Midseason's big bang includes nearly 20 projects
The calendar reads January, but it’s going to feel a lot more like September in TV land this week.While networks have always used the first month of the year to begin rolling out midseason shows — taking advantage of the cold weather and the relative paucity of major feature releases — 2003 is kicking off with an abnormally big bang of series and season premieres. Indeed, the week ahead will see broadcast and cable nets launching nearly 20 big-ticket projects — compared with just three notable events for the same frame a year ago. The roster of rollouts ranges from the premieres of much-hyped new dramas such as NBC’s “Mister Sterling” and CBS’ “Queens Supreme” to the return of HBO’s “Oz” and sizzling sophomores “The Shield” (FX) and “The Dead Zone” (USA). Reality will also be well-repped, with five nets bowing seven different unscripted skeins: ABC’s “The Bachelorette” and “Celebrity Mole,” Fox’s “Joe Millionaire,” the Eye’s “Star Search Live,” WB’s “High School Reunion” and “The Surreal Life” and Bravo’s “Cirque du Soleil: Fire Within.” GSN jams with ‘Cram’ Even smaller outlets are getting into the act: Game Show Network is premiering “Cram,” while miniweb Pax launches comic quizzer “Dirty Rotten Cheater.” What’s more, after several weeks of preemptions and repeats, almost all of TV’s existing hits will be back with original episodes for the first time since early or mid-December. And shows including Fox’s “Fastlane” will get relaunched in new timeslots. “It’s basically a mini-premiere week,” said CBS scheduling chief Kelly Kahl, noting that the barrage of new and returning shows will no doubt claim some casualties. “It’s difficult to support that many new shows,” he said. “Some will probably be left out in the cold.” Several factors are behind this winter’s insanely crowded field:
- The short lifespan of ABC’s three frosh dramas, as well as the net’s decision not to program a movie in place of “Monday Night Football,” means the Alphabet has some serious holes to fill this month. That’s upped the overall number of midseason entries for the nets.
- Cable has often used off-peak months such as January and June to launch new skeins, but for the most part, the Big Six didn’t take notice. Buzzworthy skeins such as “Dead Zone,” “Monk” and “Shield” are now competing for publicity and promotion time in the media universe (even if their raw tune-in levels are relatively small).
- Reality has taken its place alongside sitcoms and dramas as a full-fledged TV genre.