Peacock programs a feather in Pax cap

NBC struts stuff during upfront

Pax TV unveiled its most ambitious slate of original programming ever during Tuesday evening’s upfront session in New York, thanks to its new programming deal with NBC.

Indeed, it was the Peacock that ran the event, with NBC sales topper Keith Turner and NBC Entertainment senior VP Sheraton Kalouria taking the stage inside NBC Studio 8H at Rockefeller Plaza. Broadcaster Lowell “Bud” Paxson, who owns Pax, remained seated in the aud throughout the presentation.

NBC’s decision to actually take over Pax’s upfront caught some in the biz by surprise, underscoring the Peacock’s determination to make a return on its financial stake in Pax. It also came on the eve of NBC’s official merger with Universal, with the marriage expected to be announced today at another Rockefeller Center event.

Under the Peacock-feathered plan, Pax will air 10 new primetime series for a total of 14 original hours a week. Tiny broadcast net is getting into the reality game for the first time with three unscripted series, including “Cold Turkey,” which follows a group of people trying to get clean and sober and is produced by “Average Joe” creator Stuart Krasnow.

Without a doubt, Kalouria said the tiny broadcast net will remain a family-focused.

“What this slate does is really make good on that promise for contemporary, modern-day families. I really want to underscore that we are in no way abandoning the family position,” Kalouria said. “If you ask kids today to name their favorite animated character, it wouldn’t be Bambi, it would be Shrek. The tonality of that comparison is certainly relevant to what we are doing.”

Besides “Cold Turkey,” the new programs unveiled Tuesday included:

  • “Left Behind,” a drama series based on the bestselling series of books; produced by Namesake Entertainment.

  • “Young Blades,” from scribes Dan Angel and Billy Brown, and produced by the Hatchery; a contemporary, dramatic take on the Three Musketeers.

  • “Model Citizens,” a weekly unscripted skein that follows five models, who will move to small towns across the country and launch community service projects. “Average Joe: Hawaii” star Larissa Meek will host the show, which comes from First Television.

  • “Second Verdict,” from Termite Arts (a division of Lion’s Gate) and Kimo-Jagger Prods. Reality show revolves around 12 men and women, who are shown a televised felony case and asked to make a verdict.

  • “World Cup Comedy,” an improv comedy show from Kelsey Grammer’s Grammnet Prods. and Nelson Page Entertainment. Wayne Page and Dan O’Connor created the variety skein.

  • “America’s Most Talented Kids,” which Krasnow originally produced at NBC.

  • “The Magician,” from Kaos Entertainment, which chronicles wannabe David Copperfields.

As previously announced, Pax will also air the new game shows “On the Cover” and “Balderdash.” Both shows will air back-to-back in the 8 p.m. timeslot.

Meanwhile, returning for another season are dramas “Doc” and “Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye,” while Pax will continue its Friday night “MGM Night at The Movies” franchise.

New this fall is a Saturday night “Universal Family Movie,” which taps into NBC’s new U film library.

As for scheduling, Pax will air the original reality series at 9 p.m. on weeknights, while 10 p.m. will be reserved for a mix of rebroadcasts and a Thursday night off-net airing of “Diagnosis: Murder,” which remains one of the net’s top-rated shows.

Kalouria said he and NBC Entertainment development director Narendra Reddy Turner were asked to step in and consult with Pax on their sked five to six months ago. Pax TV programming chief Rob Word is serving as liaison with NBC.

In November, NBC tried to call it quits on its ill-fated 4-year-old investment in Paxson Communications, triggering its option to force Paxson to buy out its roughly 32% position in the company.

NBC said nothing about the new consulting arrangement changes its expectation that Paxson will return its investment.

Aligning itself more closely with NBC is a departure for Paxson. In announcing its plans to end its Paxson relationship in November, the Peacock noted that it had been routinely excluded from any programming decision making at the broadcaster.

“Five to six months ago, the NBC entertainment group was engaged to serve as programming consultant. The slate we are unveiling reflects the outcome of that work. As consultants, what we were able to do was bring to Pax some projects that perhaps may have not been what they were looking for or what they could have found,” Kalouria said.