Zucker’s Zingers Come Before A Fall Launch

Deadline Hollywood Daily’s Nikki Finke asks “Has NBC Uni’s Jeff Zucker Lost His Mind?” is response to this promotional spot for the return of My Name Is Earl, embedded below. Finke, who’s site became “Must See” during the writers strike, strongly objects to a few pot shots Zucker makes at scribes in the teaser. I just think the spot is funny as hell and, since it won’t air in Canada (it’s scheduled to run April 3 on NBC, just before the return of Earl), judge for yourself below:

Finke herself goes on to report that Zucker taped the spot at the request of Earl creator Greg Garcia, who’s own writers wrote the slams. Finke wails, “When did ‘Must See TV’ degrade into ‘JZ TV’?” but, please.
Speaking of Zucker, the TV boss critics call “Zippy” has set next Wednesday–six weeks earlier than usual–as the date NBC will announce its fall schedule. Zucker seems determined to break from the old ways of splashy network upfronts and pricey pilots. Ben Silverman and Marc Graboff, co-chairmen of NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios, will unveil the new picks for fall.
But what will they show? The writers strike, which extended into January and February–the months when pilots are traditionally shot–left the networks with fewer projects to choose from. Some shows are going to have to go forward without any pilots at all. Some will be sold based on story outlines, sketchy clips and the track record of the creators. There are going to be more leaps of faith next season than ever.
Maybe that is why there is so much buzz about old concepts being recycled. And not just old concepts but cheap crap old concepts. There are plans to bring back everything from Match Game to Family Feud to Circus Of The Stars.
Just don’t expect a lot of new, quality, scripted entertainment. “This fall is going to be a do-over,” one industry veteran suggested to me yesterday. He expects many of the shows that stumbled out of the gate last September–like NBC’s Life (starring Damian Lewis, left) or ABC’s Dirty Sexy Money–to be relaunched like last fall never happened. Each network may only be able to ramp up two or three new shows each, and even those might not bow until November or even January, which could eventually become the new fall.
How is this going to play out in Canada? Traditionally, CTV and Global programming executives have flown down in late May with suitcases full of cash. They get locked into little screening rooms, schmooze with the studio heads and divide the spoils.
This year, there were be fewer screenings, more meetings with the likes of John Wells or whoever is selling the next West Wing or, gulp, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Canadian buyers are going to have to go with their gut, or–as CTV has done in the past–buy everything in sight and hope to have the scheduling flexibility to program the winners and shelve the losers (or bounce them over to their newly acquired specialty and regional channels).
The network to watch will be Global, which had virtually no answer to the strike and aside from a couple of aging reality shows, barely kept the lights on this winter. They desperately need the next House or 24 to try and claw back into the national ratings race with CTV. Trouble is, the TV game has never been more of a crap shoot.

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