to outline and yet come up with something resembling coherence). You, as a writer, have to find what works specifically for YOU. If one method doesn’t work, you try something else until you find something that does.

Some people write early in the morning, some late at night. Some people like to write in cafes, others in their homes, even still others like to write outdoors.

Some like to dictate notes. Others scribble notes on post-its. Some people write in sequence, others write out of sequence, skipping around from one scene to another.

It all doesn’t matter. There’s no ‘right way’ to put together your writing.

What matters is that YOU ARE WRITING.

And that’s something I haven’t been doing enough of. I try to keep my blog updated, simply because it helps me know what is going on ‘out there’, but also to keep my mind sharp. I used to use my blog as a warm up exercise for my script writing, but lately the blog writing is its own thing. I’m by no means giving it up, but I’ve had to think hard about my own writing process and why it hasn’t been working for me lately.

Part of the problem, is that I went down the wrong road story-wise. I ended up in a cul-de-sac, stranded, and had to find my way back to the start. Now I’ve turned around and headed a different direction. I also find I need deadlines to keep moving forward. I have a tendancy to ‘idle’ too long…I’ll sit, revise a line here, a line there, but not make any forward progress…to extend the car/road metaphor, it’s like revving the engine in neutral.

Good thing: going to the gym again. This has made it much easier to clear my head for actual writing. Story problems can be broken down in the 30 minutes on the elliptical, or I can watch ‘Law & Order: SVU’ on the treadmil on mute and play ‘guess the plot twist’. That’s always fun.

I’ve been struggling with whether to gear up for contest season. I promised a ‘what to spec’ post, which I am almost finished with, research wise and will have posted in the next few days. I’ve asked myself what the contests or the fellowships can do for me now…and, in some cases, if I even have a shot at them. I won’t rehash my reasoning, but suffice to say, at this moment I don’t think I’ll be submitting to any contests or fellowships this year.

I’m still going to write a new spec, and I’m going to finish my two new pilots before fall. I’m trying to stay optimistic about the potential of certain circumstances, and hope that I can pursue my aspirations along a slightly different path. Some of you will understand this, I think.

In any case, I’m back to writing. It’s all good.

Posted under blogs, writing

This post was written by Shawna on April 10, 2008

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The Post Pub Blog

Stumbled across this blog tonight while ego-surfing. Kristen is a smart cookie, and her blog My Back Pages has been in my sidebar for ages. She has another blog about the art of blogging, where she actually linked over to me, so thanks for that, Kristen!

Check it out. You might learn something, fellow bloggers.

The Post Pub

Posted under blogs, writing

This post was written by Shawna on April 9, 2008

We now return to your regularly scheduled program

The Watch List is rather ugly, I know. So, I thought I’d pull out the return dates of shows and publish them here.

Returning shows by Network:

ABC

  • Samantha Who? Mon 9:30 PM (returns 4/7)
  • Desperate Housewives Sun 9 PM (returns 4/13)
  • Brothers & Sisters Sun 10 PM (returns 4/20)
  • Ugly Betty Thurs 8 PM (returns 4/24)
  • Grey’s Anatomy Thurs 9 PM (returns 4/24)
  • Lost Thurs 10 PM (returns 4/24)
  • Women’s Murder Club Tues 10 PM (returns 4/29 moves to Tues)
  • Boston Legal Wed 10 PM (moves to Wed from Tues new episode 4/30)

CBS

  • Moonlight Fri 9 PM (returns 4/25)
  • Shark Sun 10 PM (returns 4/29)

NBC

  • 30 Rock Thurs 8:30 PM (returns 4/10)
  • The Office Thurs 9 PM (returns 4/10)
  • Law and Order: SVU Tues 10 PM (returns 4/15)

Fox

  • King of the Hill Sun 8:30 PM (returns 4/6)
  • The Simpsons Sun 8 PM (returns 4/13)
  • Bones Mon 8 PM (returns 4/14)
  • Back to You Wed 8 PM (returns 4/16 9:30 PM)
  • Family Guy Sun 9 PM (returns 4/27)
  • House Mon 9 PM (returns 4/28)

