Okay. So NBC didn't really get a great return on that whole Jay Leno Show thing. Stripping the 10 PM hour with a talk show that duplicated a lot of other talk shows that were already on later: not that great. Bygones, right?
The network has now announced its schedule for Fall 2010, and it does indeed include quite a crop of new shows. (All quotes are from the descriptions provided by NBC.)
The Event will follow Chuck on Mondays. It features Jason Ritter (John's son and his doppelganger to the point of poignancy), who's been kicking around for a few years looking for the right project, as a guy who discovers the covering up of "a secret so powerful it could literally change the course of humanity." It's awfully hard to tell from that what to expect, but it does also feature Zeljko Ivanek (Damages) and Blair Underwood, so that seems like good news.
After that, in the famous 10 PM slot, you'll see Chase, about a woman who's a U.S. Marshal and is "the reason you don't mess with Texas." It's a Jerry Bruckheimer production, so expect a lot of explosions and/or blood evidence.
Aside from the fact that the official site uses the word "sexpionage," which is utterly unforgivable, there's some reason for optimism about Undercovers, a married-spy show executive produced by J.J. Abrams, who helped kick off Lost and more recently directed Star Trek, but who also made Alias and Felicity. (Among other things, it is a network show with two African-American leads, which happens distressingly rarely.) It will air at 8 p.m. Wednesdays, so apparently it's not a particularly adult romance in the network's eyes.
And then, of course, there's Law & Order: Los Angeles, which will immediately follow Law & Order: SVU on Wednesdays. (As Dan Fienberg of HitFix.com has noted, it's kind of hard to understand why NBC is moving SVU back to 9 p.m., given that everyone seems to understand that it's one of the shows that was hurt by being bumped from 10 to 9 for Leno.) At any rate, whether there's an appetite for another L&O at this stage is hard to predict, but this certainly doesn't represent a big risk for NBC, since at least it's the kind of show they know how to make and promote.
Despite the fact that the Thursday night comedy block is so strong right now, they are noodling with it: 30 Rock is moving back to 8:30, and new comedy Outsourced is coming in after The Office at 9:30. It's about a guy who's sent to run his company's call center in India, which sounds just ripe for jokes I won't care for and also seems like a concept that would have been fresh five years ago, and the preview clip does not inspire confidence, to say the least. (See the top of the post.)
You might have noticed that somebody gets left out in this shuffle, and it's Parks & Recreation, which won't air until midseason. That's a real disappointment, given that they just introduced two enjoyable new characters played by Rob Lowe and Party Down's Adam Scott, but it's clear that NBC doesn't want to run everything on full, fall-to-spring schedules, partly because they're still hustling. Remember, they're adding a lot of shows to fill all this time they have, and some of them will fail. There will be more holes.
Finally, on Thursday nights at 10, the tradition of heavy drama ends with the coming of Love Bites, a sex comedy centered around — and this is the great news — Becki Newton, who was so delightful as Amanda on Ugly Betty. Newton is a firecracker of a comic actress, and as much as I'm sad that there's no effort to replace some of the great Thursday-night ensembles of old, they're so far from being ready that it might be a better idea to just go another direction entirely.
There's also an unscripted show for Friday nights called School Pride, which renovates schools with special appearances by celebrities. It's basically Extreme Makeover: School Edition, it appears.
And finally, Jimmy Smits stars as a lawyer in Outlaw, which is about a guy who quits his job to go back to being an attorney. Oh, and his job was as a Supreme Court justice. Dun-dun-dun!
Now, take note that this isn't all NBC has in the pipeline; there are other shows that are destined to show up at midseason, or fill holes, or both. But this is the fall slate, and what do we see?
Five scripted shows I'd call either dramas or light dramas (it depends on what you call Undercovers), which is exactly the same number of hours they gave Jay Leno last year. Are they still heavily invested in unscripted? Sure. Minute To Win It will be back, and so will Who Do You Think You Are?, and so will The Biggest Loser. Oh, and The Celebrity Apprentice.
But NBC is indeed going to be much more firmly in the drama (and scripted television) business in the fall of 2010 than it was in the fall of 2009.