Report: NBC Is Primed, Reality Slammed

NBC may have a much-needed new drama hit if the first episode proves to be a harbinger, according to an influential Madison Avenue researcher.

"The new drama "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" is among the best pilots we've seen in a while...," wrote Magna Global's Steve Sternberg in a report released last week. However, Sternberg warned that the potential hit may struggle in its time-period battle with CBS smash "CSI: Miami."

He was mildly bullish on other new dramas that are coming to struggling NBC--"Heroes" and "Friday Night Lights" have "potential," and mid-season entry "The Black Donnellys" "looked good."

Other new shows that drew praise from Sternberg include: ABC's "Ugly Betty," for which he reiterated his affection; CBS' "Shark," which he called "good;" and Fox's "'Til Death," which was pegged as "funny."

But he offered harsh words for networks' continued experimentation and fascination with reality programming, writing that "too many junk reality series" have come on the scene. Networks may be getting the message. There will be eight fewer hours of reality than the record high in 2004.

NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly has called comedy "a challenged genre," and Sternberg agrees. "Nothing has materialized to pick up the slack and demonstrate the strength to anchor a night," such as "Friends" or "Everybody Loves Raymond." Comedies, he said, still enjoy popularity in syndication and on cable, which may hurt emerging network entries.

Given comedies' struggles, the networks will air a record 52 dramas this fall--55 percent of all programming. Twenty-five of those 52 shows address "crime/terrorist fighting," he noted.

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