The CW

  • One Tree Hill Tues 9 PM (returns 4/14)
  • Smallville Thurs 8 PM (returns 4/17)
  • Gossip Girl Wed 9 PM (returns 4/21)
  • Reaper Tues 9 PM (returns 4/22)
  • Supernatural Thurs 9 PM (returns 4/24)
  • Aliens In America Sun 8:30 PM (returns 4/27)

Posted under Uncategorized

This post was written by Shawna on April 5, 2008

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It’s that time again….

Yes, spec season AND contest season are here. And I realized this morning I need a new spec.

Bugger.

So, I guess I’ll do a new post on ‘what to spec’, just as soon as I figure that out…

Posted under writing

This post was written by Shawna on April 2, 2008

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NBC announces their ’52-week’ schedule

First, here is the NBC Press Release, if all you want is the data. Analysis is waaaay at the bottom.

NBC REVEALS COMPLETE 52-WEEK PROGRAM STRATEGY, EARLIER THAN EVER, THAT GIVES ADVERTISERS THE OPPORTUNITY TO CREATE UNIQUE MARKETING SOLUTIONS

STAGGERED LAUNCHES AND PREMIERES THROUGHOUT THE YEAR NBC REVEALS COMPLETE 52-WEEK PROGRAM STRATEGY, EARLIER THAN EVER, THAT GIVES ADVERTISERS THE OPPORTUNITY TO CREATE UNIQUE MARKETING SOLUTIONS

STAGGERED LAUNCHES AND PREMIERES THROUGHOUT THE YEAR TO TAKE FULL ADVANTAGE OF NBC’S ‘SUPER SEASON’ OF EVENTS INCLUDING THE 2008 BEIJING OLYMPIC GAMES AND SUPER BOWL XLIII

WITH ITS EXPANDING COMMITMENT TO YEAR-ROUND ORIGINAL PROGRAMMING, NBC DELIVERS ALMOST TWICE AS MUCH FIRST-RUN ENTERTAINMENT AS THE NETWORK BROADCAST 10 YEARS AGO

FALL, WINTER AND SUMMER SCHEDULES FEATURE NEWCOMERS ‘THE OFFICE’ SPINOFF,’MY OWN WORST ENEMY,’ ‘KATH & KIM,”KNIGHT RIDER’, ‘CRUSOE’, ‘KINGS,’ ‘THE PHILANTHROPIST,’ ‘MERLIN,”THE LISTENER,’ ‘SHARK TAGGERS,’ ‘AMERICA’S TOUGHEST JOBS,’ ‘CHOPPING BLOCK’AND MINISERIES ‘THE LAST TEMPLAR’ AND ‘XIII’

RETURNING SERIES FOR NBC’S 2008-09 TELEVISION SEASON INCLUDE THE ACCLAIMED DRAMAS ‘ER’ — IN ITS 15TH AND FINAL SEASON –‘FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS,’ ‘LIPSTICK JUNGLE’, ‘MEDIUM,’ ‘LAW & ORDER’ AND ‘LAW & ORDER: SVU’

NEW YORK — April 2, 2008 — NBC today unveiled its new Fall lineup for the 2008-09 television season, introducing a schedule earlier than ever that combines some of the most acclaimed and popular returning series on television with four new programs that will join the schedule in the opening weeks of the season, including “Kath & Kim,” “Knight Rider,” “My Own Worst Enemy” and “Crusoe.”

Among the critically hailed series returning to the NBC schedule next season will be “ER,” the most-nominated series in Emmy Award history, returning for its 15th and final season (see separate release) on NBC’s Thursday night lineup, and the acclaimed “Friday Night Lights,” slated to re-join the Friday schedule in February as part of a unique broadcast partnership between NBC and DIRECTV (see separate release).

