NBC West Coast president Don Ohlmeyer yesterday espoused to media buyers a “big tent theory” that forgoes advertiser-friendly young demographics in favor of “a relentless pursuit of eyeballs.”
For Ohlmeyer — who acknowledged that network staffers have been “beaten up pretty good” during the web’s first-to-third slide and that a short-term goal was to “stop the bleeding”– that means an immediate effort to “try to return to dominance in longform” with high-profile movies and miniseries as well as openness to client-supplied events and specials.
In his wide-ranging remarks, the new NBC chief said all the networks have to re-invent themselves over the next few years and that various changes are needed , including an overhaul of the development process to provide the creative community more time in producing shows and alliances with producers to “control the cost of failure.”
As for the 18-49 demographic that’s principally coveted by advertisers, Ohlmeyer said NBC’s more inclusive approach would still seek to provide that demo while avoiding the tendency to narrowcast that has caused programs to skew even younger. Programmers and advertisers “need to redefine 18-49 so it doesn’t just stress 18-29,” he said, adding later, “Our competition is not just the networks,” and the webs need to lure people back from narrowcasting.
NBC Entertainment president Warren Littlefield, meanwhile, touted “star power” as a big part of the web’s development strategy, along with light action-adventure for adults (“That doesn’t mean violence,” he added) and more original programming throughout the 52-week broadcast year.
Littlefield also said, pointedly, that NBC programmers “finally have control over our schedule” in that only one half-hour is locked into a time period for next fall — a reference to the post-“Cheers” slot controlled by Paramount, for example, with “Wings,” hampering the web’s scheduling latitude.
Aside from development, NBC said the freshman TriStar TV sitcom “Mad About You” has been renewed for next season and that “SeaQuest”– the futuristic action show from Steven Spielberg — will premiere in early September and open a night at 8 p.m.
Littlefield also acknowledged development of a two-hour mystery movie wheel, as reported (Daily Variety, March 16), that will likely feature “Perry Mason” and a revival of “Hart to Hart” as components and that could air Tuesday or Friday night.
NBC also sought to bolster its late night presence, having Jay Leno kick off the event and put in his own pitch to the buyers, with Littlefield saying “The Tonight Show” is “ready for any and all competition.” The web added that Lorne Michaels’ post-“Tonight” series would be star-driven and retain the “Late Night” title. Sources say Dennis Miller is the leading candidate to front the sketch-comedy format, though the network said only that it has a list of finalists and will make an announcement in mid-April.
On the scheduling front, a second news magazine, the Faith Daniels-fronted “NBC’s Prime Story,” will air at 9 p.m. Wednesdays starting June 23 and short-order serials under the banner “Great Escapes” will begin airing Aug. 27 (Fridays at 10 p.m.) with “Lake Success,” one of five six-episode orders viewed as potential on-going series.
NBC Prods., a partner in all the “Great Escapes” shows, is involved in producing four pilots and numerous longform projects for the web. Additional orders are spread around fairly evenly among the major studios.
Other original summer series are “South Beach,” an action hour from Universal starring “Mann & Machine’s” Yancy Butler; “Route 66,” a revival from Propaganda Films and Columbia; and Jay Tarses’ comedy “Smoldering Lust,” starring Bradley Whitford and Margo Cody, from Brillstein-Grey.
NBC also will put a concerted push into specials, starting with its “Cheers” finale and the three-hour “Bob Hope: The First 90 Years” in May. Specials next season include Mariah Carey, Garth Brooks, a “Comedy Hall of Fame” spec from George Schlatter and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
Two previously reported comedy series, fronted by Martin Short and “Cheers’ ” George Wendt, are now seen as contenders for midseason slots.
A breakdown of pilots follows:
“Alone Together”– Four 30-ish singles move into a New Jersey house. David Lansberg, Paul Witt, Tony Thomas, exec producers (Witt-Thomas Prods.).
“Boomtown”– Dwight Schultz (“The A-Team”) plays a dreamer who convinces his wife and teenage daughter to escape the city and manage a decrepit country motel. Walter Parkes, exec producer (Columbia Pictures TV).
