Upfront Week is here… again

Senior Television Writer
05.15.11 16 Comments

As I brace myself for the start of the network upfront presentations, I can’t help but think of Bill Murray delivering the line, “Well, it’s Groundhog Day… again” on Phil Connors’ second journey through the endless marathon that is “Groundhog Day.” A few minor details may change from upfront season to upfront season, but it feels like the major details repeat themselves over and over: everyone had the best development season ever, CBS execs will be asked how many crime procedurals are too many, ABC will have the exact same scheduling holes to fill, etc., etc., etc.

There’s one obvious way in which Upfront Week 2011 is different from usual: for some reason, the networks made the vast majority of their decisions on what bubble shows to renew/cancel and which pilots to pick up last week. The fate of a couple of shows like “CSI: NY” might be up in the air, but mostly we’ll just be wondering about timeslots, like where FOX winds up scheduling “Terra Nova.”

It’s a crazy week, and made crazier by NBC and FOX both refusing to blink and relocate one of their upfronts to Thursday.(*) So NBC will actually announce their schedule this afternoon, with a press call scheduled for 2 Eastern, and then we’ll be off to the races, with both NBC and FOX doing their form presentations tomorrow, ABC on Tuesday, CBS on Wednesday and the CW on Thursday. I’ll be traveling to Manhattan to attend most of the upfronts in person (and will be watching the others via the network press sites), and my coverage plan is the same as last May: I’ll do an analysis of each network’s schedule (with explanatory quotes from executives where possible), and I’ll report my initial impressions of the different clip reels the networks show of each new series. I also may post an interview or two with a producer if there’s time, and Fienberg and I are going to record at least one, if not two, podcasts with our joint response to the upfront madness.

(*) As I explained last year, NBC traditionally presented on Monday, and FOX on Thursday, but when NBC tried their short-lived, silly “infront” concept during the hilarious Ben Silverman era, FOX jumped into the hole left on Monday, and when NBC realized there was value to presenting in upfront week, they insisted on going back to their old day. So the week now gets off to an overcrowded start.

The problem, as always, is that this insanely busy week for TV news happens during an insanely busy week for reviewing, with a lot of major season finales coming this week. My goal is to write about as many episodes as I can, particularly blog staples like the finales for “Chuck,” “How I Met Your Mother,” “The Office” and “Parks and Rec,” but other shows are going to suffer, with episodes either being skipped altogether or given cursory “So, what did you guys think?” treatment. (I suspect next week’s “The Killing” will be one of those, and I may also skip over a few non-finales like tomorrow’s “The Chicago Code” and come back on them next week.) It’s not ideal, but it’s never ideal. This will be my 15th upfront week, if my math is right, and I’ve never gotten a satisfactory explanation for why this stuff has to happen before the network TV season is actually over. Back in the print-only days, it made it hard to find column inches to cover everything properly; nowadays, it’s just hard to find the damn time for it all.

I shall do my best.

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