Additionally, the most highly anticipated comedy of the upcoming season, “The Office” spinoff, from Executive Producer Greg Daniels, will get the highly coveted premiere timeslot post Super Bowl XLIII following a special original telecast of “The Office” (see separate release).

In the first of a series of presentations to key advertisers today at 30 Rockefeller Center in New York City, NBC also unveiled Winter and Summer schedules for the 2008-09 broadcast year, allowing the advertisers to plan their media strategies for the upcoming year based on a 52-week schedule. Presentations will continue in New York this week and continue in Chicago and Los Angeles through the coming weeks.

The result is that NBC will deliver almost twice as much original entertainment in 2008-09 than it did 10 years ago. There will be year-round original programming on five nights a week at 10-11 p.m. (ET). In addition, NBC has allowed for a better scheduling flow with family shows at 8 p.m., blockbusters at 9 and dramas or mature-themed programs at 10 p.m.

In response to an evolving media marketplace and the changing needs of its advertisers, NBC Universal has created a more innovative, client-centric approach to its traditional Upfront presentation. It will include the announcement of a year-round programming schedule in April; a series of one-on-one client meetings in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago; and a spotlight event on May 12 that will showcase the full scale of the NBCU offerings in a unique, multi-media, interactive environment that will allow advertisers to experience the broad spectrum of marketing opportunities available within the company. The new Upfront process allows NBCU to continue its “customer-first” approach, while working to create new advertising models, define more effective metrics and provide a better return on its clients’ investments.

“NBC has established itself as the place to go for the hottest, highest quality programs on television, and now we’re ready to take it to the next level,” said Ben Silverman, Co-Chairman NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios. “With many of the very biggest events of the 2008-09 television season on the NBC schedule, like the Beijing Olympic Games, Super Bowl Forty Three, the Golden Globes and a full season of ‘Sunday Night Football,’ all the elements are in place to make this an unforgettable year for NBC, its affiliates, its advertisers and its viewers.”

“Normally the broadcast networks unveil their fall lineups in mid-May, but we’ve got so many terrific plans already in place, there was no reason to wait,” said Marc Graboff, Co-Chairman NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios. “The business is changing rapidly and our clients expect us to stay a step ahead of that change, so we’re giving them the chance now to partner with us, start integrating with our shows from the very beginning and map out their strategies a full year into the future. It’s an innovative way to introduce an innovative schedule.”

The roll-out of NBC’s 52-week lineup begins in the Fall, as the debuting drama series “My Own Worst Enemy,” starring Christian Slater, joins “Chuck” and “Heroes” on NBC’s Monday lineup; “Kath & Kim,” a new comedy starring Molly Shannon and Selma Blair, based on the hit Australian series, teams with “The Biggest Loser: Families” on Tuesdays; and on Wednesdays, “Knight Rider” goes to series, building on the success of last February’s “Knight Rider” movie, the highest-rated movie telecast on any network in three years in adults 18-49. The mid-season dramedy “Lipstick Jungle” will return in the Fall, also on Wednesdays. Drama series “Crusoe,” the hit game show “Deal or No Deal” and “Life” are scheduled to join NBC’s Fall Friday lineup. In addition, NBC will introduce “SNL Thursday Night Live,” which will share time on Thursdays with “The Office” at 9:30-10 p.m. (ET).

Through the winter months, NBC plans to add to its Sunday lineup “Kings,” (starring Golden Globe winner Ian McShane) the ambitious new drama from the producer of “Heroes,” along with the returning drama “Medium” and the exciting fantasy series “Merlin.” On Mondays, NBC adds “The Philanthropist,” a drama concerning a renegade billionaire who uses his wealth to help people. Tuesdays introduces a brand new cycle of “The Biggest Loser: Couples.” “Law & Order” returns to Wednesdays for the series unparalleled 19th season. On Thursdays, comedy reigns with the addition of a new series spinning off the NBC hit “The Office.” “The Celebrity Apprentice” returns in its popular new format on Thursdays. Sundays will be highlighted by special events, including the “66th Annual Golden Globe Awards,” the four-hour miniseries “The Last Templar” (starring Oscar winner Mira Sorvino) and “XIII” (starring Val Kilmer and Stephen Dorff).

