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.

More TV

  • Russian Doll

    2019 Emmy Nominations Did Right By a Great Year in Comedy (Column)

    Even before the 2019 Emmy nominations were announced, the biggest and most obvious story belonged to the fact that last year’s drama nominees almost completely cleared the way for the final season of “Game of Thrones.” But for as weak as the drama categories are overall (give or take a “Pose”), the comedy categories have [...]

  • Big Little Lies Stranger Things

    Here's Why 'Big Little Lies' and 'Stranger Things' Weren't Nominated for 2019 Emmys

    Meryl Streep joined “Big Little Lies” this season, and “Stranger Things” broke a Netflix record — so why didn’t either show score an Emmy nomination? Every year, critically acclaimed and fan-favorite shows are noticeably omitted from the Emmy nominations, but not because they were snubbed. It’s because they’re not eligible.  This year, ineligible series include [...]

  • Game of Thrones Finale

    'Game of Thrones' Emmy Love Confounds the Show's Critics (Column)

    Today’s widespread Emmy recognition for “Game of Thrones” — now the most-Emmy-nominated series for a single season, a record that it seems odd the heavily-decorated drama didn’t already have — comes in most senses as no surprise. This series is both an awards favorite, having won the top prize at the ceremony for its last [...]

  • Elisabeth Moss Handmaid's Tale

    Emmys 2019: Writing, Directing Nominations Far From Parity

    While big name television writers and directors including Amy Sherman-Palladino and Ava DuVernay saw Emmy nominations this year, overall, the state of parity in such behind-the-scenes nods is far from being achieved. Looking closely at the directing fields for scripted series this year, the drama category is 75% male and 25% female nominees, while the [...]

  • Emmy Queen Bey? Beyonce's 'Homecoming' Lands

    Beyoncé's 'Homecoming' Documentary Lands Six Emmy Nominations

    It’s going to be a busy awards season for Beyonce. She could be up for Grammys or Oscars in the next six months, but she’s already made a splash with the fresh crop of Emmy nominations. Her documentary/concert movie “Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé” has been nominated for six Emmys, and a win in most [...]

  • Astronomy Club

    Astronomy Club Sets Netflix Sketch Comedy Series With Kenya Barris Producing (EXCLUSIVE)

    The sketch and improv group Astronomy Club has landed a self-titled variety sketch series at Netflix, Variety has learned exclusively. The streamer has given the half-hour series a six episode order. Kenya Barris will executive produce under his Khalabo Ink Society banner at Netflix, with the show falling under the “Black-ish” creator’s overall deal. Daniel [...]

  • tur-soboroff-msnbc

    MSNBC Plans Launch of 'American Swamp' Docuseries with Katy Tur, Jacob Soboroff

    Katy Tur and Jacob Soboroff have been talking to each other since they were teenagers growing up around Los Angeles. Now MSNBC audiences will get to see them discuss what are likely to be much more serious subjects. The two NBC News journalists will lead the new four-part MSNBC documentary series “American Swamp,” which launches [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content