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TV Bulletin Board (Wed., Oct. 31) -- NBC's odd treatment of Revolution

NBC's wave of midseason programming changes, made at the height of Hurricane Sandy's East Coast surge, is highly puzzling on at least one front.

The Peacock has the new season's top freshman hit among advertiser-prized 18-to-49-year-olds. Only six episodes have aired to date. And yet Revolution will be going on a very extended hiatus after it "concludes its current fall broadcast dates in November,"
says NBC.

New episodes of Revolution so far are scheduled on only Nov. 5th and 12th. Another one likely will air on Nov. 19th, the last Monday of the four-week November "sweeps" ratings period, which ends early this year on Nov. 21st. A post-Thanksgiving, Nov. 26th episode also is a possibility. Still, that would only bring the season total of new episodes to 10 at the most. And Revolution will then disappear all the way until March 25th, when it's slated to return on Monday nights in tandem with a new season of The Voice.

NBC earlier announced a full-season pickup of Revolution. Traditionally that's a 22-episode order for series launched in the fall. So if that's the case, how will the network cram a minimum of 12 new weekly hours of Revolution between March 25th and the end of the 2012-13 TV season in late May?

Will some new episodes actually bleed into June? That would be highly unusual. Might NBC offer double doses on some nights? Or does the network's full-season order in fact come up a few episodes short of the usual 22?

Inquiries have been made to NBC spokespeople, with no response as of yet. But whatever the case, the whole idea of taking a hot show off the air for such a lengthy hiatus runs the considerable danger of killing its momentum, let alone audience interest.

NBC tried much the same strategy with Heroes, although the down times were of far less duration than the one planned for Revolution. Audiences quickly lost interest anyway, and the show died perhaps a season or two earlier than it should have. ABC likewise tried to reboot both V and FlashForward after long absences from its schedule. This didn't work at all.

Serial dramas continue to present a unique challenge to networks. Unlike self-contained "police procedurals," they're not conducive to a patchwork quilt of new episodes and repeats. Viewers want to see the likes of Revolution and ABC's new Last Resort in uninterrupted strings of fresh hours. Otherwise you break the rhythm and confuse fans of these shows. But if you take them off the air for too long, you break the habit.

Fox made 24 work by airing all of its yearly episodes in a continuous string from January to May. ABC downsized its orders of Lost to 16 episodes per season -- and then aired them in pretty much unbroken order during the show's final three years.

Revolution instead is facing a four-month power outage in its first season after only a relative handful of new episodes have aired. This just doesn't compute. And if NBC manages to turn a hot property into a cold front, it will have only itself to finger.

Here are NBC's other midseason announcements:

***Starting on Jan. 7th, Mondays occupied by The Voice and Revolution will give way to two-hour dollops of The Biggest Loser followed by a new "dark family murder mystery" called Deception (previously titled Infamous). Stars include Meagan Good (Think Like A Man) and veteran Victor Garber.

***The second season of Smash launches on Tuesday, Feb. 5th with a two-hour episode featuring Jennifer Hudson. It will then take Parenthood's 9 p.m. (all times central) slot on the following Tuesday. A new season of Betty White's Off Their Rockers will fire up at 7 p.m. Tuesdays, starting Jan. 8th.

***On Thursday, Jan. 10th, the new comedy 1600 Penn gets the 8:30 p.m. slot. Bill Pullman and Jenna Elfman star as the President and First Lady. Community also returns on this night, but not until February 7th in a 7 p.m. cranny.

***An All-Star edition of Donald Trump's The Celebrity Apprentice debuts on Sunday, March 3rd. And a new reality hour, Eva Longoria's Ready For Love, is due on Sunday, March 31st. Longoria is the executive producer, with hosts Bill Rancic and Giuliana DePandi-Rancic supposedly guiding contestants on "romantic journeys."

