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TV Networks Try To Sell Advertisers On Fall Lineups


This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene. And let's talk a little TV now. The broadcast networks are all gathered up in New York this week for what's known in the biz as the upfronts. This is when they tout their fall lineups to advertisers with star-studded presentations, trying to get their share of about $9 billion worth of advertising.

This is a good time to gauge how the networks are faring, and also a good time for viewers to ask that age-old question: What's on TV? And let's pose that question now to Kim Masters, who's covering the upfronts for the Hollywood Reporter.

Hey, Kim.


GREENE: You know, one question I have is about "American Idol." This is a show that, you know, is famous for bumping people off the stage. And I'm wondering if we're getting finally to the point where "American Idol's" going to get the bump.

MASTERS: Yeah, the Death Star is sort of starting to flicker now. The "American Idol" was such a dominant show, for so long. And it has aged, and it's showing signs of age. So I think some networks sense opportunity.

GREENE: OK. So that's one concern over at Fox. And, you know, these networks have been sort of in these standings for a while now. And NBC has sort of been at the bottom of the pack. Any sign of improvement there?

MASTERS: I think NBC had a really rough outing. They always present first, and they have so many holes to fill on their schedule that they have an incredibly long presentation. And you've got them in Radio City Music Hall packed with advertisers. And as we went to the end of the second hour, they were starting to get a little antsy.

The one real bright spot for them is "The Voice." And that is a show that they brought on with Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo and Blake Shelton and Adam Levine as the judges, and the revolving chairs, the spinning red chairs.

They're going to double down. They're going to try to do two of those now. They'll have to get new judges to make it work in the fall and the spring. And they'll see if they can, you know, get a hit to launch some other shows that might work. That's what you need. You need a hit to find another hit.

GREENE: So, really, hoping that the love of singing competition shows is still out there.

MASTERS: Yeah. I mean, Fox is certainly looking to replace "American Idol" with "X Factor." They started that last season. And, you know, Simon Cowell had said this was going to be this gigantic show. It fell far short.

One of the big deals here at the upfronts is he introduced new judges, including Britney Spears. She's been a very troubled star. You know, they always want a train-wreck judge. But I have to tell you, David, she did not look good. She sort of seemed to have trouble getting out on the stage at the Fox presentation. She muttered a couple of lines and disappeared.

And I think a lot of the other competition out here thought Fox may have some problems with this. And Simon Cowell may have some - bit off a little bit more than he can chew this time. Let's put it that way.

GREENE: OK. So, Fox, NBC, some things to worry about - CBS, a network that has really been on a tear recently. Is that going to continue?

MASTERS: Yes, I think it will. CBS is really strong. And when you're strong, you don't have that many holes on your schedule, and you also have hits that you can put new shows behind. And they have - you know, this "NCIS" is really successful for them. They're going to put a show called "Vegas" on behind that on Tuesday night, Dennis Quaid coming to television to play a sheriff in Las Vegas in the '60s. So CBS was, you know, they were pretty sleek.

GREENE: Kim, I hate to put you on the spot, but, I mean, if I only have an hour or two during the week, I mean, what's your advice? What should I be watching?

MASTERS: Well, there were some shows you could check out. ABC has a show called "Last Resort" with Andre Braugher, and it's from Shawn Ryan, who did "The Shield." It's about this nuclear submarine that goes rogue because they have to. And it looked pretty smart. Andre Braugher's very compelling. "Nashville," a big, soapy show with Connie Britton, from Callie Khouri, who wrote "Thelma and Louise."

NBC has, you know, the usual J.J. Abrams, post-apocalyptic show coming on. And they have a comedy from Ryan Murphy of "Glee": a gay couple with a woman moving in who is going to be their surrogate.

On Fox, you know, we have a new show from Mindy Kaling, who was on "The Office." It's called "The Mindy Project," and it's going to be a sitcom about a gynecologist with troubled relationships.

And CBS not only has that "Vegas" show I mentioned, but a show called "Elementary," a spin on Sherlock Holmes, except Lucy Liu is in the Watson role. Yeah.

GREENE: A lot to choose from.

MASTERS: A lot of competition. And I'll just say quickly, a lot of comedies going up against each other. The networks - NBC is going for four nights with different comedy blocks. It's going to be total gridlock for comedies on certain nights. And it will be maybe hard to choose, if you like sitcoms.

GREENE: All right. We'll get ready to laugh. Kim Masters hosts THE BUSINESS on member station KCRW.

Kim, thanks so much.

MASTERS: Thank you, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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