The Biz

Thursday-Night Lights
The networks get ready for a prime-time war

Howie Mandel, Deal or No Deal

The networks and ad buyers on Madison Avenue are deep in negotiations over the price of commercial time for next fall's prime-time schedule, and at least a third of their $9 billion take (that is, the networks hope it'll be that much) will be spent on Thursday night. That explains why so many good shows this fall will be airing on the same night. It's looking like one of the great network-scheduling steel-cage matches in history: Grey's Anatomy vs. CSI vs. Deal or No Deal all battling it out at 9 pm/ET.

ABC could have gotten higher ratings if it left read more

The Results Are In
A look at the winners and losers of the 2005-2006 season

Hugh Laurie, House

Put a fork in the recent TV season — it officially ended on May 24, so now it's time to tally the results. For the fourth straight year, CBS was crowned the most-watched network, with an average of 12.6 million viewers per week. While the network didn't score any smash hits, new shows such as Criminal Minds, The Unit and Ghost Whisperer were solid ratings performers.

Fox was able to crow as well: for the second year in a row it was No. 1 among viewers aged 18 to 49, the group most coveted by advertisers. But this year the network won the demo race wi read more

Good Evening, America Charles Gibson discusses his transition to ABC's evening chair

Charles Gibson

After Charles Gibson was named anchor of ABC World News Tonight, he got a call from a colleague saying, "The tortoise has won the race." Indeed, after all the hype about traveling anchors, webcasts and updates for the West Coast, the network turned to its most experienced and least flashy veteran to head its flagship broadcast. Gibson takes over for Elizabeth Vargas, who has been flying solo since coanchor Bob Woodruff sustained read more

Falling Up
The nets reveal their strategies for next season

Brad Garrett, 'Til Death

After attending the networks' upfront presentations all week, the Biz has this analysis of the coming season. (Click here for next fall's grid and new-show descriptions.)

You've got to wonder what went wrong in CW's new-series development process if the network had to bring back 7th Heaven — even though the show lost a reported $16 million for WB this past season.

But the decision to have CW's inaugural schedule made up of established shows from WB and UPN may end up being a blessing. Many of the shows have small but rabid followings, and promoting new shows on a new network will be tough. The fans of shows like One Tree Hill and Veronica Mars will track  them down on their own. Viewers in the 18-to-34-year-old demographic that CW targets don't watch networks, they watch shows. (According to recent survey, only one in four 1 read more

A Time to Laugh
The comedy pilots that might be ready for prime time this fall

Tina Fey

It's crunch time in the network scheduling rooms, as many questions are being asked about next season. Will Grey's Anatomy go to Monday nights? Will Lost start in November, to cut down on repeats during the season? Is Wayne Brady getting another show? The answers will come next week. We hear there wasn't a lot of laughing during the executive screenings of most of the season's comedy pilots, but here's what industry insiders say are the hottest of that tepid lot. (Click here to read about the drama-pilot buzz.)

NBC: The Peacock network is only expected to add two sitcoms. One is the still-untitled show from Saturday Night Live head writer Tina Fey — a workplace comedy set behind the scenes of a read more

The Next Big Things We've got a hunch about the new dramas we'll be watching this fall

Angie Harmon, Secrets of a Small Town

It's that time of year again: Network executives are spending these lovely spring days in dark screening rooms, searching for next fall's big hit. As we approach the mid-May unveiling of the new 2006-07 prime-time schedules, the Biz is here to provide you with an early glimpse of which drama pilots are heating up. We'll report on the sitcoms next week.

ABC: Secrets of a Small Town  — a drama starring Angie Harmon about a small town whose residents have plenty of skeletons in the closet — is believed to have the inside track for the Sunday-night slot after Desperate Housewives. (It's now a given that the network will move the superhot Grey's Anatomy to another night where it can help launch a new show.) Also hot are Six Degrees — another ensemble soap about six strangers whose lives intertwine in New York — and Traveler, about three graduate students involved in a national-security emergency. read more

A Better Creep Trap Is Dateline NBC's pedophile series journalism or law enforcement?

Chris Hansen, Dateline NBC

Dateline NBC's investigative series "To Catch a Predator" has given new meaning to the term guilty pleasure. Several times over the past two years, the newsmagazine has set up hidden cameras in private homes to watch as Internet watchdog group Perverted Justice targets men looking to have sex with underage boys and girls. Responding to decoys in online chat rooms, men show up at the houses of their would-be victims with refreshments in hand, thinking they're about to satisfy their creepy urges. Instead, they're confronted by black-turtleneck-clad Dateline correspondent Chris Hansen, a camera crew and the realization that they've likely just ruined the rest of their lives. What makes "To Catch a Predator" compelling is how normal some of the suspects look and what respectable jobs they hold — teacher, rabbi, Homeland Security employee. Millions have watched the first three installments, so some of the men even know what they're in for the moment they're confronted b read more

CIA Leak
Talking politics with American Dad's Mike Barker

American Dad

Later this month, Fox will release the first season of American Dad on DVD. The animated series about gung-ho CIA agent Stan Smith and his family pokes fun at politics — especially the tricky area of terrorism and homeland security — the way Family Guy lampoons pop culture. No surprise that it comes from FG creator Seth MacFarlane (the stentorian voice of Stan) and FG writers and producers Mike Barker and read more

Who Wants to Be a Today Host? Meredith Vieira faces a balancing act, but she wouldn't be the first

Meredith Vieira, The View

History is about to repeat itself at NBC's Today.

Any minute now, The View's Meredith Vieira will sign on as coanchor to replace Katie Couric after she leaves to join the CBS Evening News. But it looks like Vieira will keep her other gig as host of the syndicated read more

Better Early Than Never
CBS producer Steve Friedman on revamping the net's mornings

CBS' The Early Show

There probably isn't anyone on Earth who has produced more hours of morning television than Steve Friedman. In two stints and 10 years of producing NBC's Today, he worked with Tom Brokaw, Jane Pauley, Bryant Gumbel, Katie Couric and Matt Lauer. He devised the show's street-level studio in Rockefeller Plaza, which has become a major Manhattan attraction. He led CBS' effort to become a serious player in morning TV when he launched The Early Show with Gumbel and Jane Clayson in 1999. The show has never challenged Today or ABC's Good Morning America in the ratings, but it has become a significant profit center for CBS News. Friedman followed pal Gumbel out of CBS in 2002, but the network's current news president Sean McManus has brought him back — as vice president in charge of morning broadcasts — in the hopes that Friedman can take The Early Show to the next level. The Biz talked with him about how read more

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