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'Community' gets a sixth season, courtesy of Yahoo

Jonathan Banks as Hickey, left, and Joel McHale

(Credit: NBC)

Yahoo, which has lately been in the business of rebooting TV careers (Katie Couric), has now gone to series, and an especially good one: "Community."  

The company Monday announced, via a handful of websites, including its own, that the classic will return for a sixth season -- and thirteen episodes. For "Community" fans, this has to be one of those darkest -- before-the-dawn (or timeline) pieces of news, for Hulu had essentially passed on the revival a week ago. 

"I am very pleased that Community will be returning for its predestined sixth season on Yahoo," "Community" creator Dan Harmon said in a statement. "I look forward to bringing our beloved NBC sitcom to a larger audience by moving it online. I vow to dominate our new competition. Rest easy, Big Bang Theory. Look out, BangBus!"

 ("BangBus," as you might imagine, is a puckish Harmon reference to a porn series.)

Community's finale  -- or final scene -- kinda hinted the show just couldn't be taken out back and shot like any other NBC sitcom. Before long -- wouldn't you know it! -- there were those all-knowing reports to the online trades and other well-sourced places (which is to say agents talking to Sony or vice versa via the trades) that a revival was possible.

 But of course this is all very good news for fans of great TV and those true believers who never lost faith in the ability of Dan Harmon to pull one more rabbit out of whatever hat he actually wears. 

Will the entire cast return? Will most of the cast return? Details, mere details. We'll get back to you with some answers as soon as Yahoo figures out who else besides EW actually covers the TV business. May take a while...

NBC orders Bear Grylls series -- with celebrities

The British-born survival expert Bear Grylls will star

(Credit: NBC )

If the idea of a series called "Running Wild" featuring Zac Efron sounds both interesting as well as slightly felonious, then NBC has got the forthcoming summer trifle for you — a new Bear Grylls series in which he'll bring along celebrities for the ride.

The stars:  Zac Efron, Ben Stiller, Channing Tatum, Deion Sanders, Tom Arnold and “Today” co-anchor Tamron Hall.

The idea: Each will go out with Grylls for 48 hours on various adventures: "From skydiving into the Catskill Mountains, to rappelling down the cliffs of Utah and battling torrential wind and rain in Scotland ..."  (The obvious solution to his latter adventure is to get an umbrella, but apparently that's not an option.)

 "Running Wild With Bear Grylls" begins July 28. 

Brian Williams interviews Edward Snowden, NSA whistleblower

Edward Snowden, who worked as a contract employee

(Credit: AP)

"Nightly News" last night said Brian Williams was "on assignment" -- and some assignment, indeed: He has scored the first American media interview with Edward Snowden, who is essentially under protective custody in Russia.

NBC just confirmed this massive scoop and offered more details -- a full hour interview will air at 10 next Wednesday.

Williams' in-person conversation with Snowden was conducted over the course of several hours and was shrouded in secrecy due to Snowden's life in exile since leaking classified documents about U.S. surveillance programs a year ago. Williams also jointly interviewed Snowden and journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has reported stories based on the documents in media outlets around the world, about how they came to work together and the global debate sparked by their revelations.

Snowden released a vast trove of NSA "metadata" -- some of which revealed the NSA collection of phone and Internet traffic of U.S. citizens and the tapping into of personal phone communications of foreign leaders.  

 

NBC schedule and trailers

Actress Katherine Heigl attends the Reem Acra Fall

(Credit: Getty Images)

Happy Mother's Day.

Oh, right. Almost forgot. NBC announced some new shows today.

First, the schedule, then -- of much greater importance -- the trailers. Keep an eye on these three newcomers, "State of Affairs,"  "Marry Me," and "Bad Judge." NBC's placed them in the strongest possible positions on the fall schedule. 

Clips below. YOU be the judge. And a quick reminder, NBC does have a full slate of backups and midseason series. I'll get to those tomorrow. 

MONDAY

8-10 p.m. — “The Voice”

10-11 p.m. — “The Blacklist” / “State of Affairs” (NEW, beginning Nov. 17)

TUESDAY

8-9 p.m. — “The Voice”

9-9:30 p.m. — “Marry Me” (NEW)

9:30-10 p.m. — “About a Boy”

10-11 p.m. — “Chicago Fire”

WEDNESDAY

8-9 p.m. — “The Mysteries of Laura" (NEW)

9-10 p.m. — “Law & Order: SVU”

10-11 p.m. — “Chicago P.D.”