Key launches and series events will be timed to make maximum promotional use of the big events coming up on the NBC primetime schedule, including the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games in August, “NBC Sunday Night Football” throughout the fall, the “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade” in November, NFL Wild-Card playoff games and the “66th Annual Golden Globe Awards” in January as well as the Super Bowl XLIII in February 2009.

In Summer 2009, NBC is slated to introduce “The Listener,” a new Thursday drama, as well as two new reality series from executive producer Thom Beers (“Ice Road Truckers”) — “America’s Toughest Jobs,” an action-reality series on Mondays and “Shark Taggers,” an action-adventure reality series on Wednesdays. “Chopping Block” will premiere on Fridays to complement a strong slate of original summer programming. Returning shows that Summer will include “American Gladiators,” “America’s Got Talent,” “Last Comic Standing,” “Monk” and “Nashville Star.”

Sophomore dramas “Chuck,” “Life,” and “Lipstick Jungle” will benefit from an aggressive re-launch in the Fall, and the hit “Heroes” will come back with a bang owing to a major event in the Fall.

Joining the cast of “Life” is Donal Logue (“Grounded for Life”) as Captain Brian Tidwell, Crews’ (Damian Lewis) and Reese’s (Sarah Shahi) new boss. Tidwell is a seen-it-all New York cop whose weaknesses include the track and the ladies. He isn’t going to fit in Los Angeles, and he could care less.

Specific dates for most season and series premieres and other schedule changes will be announced at a later date. In addition, NBC Digital Entertainment today announced its full slate of content for the Summer and Fall seasons (see separate release).

NBC PRIMETIME SCHEDULE FOR FALL 2008-09

*New programs in UPPER CASE (with the exception of “ER”)

MONDAY 8-9 p.m. “Chuck” 9-10 p.m. “Heroes” 10-11 p.m. “MY OWN WORST ENEMY”

TUESDAY 8- 9:30 p.m. “The Biggest Loser: Families” 9:30-10 p.m. “KATH & KIM” 10-11 p.m. “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”

WEDNESDAY 8-9 p.m. “KNIGHT RIDER” 9-10 p.m. “Deal or No Deal” 10-11 p.m. “Lipstick Jungle”

THURSDAY 8- 8:30 p.m. “My Name Is Earl” 8:30-9 p.m. “30 Rock” 9- 9:30 p.m. “The Office” 9:30-10 p.m. “The Office”/ “SNL THURSDAY NIGHT LIVE” 10-11 p.m. “ER”

FRIDAY 8-9 p.m. “CRUSOE” 9-10 p.m. “Deal or No Deal” 10-11 p.m. “Life”

SATURDAY 8-9 p.m. “Dateline NBC” 9-10 p.m. “KNIGHT RIDER” (Encores) 10-11 p.m. “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (Encores)

SUNDAY 7- 8:20 p.m. “Football Night in America” 8:20-11 p.m. “NBC Sunday Night Football”

NBC PRIMETIME SCHEDULE FOR WINTER 2009

*New programs in UPPER CASE (with the exception of “ER”)

MONDAY 8- 9 p.m. “Chuck” 9-10 p.m. “Heroes” 10-11 p.m. “THE PHILANTHROPIST”

TUESDAY 8- 9:30 p.m. “The Biggest Loser: Couples” 9:30-10 p.m. “KATH & KIM” 10-11 p.m. “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”

WEDNESDAY 8-9 p.m. “KNIGHT RIDER” 9-10 p.m. “Deal or No Deal” 10-11 p.m. “Law & Order”

THURSDAY 8- 8:30 p.m. “My Name Is Earl” 8:30-9 p.m. “30 Rock” 9- 9:30 p.m. “The Office” 9:30-10 p.m. “THE OFFICE” SPINOFF 10-11 p.m. “ER”/”The Celebrity Apprentice”