Giants-Tigers World Series ends up being least-watched ever -- San Francisco's four-game sweep of Detroit averaged 12.7 million viewers nationally, with Game 4 drawing the biggest crowd (15.5 million) and Game 3 the smallest (10.5 million).

No World Series has ever gone lower. The previous record-holder, Philadelphia's five-game defeat of Tampa Bay, averaged 13.6 million viewers in fall 2008. Last year's seven-gamer, in which the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Texas Rangers, had an overall average of 16.6 million viewers.

TV Bulletin Board (Thurs., Oct. 25) -- new TV vehicle for old Cheers mates

Rhea Perlman and Kirstie Alley during their Cheers days.

TV Land's old-time sitcom religion gained two more notable converts Thursday when the network announced that former Cheers stars Kirstie Alley and Rhea Perlman will re-team in Giant Baby.

So far there's only a pilot commitment, but these things generally turn into full-fledged series unless the initial execution is so bad it becomes a death penalty.

Alley stars as Madison "Maddie" Banks, a Broadway star whose life is "turned upside down" when a long-lost "nerdy and schlubby" son named Arlo (yet to be cast) tries to reconnect with her after his adoptive mother dies. Maddie initially resists, of course.

Perlman, who recently made news when she and longtime husband Danny DeVito announced a split-up, will play Thelma, who's Maddie's "long-suffering assistant and best friend."

TV Land first hit the old-school comedy jackpot with Hot In Cleveland and since has become home to a number of new half-hour weekly series populated with stars of previous hit sitcoms.

***Fox has announced three key winter season premiere dates, including the 12th season return of American Idol on Wednesday, Jan. 16th with new judges Mariah Carey, Keith Urban and Niki Minaj, plus holdover Randy Jackson.

The new "psychological thriller" The Following will debut on Monday, Jan. 21st in the time slot currently occupied by Fox's low-rated The Mob Doctor. Kevin Bacon stars as ex-FBI agent Ryan Hardy, who's called out of retirement to track a serial killer played by James Purefoy from HBO's Rome. Purefoy's character, Joe Carroll, lately is mentoring his own "ever-growing web of killers."

And on Friday, Feb. 1st, Kiefer Sutherland's Touch returns for its second season. It will replace Fringe, which currently is in its announced final 13-episode season.

On a considerably lower plane, Fox also has ordered a two-hour reality-competition special called Stars In Danger: High Diving. It's drawn from a long-running, same-named German hit. Premise: Eight celebrities "plunge into a whole new discipline -- diving!" It's scheduled to air sometime in the coming winter.

***CBS has given full-season pickups to two of its freshman drama series, Vegas and Elementary. Also, Showtime's Homeland and Fox's The X Factor both have been renewed for third seasons.

***The Encore network's Big Miniseries Showcase will be reprising a true giant of the genre in November when Lonesome Dove gets a four-night run.

It will air from Monday, Nov. 19th through Thursday, Nov. 22nd at 7 p.m. (central) each night. On the following week, from Nov. 26th through the 29th at the same times, Encore is re-presenting Return to Lonesome Dove. It didn't stand up to the original, but had its moments.

Unjustly gypped on Emmy night, the original Lonesome Dove had a super-stellar cast that included Robert Duvall, Tommy Lee Jones, Anjelica Huston, Diane Lane, Danny Glover, Chris Cooper, Robert Urich, Ricky Schroder and Steve Buscemi. It originally ran on CBS in February 1989.

The sequel aired in 1993, with Jon Voight resuming Jones' Woodrow Call role. Also featured were Lou Gossett Jr., Barbara Hershey, William Petersen. Reese Witherspoon, Oliver Reed, Dennis Haysbert and Schroder, who by that time had shortened his first name to the more serious-minded "Rick."

TV Bulletin Board (Thurs., Oct. 18) -- Animal Practice axed

Crystal the Capuchin monkey has been sent packing. NBC photo

NBC's Animal Practice became the fall season's second casualty Thursday, with Whitney set to take its Wednesday 7 p.m. (central) habitat on Nov. 14th.