THURSDAY

8-9 p.m. — “The Biggest Loser”

9-9:30 p.m. — “Bad Judge” (“The Blacklist” beginning Feb. 5)

9:30-10 p.m. — “A to Z” (NEW)

10-11 p.m. — “Parenthood”

FRIDAY

8-9 p.m. — “Dateline NBC”

9-10 p.m. — “Grimm”

10-11 p.m. — “Constantine” (NEW)

SATURDAY

8-11 p.m. — Encore programming

SUNDAY

7-8:20 p.m. — “Football Night in America”

8:20-11:30 p.m. — “NBC Sunday Night Football”

2014-15 

Bad Judge

Marry Me Constantine The Mysteries of Laura State of Affairs

ESPN star producer named 'Today' chief

This Feb. 24, 2014 photo released by NBC

(Credit: AP / Peter Kramer)

In a move almost certain to set off renewed speculation about where the "Today" show is going (and who's going there with it), the network just named Jamie Horowtiz senior vice president and general manager of the franchise. Horowitz is -- or was -- a very big deal at ESPN, probably the most successful TV brand in the world, where he launched many shows, and was a lion-tamer as well: He brought back Keith Olbermann, who presumably has been happy with the boss, now making the big move from Bristol, Connecticut to Manhattan.

The speculation? Oh, the usual stuff: Who will replace Matt Lauer, likely to leave at the end of his current contract? ("Likely" - but one never knows until one knows, and the ratings do appear to have stabilized, and with them, Matt...) Josh Elliott of course began his career at ESPN, and the advent of the Horowitz era is certain to set off some thinking that he might be here to bridge some sort of gap between sports - where Elliott is based now - and "Today." Of course, that may be "baseless" thinking... Elliott continues to dash any idea that he is destined for "Today."

 But there's really one and only one job here -- to get "Today" back on top, and push "GMA" back to the place from whence it came (second). Horowitz certainly arrives on an interesting day, when NBCUniversal announced a $7-billion-plus multi-decade deal to air the Olympics; "Today" has long had a happy and symbiotic relationship with this enormous franchise...

 Here's the top of the release: 

Horowitz will lead the TODAY brand and drive greater integration and growth among all parts of the brand,...also explore new formats, such as extensions in digital, e-commerce, events and other opportunities to serve the audience beyond the day-to-day execution of the existing broadcast and digital platforms... "I am honored to join Deborah [Turness,NBC News president]'s team and help guide TODAY into the future," said Horowitz. "This is an exciting and invigorating opportunity, and I am humbled to work with one of the most indelible brands in television. I am also grateful to John Skipper and ESPN for the opportunities and support they have given me over the past eight years."

NBC News president supports embattled David Gregory in memo

A drop in ratings at "Meet the Press"

(Credit: NBC / Rob Kim)

Poor "Meet the Press" host David Gregory: Either the wolves are circling or the vultures, but either way, he has had a very bad couple of weeks. So much so that NBC News chief Deborah Turness took the highly unusual, and vaguely ominous, step Thursday morning of releasing an internal memo to the press stating her unconditional support for Gregory, while labeling some of his recent press flack "ludicrous."...

Read more »

NBC renews 'Parks and Recreation,' 'Grimm,' 'Chicago PD,' more

Jason Beghe as Hank Voight in "Chicago PD,"

(Credit: NBC)

In another indication that NBC's long-awaited turnaround is underway, the network Wednesday handed a new season to "Chicago P.D." the spinoff of "Chicago Fire," which was also renewed along with "Grimm."

If for some odd reason you are keeping a scorecard, that means "The Blacklist," "The Voice" and "Parks and Recreation" has also been added to the comeback list. This, you'll note, still leaves a lot of empty spaces on your score card, but it also means there will be added pressure on NBC to renew moderate-to-OK performers, including "Parenthood," "Community," and (very likely, in my opinion) the newcomer, "About a Boy." I'd expect a pickup for "Hannibal," too. "Crisis" and "Believe?" Depending on how they do Sunday, both may added to your scorecard one of these days, too.  

'The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon' is a month old: Status report

Jerry Seinfeld visits "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy

(Credit: Getty Images / Theo Wargo)

"The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" turned one month old Monday, which means party time!

But hold on. Let's settle down. The party must wait.  First, some facts and analysis and critical perspective and quotes. Late night television has changed forever. Has it changed for the better?

To the questions:

So, how is "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" doing?