FRIDAY 8-9 p.m. “Deal or No Deal” 9-10 p.m. “Friday Night Lights” 10-11 p.m. “Life”

SATURDAY 8-9 p.m. “Dateline NBC” 9-10 p.m. “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (Encores) 10-11 p.m. “Law & Order” (Encores)

SUNDAY 7-8 p.m. Specials/”Dateline NBC” 8-9 p.m. Specials/”MERLIN” 9-10 p.m. Specials/”Medium” 10-11 p.m. Specials/”KINGS”

NBC PRIMETIME SCHEDULE FOR SUMMER 2009

*New programs in UPPER CASE

MONDAY 8-9 p.m. “American Gladiators” 9-10 p.m. “AMERICA’S TOUGHEST JOBS” 10-11 p.m. “Dateline NBC”

TUESDAY 8-9 p.m. “Most Outrageous Moments” 9-10 p.m. “America’s Got Talent” 10-11 p.m. “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (Encores)

WEDNESDAY 8-9 p.m. “SHARK TAGGERS” 9-10 p.m. “America’s Got Talent” (Results Show) 10-11 p.m. “Law & Order” (Encores)

THURSDAY 8- 8:30 p.m. “The Office” (Encores) 8:30- 9 p.m. “THE OFFICE” SPINOFF (Encores) 9-10 p.m. “Last Comic Standing” 10-11 p.m. “THE LISTENER”

FRIDAY 8-9 p.m. “CHOPPING BLOCK” 9-11 p.m. “Dateline NBC”

SATURDAY 8-9 p.m. Drama Encores 9-10 p.m. Drama Encores 10-11 p.m. Drama Encores

SUNDAY 7-8 p.m. “Dateline NBC” 8-9 p.m. “Monk” 9-10 p.m. “Nashville Star” 10-11 p.m. “KINGS” (Encores)

2008-09 NEW SERIES DESCRIPTIONS:

NEW DRAMAS

MY OWN WORST ENEMY – Henry Spivey (Christian Slater, “Bobby”) is a middle-class efficiency expert living a humdrum life in the suburbs with a wife, two kids, a dog, and a minivan. Edward Albright is an operative who speaks 13 languages, runs a four-minute mile, and is trained to kill with his teeth. Henry and Edward are polar opposites who share only one thing in common — the same body. When the carefully constructed wall between them breaks down, Henry and Edward are thrust into unfamiliar territory where each man is dangerously out of his element. “My Own Worst Enemy” explores the duality of a man who is literally pitted against himself. And it raises the question: who can you trust when you can’t trust yourself? The series is produced by Universal Media Studios. Jason Smilovic (“Kidnapped”) is the executive producer; David Semel (director of the “American Dreams,” “Heroes” and “Life” pilots) is the director and executive producer.

KNIGHT RIDER -On the heels of NBC’s hit movie, the iconic 1980s television classic comes roaring back to life as an updated drama series showcasing the new customized KITT (Knight Industries Three Thousand) Ford Mustang. As the sequel resumes, KITT is absolutely the coolest car ever created: its supercomputer capable of hacking almost any system; its weapons systems efficient; and its body — thanks to its creator’s work and nanotechnology — is capable of actually shifting shape and color. It is the ultimate car — and someone will be willing to do anything to obtain it. “Knight Rider” stars Justin Bruening (“Cold Case”), Deanna Russo (“NCIS”), Sydney Tamiia Poitier (“Veronica Mars”) and Bruce Davison (“Breach”). David Bartis (“Heist,” “The O.C.”), Doug Liman (“Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” “The Bourne Identity”) and Gary Scott Thompson (“Las Vegas,” “The Fast and The Furious”) are executive producers and David Andron serves as supervising producer and writer. Based on characters created by Glen Larson, “Knight Rider” is from Universal Media Studios and Dutch Oven Productions.

