NBC this fall: More comedies, more "Voice"

Next season, NBC will have twice as
much of what's working (“The Voice”) … and more then twice as
much of what's not working (comedies).

“The Voice” will have two editions,
instead of one, and will be on two nights (Mondays and Tuesdays)
throughout the season. That dumps one reality show (“The Sing-Off”)
and keeps another (“The Biggest Loser”) off at last temporarily..

And situation comedies? The network has
stumbled there; in a recent week, its four sitcoms finished Nos. 68,
88, 89 and 94 in the Nielsen ratings. Still, NBC is splurging in the
fall, with 10 of them.

“The advertising community loves
them,” Ted Harbert, head of NBC Broadcasting, said today (Monday).

That's because comedies tend to draw
audiences that are young and fairly upscale. By comparison, “Harry's
Law” (which finished No.31 in that same week) was canceled. “It
skewed very old,” said Robert Greenblatt, president of NBC

At times, the sitcoms have had to
alternate in four Thursday spots. Now “Whitney” and “Community”
move to Fridays and others stay on Thursdays. Four new ones debut on
Tuesdays and Wednesdays; one (“Go On”) has Matthew Perry, from
the days when “Friends” and other comedies ruled.

Many of these may be fairly broad,
Greenblatt granted. “I think 'broad' is synonymous with 'ratings.'”

But what of the hopes for new quality?
Greenblatt moved to NBC from Showtime, with hopes of bringing cable
quality to NBC.

He is putting some shows in 10 p.m.
slots that could draw critics' approval – “Revolution” (from
“Lost” producer J.J. Abrams) on Mondays, “Parenthood”
returning to Tuesdays, the “Rock Center” news show moving to
Thursdays – but this season's most promising shows had mixed fates:

– “Smash” has done fairly well.
It will be back with 16 to 18 episodes at midseason, Greenblatt said,
with a new producer (Josh Safran of “Gossip Girl”) to focus on
the plotting.

– “Awake” plummeted. “It was a
very complicated, dual-reality show,” Greenblatt said.

– “Prime Suspect” died gradually,
despite a big push. “I would have assumed 'Prime Suspect' would
have worked better for us,” he said.

That's part of NBC's ongoing troubles
with “franchise” shows involving cops and doctors and such.
Coming up, it will add Chicago firemen on Wednesdays in the fall and
doctors on Sundays, after football season. Here's the line-up:

– Mondays: The Voice, 8-10 p.m.;
“Revolution,” 10 p.m.

– Tuesdays: “Voice,” 8 p.m.; “Go
On,” 9; “The New Normal,” 9:30; “Parenthood,” 10.

– Wednesdays: “Animal Practice,”
8 p.m.; “Guys With Kids,” 8:30; “Law & Order: Special
Victims Unit,” 9; “Chicago Fire,” 10.

– Thursdays: “30 Rock,” 8 p.m.;
“Up All Night,” 8:30; “The Office,” 9; “Parks and
Recreation,” 9:30; “Rock Center,” 10.

– Fridays: “Whitney,” 8 p.m.;
“Community,” 8:30; “Grimm,” 9; “Dateline,” 10.

– Saturdays: Reruns.

– Sundays: Football. When the season
ends, it will have “Dateline” at 7, “Fashion Star” at 8,
“Celebrity Apprentice” (trimmed to an hour) at 9 and “Do No
Harm” at 10.

"Idol" finalists: Swinging kids in a grown-up world

Amid the multi-million-dollar glare of
“American Idol,” it's easy to forget the basics: These are kids –
teens, often – in a grown-up business.

Listen to Hollie Cavanagh – who made
the final four before being eliminated Thursday – talk about
Wednesday, when she and Jessica Sanchez were singing while on swings:
“We had fun with those swings during rehearsals,” she said. “We
were trying to swing higher.”

For a moment, these two – Cavanagh is
18; Sanchez, still in high school, is16 – were just kids at play.
The same may sometimes be true of Joshua Ledet, 20, and Phillip
Phillips, 21. :”For some reason,” Cavanagh said, “Joshua was
trying to buy a bunny to put in Phillip's room.”

These young people are often asked to
do old songs. “The hardest was Billy Joel week …. I ended up with
'Honesty' and I'd never really heard it,” Cavanagh said.