If the words "spectacularly well" offer a clue, then you have your answer. This launch has exceeded even NBC's expectations, and mine -- an aside offered by someone who has lived through both (and also  covered) the Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien "Tonight" successions...umm, all three of them. 

If numbers tell part of the story -- they almost always do -- then let's get straight to those. Last week, "Tonight" was seen by an average 4.5 million viewers at the regular 11:35 p.m. time, compared to 4.9 million in Jay Leno's last full week on the air.

That was a high-water mark for Leno -- expected for his swan song week. One of the more relevant figures is "Tonight's" performance among viewers 18 to 34 -- Fallon has around a 1 rating, or 700,000 viewers in that age group last week, compared to a 0.7 or 500,000 for Jay in his final, heavily viewed week.

Then, finally, this number: "Tonight" has just less than double the total audience of second-place "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and "Late Show with David Letterman" -- both at about 2.7 million last week.

 Thanks for the math, but what does it mean?

One month in, the math appears to have resolved the single greatest concern that NBC had going in: Would "Tonight/Leno" viewers sample "Tonight/Fallon," then return for more? So far, the answer is yes and yes.

NBC is completing research to determine how many Leno loyalists have remained, but the preliminary read at the network is that many have -- possibly even most of those who refuse to break their habit and have so far found no reason to do so.

This is a key metric because the bottom fell out from under Conan O'Brien's "Tonight" fairly quickly after his June 1, 2009, launch. Yes, this is something an apples-to-carrots comparison. "Conan" launched midsummer five years ago, and "Fallon" had a tail wind (the Winter Olympics).

Nevertheless, this is March -- a huge month for "homes using television" -- and Fallon's figures are holding up.

What is the age of Fallon's viewers?

The average age is 54, or five years younger than Leno's viewers, and "Late Show's," which is now the oldest audience in late-night TV. It's also a year younger than Kimmel's average. 

Just to restate the obvious, youth rules in late night, or at least rules with advertisers -- a key reason Fallon is now host of "Tonight.' But the relative youth of Fallon's crowd indicates that his "Tonight" has actually added new viewers to the mix. Leno's "Tonight" was doing the exact opposite -- losing them.

What does NBC think?

Ted Harbert, NBC Broadcasting chairman, said in a recent interview, "I have an odd relationship with A.C. Nielsen, and deep in my heart get superstitious [when predicting ratings]. I thought we could run the table with both Jimmy and Seth [Meyers, whose 'Late Night' is also doing very well], but we didn't think it would be this high.

"My read is that we kept who we had and added more [audience], which is hard to do in any day part. That's what makes this so fascinating. It seems too early after a month to make any big general statements, but this could be one of those rare game changers where people have caught on to this guy."

Harbert -- a TV veteran and former chief of ABC Entertainment during its glory days -- says credit is due, beyond Fallon and his team, to "Lorne [Michaels], who has set this network up to be flush in late night talent."

What does the Newsday critic think?

Fallon's "Tonight" is excellent -- superior to Leno's "Tonight" (sorry, Jay, but true). Most of all, the new "Tonight" is refreshing, comfortable and often surprising, which are words seldom heard about late-night TV anymore.

This also feels like a show that knows itself -- knows what it wants to say, and how to say it, or at least how to perform it. Almost all key elements click -- the monologue especially, as well as the many sketches that made the hop from 12:35 to 11:35 with Fallon.

What's unexpected is that this really does appear to be the exact same show as Fallon's "Late Night," right down to the curtain (actually, "Late Night's" curtain was a solid blue. Fallon's "Tonight" is two-tone. Plus, that skyline). NBC and Fallon promised the same show, but how many times are promises kept in this business?

Harbert puts it this way: "The mistake we made at this network is that a lot of time was spent telling Conan how his show should change, but [this time we] said, 'You're not going to have the network telling you what to do and screw it up. Just keep doing what you're doing."

Differences, in fact, are subtle but significant: More host cross-chat with Steve Higgins, most of it improvised and most of it funny; more sketch tie-ins with members of The Roots, like James Poyser or Tariq Luqmaan Trotter, AKA Black Thought; and more monologue (but not that much more; Fallon's monologues still appear to run only around seven or eight minutes at most --  a good length for him.)

The guest segments are the weakest element, to date. Fallon's instincts are to perform, not to interrogate, so these can sometimes feel like free-form chats that lead nowhere fast. He tends to be a "fan" of everyone, has his TiVo filled with "all of their shows" or his iPod with "all of their songs."