CRUSOE – Based on the legendary novel by Daniel Defoe, this is the tale of Robinson Crusoe. A young man leaves his true love to embark on an adventure — only to end up shipwrecked on a remote tropical island for 28 years, completely detached from the life he once knew. His desire to return to his wife and his strong and unlikely friendship with Friday are the only things that keep him sane. While stranded, Crusoe encounters enemies and braves the elements. Equal parts “MacGyver,” “Castaway” and “Pirates of the Caribbean,” this series is an inspirational tale of survival rife with action and comedy. Power Entertainment produces “Crusoe.”

KINGS — “Kings” is an inspiring exploration of the timeless David vs. Goliath struggle. The show is set in a modern metropolis under siege where the fighting has gone on for too long and cost far too many lives. When David Shepherd (Christopher Egan, “Resident Evil: Extinction”), a brave young soldier, rescues the king’s (Golden Globe winner Ian McShane, “Deadwood”) son from enemy territory, he sets events in motion that will finally bring peace. Suddenly, David is thrust into the limelight, earning the affections of women — including the king’s daughter. When he’s promoted to captain, he becomes the reluctant poster boy for hope. But for David, the line between his allies and enemies will blur as the power players in the kingdom go to great lengths to see him fall. From the director (Francis Lawrence) of the blockbuster movie “I Am Legend” comes the ultimate story of David vs. Goliath, and there’s no telling who will win. Sebastian Stan (“Gossip Girl”) also stars. “Kings” is a production of Universal Media Studios; Michael Green (NBC’s “Heroes”) is the executive producer. Francis Lawrence (“I Am Legend”) is the director and executive producer and Erwin Stoff (“I Am Legend”) also is executive producer.

MERLIN – “Merlin” brings to life a new legend for a modern audience. “Merlin” is an exciting, hour-long fantasy series set in the mythic city of Camelot — but inspired by 21st Century storytelling. Before Merlin (Colin Morgan, “Doctor Who”) and Arthur (Bradley James, “Lewis”) became legends, they were ambitious young men looking for adventure, hoping to live up to their family’s expectations, discovering love and finding their own true destiny, making mistakes along the way. The innovative, action-packed drama has cross-generational appeal and paints a picture of Merlin and Arthur’s early life that audiences have never witnessed before. Anthony Head (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), Richard Wilson (“A Passage to India”), Angel Coulby (“Magicians”) and Katie McGrath (“The Tudors”) also star. A FremantleMedia Enterprises distribution of a Shine production for BBC.

THE PHILANTHROPIST — This one-hour drama is about a rebel with a cause. Teddy Rist loves women, money and power. After the tragic death of his only child, Teddy has an awakening and becomes the world’s first vigilante philanthropist — a renegade billionaire who uses his wealth, connections and power to help people in need. He’ll do anything to achieve his goals — bargain with the self-righteous, trade with the nefarious and even tell the truth. Instead of spending $25,000 a plate at a fundraiser, he’s dodging bullets in third-world countries to hand-deliver vaccine. It’s a global adventure that will take viewers to the ends of the Earth and will inspire them as well. “The Philanthropist” is produced by Universal Media Studios, Original Media and the Levinson/Fontana Company. Tom Fontana (“Homicide: Life on the Street”), Barry Levinson (“Homicide: Life on the Street”) and Charlie Corwin (“L.A. Ink”) are the executive producers; Jim Juvonen is a co-executive producer.

THE LISTENER — In this one-hour drama, Toby Logan (Craig Olejnik, “The Runaway”) is a 24-year-old paramedic living with a secret: he can read people’s minds. This telepathic procedural takes viewers into the heart of a tortured hero who struggles to solve crimes with his unique gift. Week-to-week, “The Listener” balances high-stakes drama with irreverent humor and sends Toby on an intellectual and emotional adventure. Ennis Esmer (“The Path to 9/11”) also stars. “The Listener” is a production of Program Partners and Shaftesbury Films. The executive producers are Christina Jennings, Scott Garvie, Michael Amo, Russ Cochrane, Glen Davis and Bill Laurin.

