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Upfronts Watch: Fox Tinkers, NBC Laughs Through Its Tears

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Nino Munoz/NBC

The cast of NBC's new Revolution

I was out of town yesterday as broadcast-network upfront season began, with NBC and Fox announcing their new fall schedules for advertisers. I’ll be attending and/or following the remaining announcements this week, and I’ll have some more thoughts on the new NBC and Fox shows later, when I’ve seen pilots, but here’s the quick-and-dirty on each network to catch you (and me) up:

I’ll get Fox out of the way first because, as the better-rated of the two networks, it has fewer changes to make. (It also programs one hour less per primetime night.) Some of its bigger changes were in scheduling, notably moving Glee to Thursday night. For the fall, it’s adding only three new shows (with more to come midseason) and creating a Tuesday-night comedy block. Raising Hope gets paired with Ben & Kate (no Gosselin connection, thankfully), about a man helping his older sister raise her kids; New Girl is doubled with Mindy Kaling’s sitcom, which I pray will not remain titled The Mindy Project. The Mob Doctor, whose premise is what it sounds like, is the sole fall drama addition. (Later in the season, we get Kevin Bacon’s serial-killer-serial The Following.) There will continue to be a billion hours of American Idol. That’s your Fox.

NBC, meanwhile, has a tad bit more work to do on its schedule, and it’s addressed that by adding as many as 16 new shows, depending if you count, say, a new fall version of The Voice. (Many of those are midseason shows—as with The Following, I’ll worry about them later when they actually get scheduled.) The big step the network is making, as I’ve posted about earlier, is adding a ton of comedy—with comedy blocks every night from Tuesday through Friday.

And yet, unless you’re that person who liked Are You There Chelsea?, every NBC sitcom you like is coming back! (Also Whitney.) 30 Rock will get one last 13-episode season; Community moves to Fridays, though creator Dan Harmon is not yet signed as showrunner for next season. Parenthood is coming back! My lord, even Rock Center is coming back!

And for all that, there is still a hell of a lot of new product on the NBC schedule, in particular J.J. Abrams’ post-energy-apocalypse drama Revolution, which gets the fall post-Voice slot (with a one-hopes-retooled Smash taking the spot in winter). I’m especially curious about this—and anxious, because the premise sounds awfully FlashForward-y. (“What if one day, all the electricity in the world stopped working? Because science!”) But I’ll withhold judgment until I’ve seem something. (And again, I’m not even concerning myself with the midseason shows at this point, because you never know which ones will end up getting unceremoniously dumped like Bent.)

The odd thing in all this is that NBC is coming off a run of terrible ratings fortunes, amid a TV business beset by lower viewership in general—yet it’s making room for all this new programming by, apparently, planning to show fewer and fewer money-saving reruns. How they plan to pay for it I don’t know; and it’s also not my problem. The delights for a TV watcher of the upfronts are not like the delights of the free drinks and hors d-oeuvres at the upfronts parties for advertising execs—good or bad, great choices or poor, at least someone else is paying for it.