Networks hoping summer schedules sizzle
Familiar faces, more scripted series to complete for viewersBroadcasters are betting on familiar faces and a few scripted wild cards this summer as networks try to break a postseason losing streak.
Without a summer hit in recent years save ABC's "Wipeout," which debuted in 2008, the three biggest freshman titles during the coming months could be considered spinoffs of existing hits.
NBC's "Losing It With Jillian" (June 8) stars "The Biggest Loser" trainer Jillian Michaels in an attempt to extend the network's reality hit into summer. ABC's "Bachelor Pad" (Aug. 9), where previous "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette" contestants hang out in a house "Big Brother"-style, expands the network's franchise into a year-round event. Fox's "Masterchef" (July 27) isn't a direct spinoff (it is based on a U.K. format) but stars chef Gordon Ramsay, from Fox's "Hell's Kitchen" and "Kitchen Nightmares," taking on a new culinary battleground.
Also new to the summer reality menu are ABC's new skyscraper game show "Downfall" (June 22) and the resurrection of NBC's "Last Comic Standing" (June 7).
Tuesday nights will see the most ferocious fighting: "Downfall" and "Masterchef" have been stacked against NBC's heavy hitter "America's Got Talent" at 9 p.m., and "Jillian" will go up against top contenders "Wipeout" and "Hell's Kitchen" at 8 p.m.
But about half the new titles are scripted shows, an increasingly prevalent trend on broadcast summer schedules during the past couple of years as networks explore low-cost programming options like international co-productions.
Such efforts haven't seemed to catch viewer interest, however, with the lone exception CBS' airing of the Canadian cop drama "Flashpoint," which debuted two years ago.
So far, a recent preview of Fox's summer series "The Good Guys" (June 7) and the premiere of NBC's comedy "100 Questions" on Thursday performed poorly in the ratings.
ABC is investing the most in scripted, unveiling three drama series during the summer, which gets under way with the soap "Scoundrels," starring Virginia Madsen, and supernatural crime drama "The Gates," starring Frank Grillo, airing Sundays beginning June 20.
The perception remains that the best scripted programming is found on cable during the summer, and the biggest entry on that front has to be USA Network's latest breezy procedural, the CIA drama "Covert Affairs" (July 13). USA has become the CBS of cable, mastering the art of replicating a specific brand of drama series that consistently draws a large audience, and the industry will be watching to see whether the network can continue its streak.
Rival TNT counters with the George Clooney-produced cop drama "Memphis Beat" (June 22), starring Jason Lee as a Tennessee cop who moonlights as an Elvis impersonator.
Other summer notables debuting on cable include MTV's teen comedy "The Hard Times of RJ Berger" (June 6), Comedy Central's "Futurama" revival (June 24), FX's Louis C.K. comedy "Louie" (June 29), Syfy's Stephen King procedural "Haven" (July 9), AMC's political thriller "Rubicon" (Aug. 1) and Showtime's cancer drama "The Big C" (Aug. 16).