NEW COMEDIES

THE OFFICE SPINOFF – From Greg Daniels, the executive producer of the Emmy Award-winning American version of NBC’s “The Office,” comes the most highly anticipated comedy of the season in “The Office” spinoff. Audiences will follow another comic journey, complete with new faces and new locations, but with the same unique sense of humor and brand of quality from Daniels and his creative team. It’s the next chapter of what viewers have come to know and love about “The Office.”

KATH & KIM — They’re the most dysfunctional duo in suburbia. Kath Day (Molly Shannon, NBC’s “Saturday Night Live”) is the mom, a foxy, 40-something divorce who finally has time for herself and her valiant search for love. Kim Day (Selma Blair, “Hellboy,” “Hellboy II”) is the daughter, a self-absorbed princess recently separated from her husband who finds consolation in stuffing her face. When Kim decides to move back home, Kath reluctantly agrees — but to Kim’s chagrin, Kath is not about to cater to her every whim as she has in the past. Based on the most successful comedy in Australia of the same name, Kath and Kim are two brassy women who prefer the finer things in life like acrylic nails, big hair and faux diamond chips. The series is produced by Universal Media Studios and Reveille. The executive producer/writer is Michelle Nader (“The King of Queens”) and the executive producer/director is Paul Feig (“Freaks and Geeks,” “The Office”). Gina Riley, Jane Turner and Rick McKenna also are executive producers.

SNL THURSDAY NIGHT LIVE – Dubbed “TV’s funniest and most influential political player” by Entertainment Weekly, “SNL” expands its “Weekend Update” coverage to Thursdays in primetime for three live half-hour shows beginning October 16. With all of the excitement and attention around “Saturday Night Live” during the presidential primaries, the anticipation for the show’s take on this Fall’s election will be at a fever pitch, “SNL Thursday Night Live” will keep the momentum — and the laughs — going. The program is a production of Broadway Video in association with SNL Studios. Lorne Michaels is the executive producer.

NEW ALTERNATIVE

CHOPPING BLOCK — It’s time to sharpen your knives! It’s not just about the meal, it’s about the business of food. From the producers of “Hell’s Kitchen,” original rock-star chef Marco Pierre White comes to America to host the ultimate food fight on NBC — a new reality competition set in the high-drama, high-stakes world of New York City restaurants. The cooks are given a grilling over the course of the series. The teams, which are made up of couples, will be tested in challenges that vary from having less than a week to design and revamp a restaurant space to planning a menu and creating a signature dish. The winning couple will get a chance to have their dreams come true — opening their very own restaurant in Manhattan. The series is produced by Granada America.

AMERICA’S TOUGHEST JOBS – From creator/executive producer Thom Beers (“Deadliest Catch,” “Ice Road Truckers”) and executive producers Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun, “America’s Toughest Jobs” is a new extreme competition series that will test 12 people who venture out of their safe, comfortable careers and are injected into some of the most challenging, dangerous and demanding jobs on earth. From logging high in the Oregon Forest to oil drilling on the Texas range, or from driving icy roads to extreme fishing — each job requires guts and stamina, and they’ll have to live up to the same standards as the pros. In the end, their new boss and co-workers will determine success or failure, and those who don’t make the grade get sent home. Upping the ante, the annual salary of each job will be thrown into the pot until the finale, where one rookie will take home the well-earned cash. “America’s Toughest Jobs” is created by executive producer Beers and is produced by Original Productions and BermanBraun.

SHARK TAGGERS — From creator/executive producer Thom Beers (“Deadliest Catch,” “Ice Road Truckers”) and executive producers Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun, “Shark Taggers” is a one-hour reality series that follows daring marine biologists as they track down the ocean’s top predators and hand-tag them with cutting-edge satellite transmitters or investigate bull sharks’ sudden attacks on surfers. The series is produced by Original Productions and BermanBraun.

