Dramas aren't chiming in

Reality rules NBC midseason as 'Heroes,' 'Life' and 'Medium' miss cut

NBC announced a partial midseason schedule Tuesday that includes a heavy dose of reality and a lack of scripted dramas.

The lineup is surprising less for what's included than for what's missing: no dates for "Medium," "Kings," "Life," "Chuck" and "Heroes," and reality shows "American Gladiators" and "Deal or No Deal" are off the board — for January at least. NBC plans to make a second announcement covering February and March at a later date.

One addition is "Howie Do It," a hidden-camera show starring "Deal" host Howie Mandel that will air at 8 p.m. Fridays starting Jan. 9.

" 'Howie Do It' is a really funny show, and Howie is perfectly suited for it," said Mitch Metcalf, NBC's head of scheduling.

Also on the schedule is "Superstars of Dance," a professional dancing competition series from the producers of "American Idol."

After a Sunday premiere Jan. 4, "Superstars" will air in two-hour blocks Monday nights, with a one-hour finale Jan. 26. The scheduling effectively starts and finishes a dance reality show during the short gap before ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" returns for its second cycle; it even airs during the usual "Dancing" time period.

"Having Nigel Lythgoe running this show gives us a lot of confidence, and this short-run series will have a nice run in a good time period," Metcalf said.

The "Superstars" premiere will have a lead-in from a new primetime "Saturday Night Live" special — a sports-centric edition to take advantage of the football playoffs just as the sketch comedy show's political specials capitalized on election fever. NBC plans a film-related "SNL" special as well, on Jan. 18.

NBC also announced that oft-rescheduled reality show "Momma's Boys" will air Monday nights and the third season of "Friday Night Lights" will air Fridays starting Jan. 16. The network plans a follow-up announcement within a couple of weeks with additional premiere dates and to reveal what will air after NBC's presentation of Super Bowl XLIII on Feb. 1.

A couple possibilities for a post-Bowl slot are "Kings" and launching the next edition of "Heroes." NBC is concerned about falling ratings for "Heroes," and having the highest-rated event of the year lead into the series' next book, "Fugitives," could work as a Hail Mary pass to revive the show. And NBC is very excited about "Kings" and believes the series is the network's best chance to exit the season with a breakout drama. An alternate possibility is a comedy block — such as "The Office," "30 Rock" and "Kath and Kim."

NBC is staying quiet on whether "American Gladiators," which launched in January 2008, will return in the spring, summer or at all. "Deal or No Deal" is being given a rare in-season hiatus, possibly because of the addition of "Howie Do It." The network's Amy Poehler comedy also is not yet scheduled.

"Deal" originally was planned for 9 p.m. Wednesdays, but NBC will air repeats of "Law & Order: SVU" instead, at least until "Life" returns. "Deal" also would conflict with the "crime block" brand NBC is trying to build on that night. But that a major broadcast network would air a repeat during such a significant time period also speaks to the Peacock's struggle to launch new content this fall. Along with "SVU" repeats on Saturdays, this current January schedule has "SVU" airing three hours during the week. (partialdiff)