Peacock finds music in special events

NBC has greenlit a Randy Quaid-led telepic sequel to “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” and concert events headlined by Elton John and Shania Twain as part of its 2003-04 roster of movies and specials.

Peacock, which will unveil the projects today during its primetime upfront presentation to advertisers, has found success under longform/alternative topper Jeff Gaspin by ditching the movie-of-the-week format in favor of a limited number of high-concept event telepics. Net has also done well with music specs, with last month’s Cher spec drawing nearly 17 million viewers and supplying NBC some of its best Tuesday Nielsen numbers in nearly three years.

Additions to NBC’s spec roster include “Secret Santa,” a holiday pic starring “90210” alum Jennie Garth, and a holiday spec headlined by Harry Connick Jr.

As previously reported, NBC is also moving forward with a Jessica Lynch telepic, a new take on “The Legend of Butch and Sundance,” and a killer earthquake mini. Also returning are Peacock staples such as the Golden Globes, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, “Christmas in Rockefeller Center” and the Tournament of Roses Parade, as well as newer franchises such as “The National Dog Show” and Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks Spectacular.

Daytime Emmys will also rotate over to the Peacock next May.

NBC Entertainment prexy Jeff Zucker said the net’s goal is to create “appointment events” by featuring a mix of modern and historical subjects for telepics and using artists with “a broad base of fans” for music specs.

“Longform is still a part of the NBC strategy,” Zucker said. “Movies and special events help to broaden out our schedule.”

Details on the additions to NBC’s movie and specs roster:

  • “National Lampoon’s Cousin Eddie’s Christmas Vacation”: The Griswolds aren’t here, but Quaid is back as their lovable loser of a cousin, Eddie. Plot has Eddie and his family winning a trip to the South Pacific, only to end up shipwrecked on an island.

    Matty Simmons, a producer on the original “Vacation” and “Christmas Vacation” features, will write and exec produce the two-hour pic from Warner Bros. Television.

    Zucker noted “Christmas Vacation” has been “a huge success wherever we’ve run it,” making a sequel a natural.

  • “Secret Santa”: Garth plays a cynical young journo assigned to discover the true identity of a small-town philanthropist known as the “Secret Santa.” Beth Polson will exec produce for the Polson Co.

  • “Saving Jessica Lynch” is the working title for the Peacock’s two-hour take on ex-POW Lynch’s rescue (Daily Variety, April 10), which has now been officially greenlit. Dan Paulson (“Passenger 57”) and Bob Chmiel (“A Gift of Love”) will exec produce, with John Fasano (“Profiler”) hammering out the script. Net is proceeding using material in the public domain.

  • “Elton in Nashville”: Hourlong spec will feature John and a to-be-announced roster of musicians singing hits from the crooner’s extensive catalog.

  • Twain, who had previously appeared on CBS, will headline a two-hour concert for NBC to be taped this summer in Chicago. Mulitple Grammy winner will perform a mix of her greatest hits and songs from her current disc, “Up!”

  • Connick, currently a recurring cast member of NBC’s “Will & Grace,” gets his own holiday special, with an hour to be taped in the crooner’s native New Orleans. Peacock says the spec will be “a Creole-flavored holiday celebration.” It’ll also coincide with a new disc of Connick tunes.
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