MOST OUTRAGEOUS MOMENTS — This half-hour show proves that anything can happen when the cameras keep rolling. Audiences can enjoy hilarious outtakes from some of NBC’s most popular shows, as well as outrageous moments from home videos, newscasts, game shows and commercials from around the globe. “Most Outrageous Moments” is produced by Universal Media Studios and Scott Satin Productions. Scott Satin (“Who Wants to Be a Superhero?”) serves as executive producer.

NEW EVENTS/MINISERIES/MOVIES

THE LAST TEMPLAR — In this four-hour miniseries, Oscar winner Mira Sorvino (“Mighty Aphrodite”) stars in an epic action-adventure tale about the greatest mystery of our time. At the New york Metropolitan Museum, four horsemen dressed as 12th century knights storm the gala opening of an exhibition of Vatican treasures and steal an arcane medieval decoder. For archaeologist Tess Chaykin (Sorvino) and FBI agent Sean Daly (Scott Foley, “The Unit”), this is just the start of a suspenseful game of cat and mouse as they race across three continents in search of the enemy — and the lost secret of the Knights Templar. The miniseries is produced by MUSE Entertainment Enterprises. Victor Garber (“Alias”) and Omar Sharif (“Doctor Zhivago”) also star. Emmy Award-winning television impresario Robert Halmi Sr. (“Tin Man,” “Gulliver’s Travels”), Robert Halmi, Jr. (“The Poseidon Adventure,” “The Christmas Card”), and Michael Prupas (“Human Trafficking”) will executive-produce the miniseries.

XIII – “XIII” is a high-stakes cat-and-mouse thriller starring Val Kilmer (“The Doors”) and Stephen Dorff (“World Trade Center”). This adrenaline-charged miniseries begins dramatically as the first female U.S. President is shot dead by a sniper during her Veteran’s Day speech. Three months later, a wounded man is found tattered in a forest with no memory of his identity. The only clue is a tattoo on his neck, “XIII.” Could his lightning-fast reflexes and killer instincts betray him as the presidential assassin that the U.S. is desperately searching for? Submerged in a far-reaching conspiracy, which threatens to overthrow the entire government, XIII’s identity becomes the key to unraveling a complex and dangerous secret that will shock and excite. From the first bullet, this gripping action-thriller will leave audiences gasping for more. “XIII” is produced by Prodigy Pictures and Cipango.

Shawna’s Analysis

Here is what I find interesting: Both Law & Order flavors (SVU and Original) made the cut. There were rumors floating that one or the other might not live. Also, they’ve decided to create TWO spinoffs from current series — “The Office” gets a spinoff show for the fall, where it will share the timeslot with an SNL Thursday Night Live Weekend Update type show. The Weekend Update show should help them draw in some younger viewers, though if they can get them to sample the rest of the night is the qusetion.

Friday Night Lights makes it, but won’t be back until midseason. This is a surprisingly ‘stable’ schedule — The Monday night lineup of ‘Chuck’ and ‘Heroes’ stays the same, and a new show 1My Own Worst Enemy’ gets slotted in, since ‘Journeyman’ definitely cancelled. Wednesday feels a little awkward for me, as I don’t really get why they would stick ‘Deal or No Deal’ between two scripted shows. Are they that afraid of putting ‘Knight Rider’ in front of ‘Law and Order?’ Thursday, apart from the new shows, remains unchanged. Friday in the fall has that awkward split again, of DOND between two scripted shows. But I think ‘Life’ should do well at 10 PM. I’ll be watching, anyway. ‘My Own Worst Enemy’ and the Mini-series/Movies were really the only surprises for me on the schedule.

‘Scrubs’ is NOT on the schedule. So it looks very likely it will end up at ABC.

Overall, I think this is a pretty strong schedule, at least on paper. Kudos to NBC for leveraging their really good shows to anchor for some new ones. At least the other networks now know what NBC is planning. It definitely feels a bit like a dare — ‘here we are, and we’re not going to take 4th place lying down’.

What do you guys think? What about these new shows? Do they sound interesting, intriguing to you? Are they a good fit with NBC’s ‘image’?

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This post was written by Shawna on April 2, 2008

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