Born 15 years after “Honesty” hit
the charts, Cavanagh has modern pop tastes. She grew up in Liverpool,
before moving with her family at 9 to McKinney, Texas, with its
bigger horizons. “In England, you do the same things every day.
Here, there are so many things to do.”

She auditioned on last season's “Idol,”
got to Hollywood and got lots of air time, before failing to make the
next cut. She tried “The X-Factor,” but was told that her “Idol”
agreements precluded that. In her second “Idol” try, this season,
she kept advancing – but rarely seemed to be on-camera.

“My friends were like, 'Are you sure
you tried out this year? Are you sure you were on the show?'”
Cavanagh said.

Later, she kept having close calls. In
six of her final seven weeks, Cavanagh was in the bottom three.

Last week, she was alongside her teen
friend Skylar Laine, convinced it was the end. “Skylar had killed
it every week.”

Laine was ousted; Cavanagh survived.
This week, judges loved her first performance, but criticized her
choice of “I Can't Make You Love Me,” a soulful Bonnie Raitt
tune. (“I love the song and I think the lyrics are so beautiful,”
Cavanagh said.)

So she went into Thursday's results
show, expecting to be going home. “It was just my gut telling me,”
she said. “I was just preparing myself.”

This time, she was right. For a moment
or two – until the “Idol” tour – she can revert to simply
being a Texas teen who likes swings and current pop songs.

"Idol" re-defines the California sound

This may be the broadest definition ever offered for music's "California sound." Tonight's "American Idol" even included a song performed by Josh Groban.

Hey, it doesn't work that way. Cole Porter grew up on an Indiana farm, but that doesn't mean he wrote country music. Classical pianist Ruth Laredo grew up in Detroit, but that doesn's mean she had the Motown Sound. And Groban grew up in Los Angeles, but that doesn't make his powerhouse, classical-tinged music any relation to the Beach Boys and The Eagles.

Maybe I shouldn't gripe: Joshua Ledet promptly converted Groban's "You Raise Me Up" into spiritual powerouse.

In the second half of the show (without the California theme), Ledet gave an awesome performance of "It's a Man's World," one of the great moments in the 11 years of "Idol." It was the only thing that could have overshadowed the Jessica Sanchez performance that followed.

That combination seems to doom Hollie Cavanagh, who had one great song and another merely OK one. I think Phillip Phillips will be alongside her in the bottom two, but only because someone has to. She'll be sent home; so will the others -- but only for the welcome-home weekend that goes to the final three. 


On "Voice," "Idol" ... and, of course, Justin Bieber

Three quick music comments:

1) It was great to see Jermaine Paul named tonight as this year's "The Voice" champion. The former Alicia Keys back-up singer has immense talent.

2) Let's hope Joshua Ledet can win this year's "American Idol." Like Paul, he has a stunning voice, rippling with bits of gospel and soul.

3) Now for what is my all-time favorite music comment. This is one I overheard this week; I present it here with no editing (there was no further elaboration) and no commentary. The speaker, who had just turned 5, was talking to his sister Kasia, who is almost 8. He said: "Kasia, isn't it amazing that Justin Bieber is a real person?" 

Skylar's gone; life is fair

Several things:

1) OK, I didn't actually see tonight's "American Idol" results show. I was watching a swimming lesson.

2) It was, however, a fine lesson. Near the end, everyone sang "Happy Birthday" to Lon.

3) Lon was very pleased with this. He had only had four previous birthdays and during one of them (the first), he slept through half of the party.

4) Lon was NOT named after horror-film star Lon Chaney. Any implication that he was only reflects immaturity on my part.

5) I was, however, satisfied to hear that Skylar Laine was ousted tonight. I have nothing against her, but she doesn't match a field that includes the awesome Joshua Ledet and Jessica Sanchez. Volume is a worthy skill for a singer, but for Skylar it seems to be her only weapon. Cute and powerful, she compares to Diana DeGarmo, the long-ago runner-up; now, however, the competition is much better.

6) No, I'm not happy to hear Hollie Cavanagh was with her in the bottom two. She had a great night Wednesday, but was plunked into the bottom yet again.

7) Lon's birthday is being spread into a multi-day spectacle. When you're 5, such things are important.