The Cat's Not Quite Out of the Bag

This week, TV business journalists have their annual game to see who can break stories with all the new shows, cancelled shows, and exact fall schedules right before the networks are ready to announced them. The game begins today - but already things have started on the wrong foot.

The only thing journalists can seemingly agree on are the six news shows for NBC for next season - three new dramas and three new comedies, which include "E-Ring," a Pentagon drama with Benjamin Bratt and Dennis Hopper, and "My Name is Earl," a comedy about an ex-con starring Jason Lee. But there is nothing about where the shows will be placed or what exact shows will be canceled.

Let's review the current network conditions: NBC is the network in the most trouble - falling from first to fourth this year. That's not good news. General Electric honchos aren't happy unless its businesses are No. 1 or a strong No. 2. So it's probably a strategic thing for NBC executives - they either have kept this one close to the vest, or NBC Entertainment president Kevin Reilly will make up his mind while walking on the Radio City Music Hall stage later today.



Daily Variety made some projections that some dramas won't move into the typical 10 p.m. time slots; they might be slotted at 8 p.m., except for the Friday "Law & Order: Trial By Jury," which will be shown the door.

USA Today went on the record by listing a bunch of new shows getting the axe - including "Revelations," "The Contender," "Committed," "American Dreams," "Medical Investigation," and "Law & Order: Trial By Jury."

The New York Times did a story, well, mostly an interview with Jeff Zucker, president of NBC Universal Television Group. It listed two shows "E-Ring" and "Earl" and gave the story the headline, "NBC Television's Zucker Aims to Fix Prime Time."

Of course, we wondered what this really means to NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly, who has the real responsibility in these endeavors. The Times also included a comment from Donald Trump looking for a better lead-in programming for "The Apprentice."

The answer to those are other questions will gleaned, mulled, and ruminated over tomorrow by the press - which will be a form of journalistic double duty. Tomorrow's stories about ABC's projected upfront programming will be examined to the fullest.

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