NBC looks for new traction, banking on 'Voice,' 'Smash'
NBC has the most at stake with its midseason efforts, but all of the broadcast nets will be jockeying to make an impression as the semiannual dog-and-pony show known as the Television Critics Assn. tour begins its winter gathering in Pasadena on Wednesday.Running through Jan. 15, TCA kicks off with a two-day presentation by PBS before the broadcasters begin their parade, with the nets keen to convince journos that their upcoming series are the next big thing. NBC, along with ABC, has the most midseason shows to tout. But with the Peacock in a much tougher predicament than the resurgent Alphabet, network topper Bob Greenblatt will be in salesman mode, promoting NBC’s new shows with a lot on the line. The net came into fall with high hopes for “Prime Suspect” and “The Playboy Club,” both of which were canceled, and comedies “Whitney” and “Up All Night,” which have performed adequately but been far from breakouts. Now, nothing may be more important this midseason to NBC than returning reality skein “The Voice” and rookie drama “Smash” — premiering the evening of and day after the Super Bowl, respectively — with the judges and casts from both series up on stage to generate awareness. “The Firm,” based on the John Grisham novel, also will be a major component of NBC’s midseason sked, and the net thinks Jason Isaacs starrer “Awake” can bring in sci-fi auds that may not have come to NBC in the past. To tubthump its offerings, the Peacock will throw a nighttime soiree at CalTech Friday before the NBCUniversal cablers take over the TCA tour on Saturday. Next up is Fox, which will look to gain some traction for newbie series and Kiefer Sutherland starrer “Touch,” “Bones” spinoff “The Finder” and “Alcatraz,” from exec producer J.J. Abrams. While network president Kevin Reilly took a more reasoned approach at the summer TCA in Beverly Hills regarding the new fall shows, Simon Cowell told attendees then that he expected “American Idol”-like numbers for “The X Factor.” That clearly put “X Factor” in the crosshairs of TV journos. With that in mind, Reilly will likely be confident selling his new wares but won’t oversell. With Monday dedicated to ABC’s kids, news and daytime divisions, Paul Lee will take the stage Tuesday brimming with confidence after a very healthy fall. Alphabet has done well with drama hits “Revenge” and “Once Upon a Time” as well as comedy freshman “Suburgatory.” Midseason entries for ABC include three dramas — “The River,” “GCB” and “Scandal” — and comedy “Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23.” Net will also offer a comedy showrunner panel, with “Modern Family,” “The Middle,” “Suburgatory” and “Happy Endings,” as well as a panel dedicated to “Desperate Housewives,” which will sign off in May. CBS comes into TCA as the strongest broadcast net and doesn’t have much to offer in midseason. Although prexy Nina Tassler could easily get onstage and simply crow about the Eye’s perf — “Two and a Half Men” relaunched itself as the top comedy in total viewers and “2 Broke Girls” looks to be a longterm player — Tassler, without much new to promote, has decided not to engage attendees in an exec session. Corporate siblings CW and Showtime will share Jan. 12 before cable closes out the festivities Jan. 13-15. HBO, in a rare morning session and also forgoing an exec panel, will tubthump a handful of new series. Pay cabler has plenty of heavyweight talent of display, including Dustin Hoffman (“Luck”), Nicole Kidman (telepic “Hemingway & Gellhorn”) and Ed Harris and Julianne Moore, who play John McCain and Sarah Palin in the TV movie “Game Change.” Other cable panels that might generate interest and could prove lively discussions include “Dallas” on TNT, Kevin Smith’s “Comic Men” for AMC and Louis C.K.’s sitdown for his self-titled FX skein.