The Peacock comedy, which didn't feature a peacock, offered recurring sight gags from Crystal the Capuchin monkey, whose character's name was Dr. Rizzo. But a monkey can only do so much.

Whitney, starring comedian Whitney Cummings, survived a so-so first season after receiving mixed reviews and marginal ratings. Its return may not last long either.

***FX's grisly, campy, discombobulated American Horror Story: Asylum had what the network is calling an "insane" start Wednesday night. Its premiere episode drew 3.85 million viewers nationally, with a sizable percentage of them (2.78 million) within the 18-to-49 motherlode demographic.

The network says that Asylum had more viewers than any single episode of its predecessor, which was just plain American Horror Story. The two lead actors, Connie Britton and Dylan McDermott were killed off and aren't a part of Asylum. But Emmy-winning Jessica Lange has returned in the new role of twisted Sister Jude.

***As expected, Fox's The X Factor has named Mario Lopez and Khloe Kardashian Odom as its two new hosts.

"The worst kept secret in Hollywood is out," creator and head judge Simon Cowell said in a publicity release. "They will debut in our first live show in November and I couldn't be happier."

***CBS has green-lighted the reality-competition series Bake Off. As in almost all cases these days, it's adapted from an ongoing overseas hit -- namely The Great British Bake Off.

Competitors will undergo various "baking challenges" before one emerges to win a yet to be announced prize. It's scheduled to premiere sometime next year.

TV Bulletin Board (Tues., Oct. 16) -- Amy/Tina should add patina to Globes

NBC and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association have kicked their Ricky Gervais habits -- for the moment at least -- and named Peacock gal pals Tina Fey and Amy Poehler to host the 70th annual Golden Globe awards.

They respectively star in NBC's 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation and also have memorably played Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton in Saturday Night Live sketches.

The Globes are scheduled to air Sunday, Jan. 13th on NBC.

***HBO has announced the Season 2 return dates for Girls and Enlightened. Both will be back on Jan. 13th with 10-episode sophomore years.

***AMC's Oct. 14th Season 3 premiere of The Walking Dead slew everything except NBC's Sunday Night Football.

Its 10.9 million viewers for the first 8 p.m. (central) airing more than doubled the audience for TWD's Season 2 launch. And a very high percentage of those viewers -- 7.3 million -- were within the 18-to-49-year-old advertiser motherlode.

In fact, TWD had more viewers in that prized demographic during the week of Oct. 8-14 than broadcast network hits such as NBC's The Voice, ABC's Modern Family and CBS' The Big Bang Theory.

***Today's desperation is showing. Now clearly No. 2 behind ABC's Good Morning America in the A.M. pecking order, Today plans to spring hosts Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie, Al Roker and Natalie Morales on unsuspecting new American citizens during a Nov. 12th swearing-in ceremony. The quartet will be the first to congratulate 30 newbies as part of what NBC is calling "an historic television event." Anyone who asks, "Where's Ann Curry?" will immediately be deported.

***Fox has renewed its animated series Bob's Burgers for a fourth season. And NBC again has topped the 18-to-49 ratings in Week 3 of the new fall season -- making it three times in a row for the resurgent Peacock.

The network's Sunday Night Football is its driving force in this key demographic. But NBC also is doing well with The Voice and two new series, Revolution and Go On.

CBS still leads the season-to-date Nielsens in total viewers by a commanding margin over its broadcast network rivals. ABC has dropped to last in the 18-to-49-year-old measurement, trailing NBC, CBS and Fox in that order.

TV Bulletin Board (Thurs., Oct. 11) -- Made in Jersey unmade

Made in Jersey star Janet Montgomery. CBS photo

Made in Jersey has won the not-so-coveted First New Fall Series to Be Canceled trophy, beating fellow contenders Partners, The Mob Doctor, Animal Practice and Guys with Kids to the finish line.

