The annual TV ”up front” week is here, when broadcast networks unveil their fall schedules and end the suspense about the fate of as many as 30 current shows in production limbo and 120 commissioned pilots. Only some of the current shows that are ”on the bubble” (as network folk say) and about a quarter of the pilots will be picked up for the fall, leading to a season that, judging by early news of the NBC, ABC, and WB schedules, will aim to make primetime safe for family viewing again.
At this week’s upfront presentations in New York City, the networks will lure sponsors — and sell 75 to 80 percent of next season’s ad minutes — with slates that are familiar, comforting, and (in the early evening, at least), relatively safe for kids. ”There’s a wave this season of family-friendly programming,” says Entertainment Weekly critic Ken Tucker. ”These shows set the tone for the fall TV season.”
NBC, which announced its schedule Monday at Radio City Music Hall, is making few changes, adding only five new shows this fall (and maybe three more in midseason). Two of the new shows are family-oriented sitcoms: ”Hidden Hills,” starring Paula Marshall (”Cupid,” ”Snoops”) as a suburban wife, and ”In-Laws,” a Kelsey Grammer-produced show about young marrieds who move in with their parents, starring ”Designing Women”’s Jean Smart and ”Get Shorty”’s Dennis Farina. New dramas include ”Boomtown,” a Los Angeles cop show with Donnie Wahlberg and Jason Gedrick (”Murder One”), and ”American Dreams,” a nostalgic drama about an early 1960s family, interwoven with period music clips from ”American Bandstand.” Finally, there’s ”Good Morning, Miami,” a comedy from ”Will & Grace” creators Max Mutchnick and David Kohan, about a young producer trying to turn around a struggling morning TV news show, said to be inspired by youthful ”Today” producer-turned-NBC Entertainment president Jeff Zucker.