“Cafe Americain”– Valerie Bertinelli plays an American divorcee living in Paris in this Twentieth TV pilot of last year that followed its exec producer to Lorimar. Peter Noah (“Anything but Love”), exec producer (Lorimar TV).
John Caponera project — The stand-up comic plays a loading-dock supervisor who seeks to school his three boys on the American work ethic, with a best friend (Drew Carey) who’s his opposite. Jeff Martin (“The Simpsons”), Kevin Curran (“Married … With Children”), exec producers (Disney TV).
“Child Support”– Stand-up comic John Mendoza plays a sloppy, recently divorced Chicago sportswriter balancing his status as weekday bachelor and weekend father. Co-stars Jessica Lundy (“Over My Dead Body”). Mendoza, exec producer, Barnet Kellman (“Murphy Brown”), Leo Benvenuti, Steve Rudnick, co-exec producers (Castle Rock Entertainment).
“Crossroads”– John Larroquette (“Night Court”) plays a recovering alcoholic working as night manager at a St. Louis bus station, with Daryl “Chill” Mitchell and Chi McBride among the supporting players. Don Reo (“Blossom”), Paul Junger Witt, Tony Thomas, exec producers (Witt-Thomas Prods., distributed through Warner Bros. Inc.)
“Death and Taxes”– Teri Garr plays a newly divorced IRS agent whose co-workers include Craig Bierko and Dakin Matthews. Andrew Nicholls and Darrell Vickers (“The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson”), David Steinberg (“Designing Women”), exec producers (Lorimar).
“Dr. Frasier Crane”–“Cheers” spinoff starring Kelsey Grammer, with a 13 -episode commitment. Scenario has Frasier moving to Seattle and taking over a radio advice show, moving near his family, including his rival psychologist brother (David Pierce). David Angell, Peter Casey, David Lee (“Wings”), exec producers (Paramount Network TV).
“Eligible Dentist”– Gene Wilder in his first series as a recently widowed dentist coming to terms with three grown kids and being a bachelor. David Seltzer (“Punchline”), exec producer (NBC Prods.).
“The 50-Minute Man”–Well-traveled pilot (it started at Fox a season ago) starring Kevin Pollack as a neurotic private eye, with Chris Rich. Robert Conte and Peter Wortmann (“Who’s Harry Crumb?”), exec producers (Lorimar TV).
“Gabby”– A housewife, legal secretary and cable-access talkshow host from the Tri-State area balances work and family life. Fred Silverman, exec producer (Silverman Co./Warner Bros. TV).
“Just Family”– A sketch comedy that explores the funny side of family life. Former NBC exec Leslie Lurie, Vicki Horwits, exec producers (Lurie/Horwits with NBC Enterprises).
“Laverne Todd Show”–“Empty Nest” spinoff with Park Overall marrying a new man and moving to his small town, where she butts heads with his ex-wife and kids. Gary Jacobs, Paul Junger Witt, Tony Thomas, exec producers (Witt-Thomas-Harris Prods., through Warner Bros.).
“The Mommies”– Comedy duo Marilyn Kentz and Carly Kristensen in a series about motherhood in the ’90s as two homemakers/next-door neighbors. Terry Grossman and Kathy Speer (“The Golden Girls”), Arthur Price (“Bob”), exec producers (Paramount).
Morwenna Banks project — The comic plays a young photojournalist who takes a job as a nanny to her publisher’s children. Alan Zweibel (“It’s Garry Shandling’s Show”), exec producer (Castle Rock).
“Saved by the Bell Goes to College”–A spinoff of the Saturday-morning series featuring teen trio Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Mario Lopez and Dustin Diamond. Peter Engel, exec producer (NBC Prods.).
“Odd Man Out”– Comedy from the perspective of a 14-year-old boy surrounded by sisters. Ed Decter and John J. Strauss (“The Adventures of Mark & Brian”), exec producers (Lorimar).