CBS has announced the legal drama's removal from its Friday night lineup after just a two-episode run. It had been slotted at 8 p.m. (central) between two established crime dramas, CSI: NY and Blue Bloods.

CSI: NY is moving to Made in Jersey's 8 p.m. spot, effective immediately. Beginning Nov. 2nd, Undercover Boss will be Friday night's new leadoff hitter. Until then, CBS is using putty at 7 p.m. in the form of two NCIS repeats (on Oct. 12th and 26th) and a Hawaii Five-0 rerun on Oct. 19th.

***ABC Family says the fifth season of The Secret Life of the American Teenager will be its last. The network is promising a proposal and a wedding in the climactic season, which will start up in March 2013.

There also will be a new holiday season episode, "Hedy's Happy Holiday House," on Monday, Nov. 19th after an all-day marathon of American Teenager repeats. The series premiered in June 2008 and is the longest-running scripted series ever to air on ABC Family. It reached the 100-episode milestone in June of this year, and will have 12 episodes for its final run.

TV Bulletin Board (Mon., Oct. 8) -- ABC annnounces GMA weatherman's engagement to same sex partner

GMA weatherman Sam Champion (right) with fiance Rubem Robierb. ABC photo

In an apparent first for a Big Four broadcast network, ABC has publicly announced the engagement of Good Morning America weathercaster Sam Champion and boyfriend Rubem Robierb.

The above picture also was included in the network's publicity release.

"We are thrilled and so excited and thank everyone for their good wishes," Champion says in a statement.

ABC says that Champion and Robierb met "through mutual friends" a few years ago in Miami, where Robierb, a native of Brazil, lives and works as a photographer. They plan to wed later this year, the network says.

***Oprah Winfrey's ratings-challenged OWN network has made its biggest programming splash to date by signing Tyler Perry to an exclusive deal.

Perry, who produces the sitcoms Meet the Browns, House of Payne and For Better or Worse for TBS, will now be developing two new scripted series for OWN. Both are set to premiere in mid-2013, the network says in a publicity release.

"I have been looking forward to the day when we would be in the position to enter the world of scripted television. That day has come," Winfrey says. " We are all energized by the opportunity to collaborate with Tyler, who has a proven track record for producing highly successful cable series."

***NBC has signed Man Vs. Wild star Bear Grylls to headline Get Out Alive (tentative title), an eight-episode reality adventure series scheduled to premiere next summer.

The network says it will "test teams of two beyond their most extreme imaginations in the wild." Grylls touts the show as "raw, tough and unrelenting, but it will also inspire and teach the essentials that one day may just save your life. The goal is to empower people with the ultimate in both survival and teamwork, and that brings incredible reward. But first there must be some pain."

All righty then.

TV Bulletin Board (Wed., Oct. 3) -- renewal notices for Revolution, Boardwalk Empire, etc.

New leases for Revolution & Boardwalk Empire. NBC/HBO photos

The fall season renewal notices are starting to come in, with NBC the first to announce full-season pickups of three freshman series.

The futuristic drama Revolution and a pair of sitcoms -- Go On and The New Normal -- have been green-lighted by the Peacock for at least the duration of the 2012-'13 TV campaign.

"We're very pleased with early results of the last three weeks of our fall season rollout," NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt says in a publicity release. "The strategy for this season was to draft off the promotional platform of the Olympics and then begin our season early and strong."

Go On represents the first post-Friends success story for Matthew Perry, whose two previous series, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and Mr. Sunshine, ended up being ratings losers. There's no guarantee yet that Go On will last beyond its first season, but its initial vote of confidence is in the bag.

In other renewal news, HBO has committed to a fourth season of Boardwalk Empire, which currently is in the early stages of Season 3. And TNT has picked up Major Crime Unit, its spinoff of The Closer, for a second season of 15 new episodes. The current season ends this month, with Season 2 set to begin in the summer of 2013.

TNT also is bringing back its comedy-laced law drama, Franklin & Bash. The network has not yet said when that show's Season 3 will begin.