Jimmy's a nice guy -- we know that -- but he needs to develop a critical distance and perspective. Even a coolness. That's not a bad thing when you are the host of "The Tonight Show" and therefore arbiter, or at least gatekeeper, of pop culture tastes and trends.

Has the late-night landscape changed with the advent of Fallon?

Perhaps the better way to approach this question is with another question: What about Dave?

Letterman turns 66 April 12. He is -- yes -- the second greatest late night talk show host in TV history, and also the second oldest: Johnny Carson was 66 when he retired in 1992.

The rule in television is, just to restate, ironclad -- older audiences mean reduced profits, and with younger crowds at ABC and NBC, there will also be pressure at CBS to lower its average age, by grooming a new generation of "Late Show" viewers with (alas) a new "Late Show" host.

Letterman, who has a contract through 2015, has given no indication that he plans to step aside -- or as he put it to Oprah during an interview a year or so ago:  "When it’s time to go, somebody else tell me. Because I don’t know when it’s time to go.”

No one wants to see Letterman go.

I never want to see Letterman go. He is the greatest, most entertaining, most inventive late-night host in my lifetime. He is Dave. There is no other Dave and never will be. 

That said ... reality is reality. Letterman will be moving along someday.

For whom? Replacement possibilities remain the obvious ones -- and Craig Ferguson is not among them. Because "The Late Late Show" host lost regularly to Fallon's "Late Night," there's appears to little chance he would succeed at 11:35 opposite Fallon again, or so the logic goes.

A shame: Ferguson's "Late Late Show" is endlessly amusing, his monologues funny and his sidekick, Geoff, probably the single finest animatronic skeleton in late-night history.

But still.

Stephen Colbert's contract at Comedy Central ends this year, Jon Stewart's next year. There now appears to be growing industry consensus that Colbert may now be the heir apparent. Is it the CBS consensus? The Colbert one?

By the way, the average age of "The Colbert Report" viewer is 43.

My kicker: Stephen Colbert  could well be the next host of "Late Show."  

And of course, this: We'll see. 

 

NBC has a good new drama ('Crisis')

While on a school field trip, a bus

(Credit: Vivian Zink / NBC)

NBC has a good new drama: How many times have you read those words anywhere over the last year? Even though "The Blacklist" was certainly good, and "Hannibal" has emerged as the real deal, and -- hey! -- a lot of people even liked the launch of "Believe" last Sunday (myself included), the network has been scratching to get back in the elite drama game, with mixed results.

But Sunday has a...

Read more »

'Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon': So far, so very good

Jerry Seinfeld visited "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy

(Credit: Getty Images / Theo Wargo)

Exactly two weeks in, how's the most important, pivotal and historic programming move of the year - of many years - going so far, referring here of course to "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon"? On the most basic level of them all -- numbers -- almost amazingly well. Thanks to DVR, or time-shifted viewing -- which has essentially become the coin of the realm in late night, making late night TV essentially "watching-the-next-day-during-your-coffee-break" TV -- the show boosted total viewership by 2,000,000 viewers for the first week. That makes for a total of 10.4 million, or the most for one week since Johnny Carson's last week in May of 1992 (just under 20 million -- so, no contest, of course).  And here's the clincher: The average age of that audience is just under 53 years of age, or a drop of around six to seven years in age from Jay's show. Keep in mind -- NBC engineered this whole business as a mean of reversing "Tonight's" graying audience.

  But from a critical perspective, how is this show doing? There's nothing here that suggests I should change my initial impression -- a positive one -- except that maybe I might offer an even more positive spin at this point: This has been an excellent two weeks for Fallon on the air. Sure, the "interviews" often seem more like rolling kaffeeklatsches absent substance, but with plenty of laughs and non sequiturs (the rambling on about the "Rocky" franchise with Paul Rudd, for example). But get past those -- and they do tend to be amusing -- and you have yourself a revitalized, enjoyable, and surprisingly smart new "Tonight."  Fallon's monologues -- of all things! -- have been one of the strong points: Effortless, funny, roll-with-the-punches and smart. Fans knew all along he could nail this show, but the new monologues-on-steroids strategy was certainly something to be concerned about. (Fallon is a fine performer, but he's not a joke machine.) But he's nailed that too.

  Meanwhile, the embedded comedy -- for want of a better term -- has been a standout as well. Here is one example: Last night's "Wastepaper Basketball with LeBron James." Not quite comedy, but a catchy interlude nevertheless. 

 

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