“Henry Winkler”– The former “Happy Days” star plays a Rush Limbaugh-type TV talkshow host who rules the airwaves but is put in his place at home. Marc Lawrence (“Family Ties”), exec producer (Disney TV).
“Adventure, Inc.”– Soap stars Anthony Addabbo (“Generations”) and Noelle Beck (“Loving”) in an action-comedy as a couple who marry on a drunken whim and stay together running a company that allows clients to experience any adventure for a price. Aaron Spelling, E. Duke Vincent, Gary Randall, W. Patterson Ferns, exec producers, Jim Cruickshank, James Orr (“Three Men and a Baby”), co-exec producers (Primedia CoProductions Ltd.).
“Against the Grain”– John Terry (“Of Mice and Men”) plays a former high-school football star who becomes a coach in a small Texas town that worships its local sports. Cast includes Donna Bullock, Stephen Tobolowsky and Vanessa Lee Evigan. Lee Rich, Bruce Sallan, exec producers, Michael Pavone, Dave Alan Johnson, co-exec producers (Lee Rich Co. and Lorimar TV).
“Boy Meets Girl”– Jasmine Guy and Reed Diamond (“Memphis Belle”) star in this two-hour movie pilot about true love. Kevin R. Sullivan (“Moe’s World”), exec producer (TriStar TV).
“Bermuda Grace”– A burnt-out Philadelphia cop becomes a detective in Bermuda. William Davies and William Osborne (“Twins”), exec producers (NBC Prods./London Weekend TV).
“Knightrider 2010”– Futuristic sequel to the original series stars Richard Joseph Paul as a one-time outlaw who becomes a U.S. marshal with his adopted brother (Michael Beach) and a car whose computer speaks through a hologram of his former lover (Heidi Leick). John Leekley, Rob Cohen (“Bird on a Wire”), exec producers (Universal TV).
“Laurel Canyon”– Filmmaker Wes Craven’s series explores mysteries in the Hollywood Hills through the eyes of a poet/mailman who knows all the secrets. Annabeth Gish (“Mystic Pizza”) stars as a young woman who moves to L.A. to reunite with her boyfriend and stays when things don’t work out. Craven, David Gerber, exec producers (NBC Prods./Craven Films/The Gerber Co.).
“SeaQuest DSV”– Full-season 22-episode commitment to Steven Spielberg on underwater action-adventure series starring Roy Scheider set in the 21st century. Cast includes Stephanie Beacham, Don Franklin, Shelley Hack, Jonathan Brandis and Stacy Haiduk. Spielberg, Tommy Thompson (“Quantum Leap”), exec producers (Amblin TV and Universal TV).
“Westside Medical”– Jon Cryer plays a young doctor who gets romantically involved with a biker-turned-surgeon (Chelsea Field) and faces the choice of working at a medical center or taking over his father’s lucrative private practice. Dennis Cooper (“Miami Vice”), exec producer (Columbia Pictures TV).
“WinnetkaRoad”– Ensemble drama about young working-class servants of the wealthy residents of an old Chicago suburb. John Byrum (“Middle Ages”), exec producer (Spelling TV).
“Friends & Lovers”– One-hour series exploring the relationships of five real California couples described as a “real-life ‘thirtysomething.’ ” Mary-Ellis Bunim, Jon Murray (MTV’s “Real World”), exec producers (Bunim-Murray Prods.)
“The Naked Eye”– Reality-based comedy news magazine from filmmaker Michael Moore (“Roger & Me”). Moore, exec producer (TriStar TV).
“The Black Summer” (The Gerber Co.), “Countdown” (O’Hara-Horowitz Prods.), “Danielle Steel’s Message From Nam” (Cramer Co./NBC Prods.), “Den of Lions: The Terry Anderson Story” (Beth Polson/NBC Prods.), “Hawaii,” based on the James Michener novel (Gerber Co./Mirisch Corp.), “The Last Brother: The Rise and Fall of Ted Kennedy” (Susan Baerwald/NBC Prods.), “Jackie Collins’ American Star” (von Zerneck/Sertner Films/Collins’ Puma Prods.).