If you've been following my press tour colleagues online, you know by now that NBC has said Jay Leno is done in prime time as of Feb. 12, and the network is still deal-making on how its post-Olympics lineup will look. (In other words, what does it have to do to appease Jay and Conan?) Looks as if the net is going back to a much more traditional approach, not only by appeasing affiliates with the Leno adjustment, but getting back to a standard "upfront" presentation to advertisers instead of its cutesy "infront" system in recent seasons. I know, that's very inside baseball, but it does set a tone and NBC went out of its way to announce it on press tour.
NBC also made some other announcements, which I have posted after the jump. Among them: Jim and Pam will have their "Office" baby in March 4 & 11 episodes. And the date has been set for "The Marriage Ref."
“The Marriage Ref,” NBC’s new comedy panel series about the unpredictable and hilarious institution commonly known as marriage, will air a special sneak preview on Sunday, February 28 (10:30-11 p.m. ET) following NBC’s coverage of the Closing Ceremony of the Winter Olympics.
Additionally, comedian/actor Tom Papa has been personally selected by executive producer Jerry Seinfeld to host and serve as the “marriage ref.”
The show will then premiere in its regular slot on Sundays (8-9 p.m. ET) beginning March 14.
The announcements were made today by Jeff Gaspin, Chairman, NBC Universal Television Entertainment.
"Utilizing the Winter Olympics as a platform for introducing this show provides an extraordinary opportunity," said Gaspin. "We've wanted to be in business with Tom Papa for some time and we think this is the perfect vehicle to bring him on board."
Added Seinfeld: “Tom brings so much to the table that he is just the perfect fit to be the “marriage ref.” In fact, having toured with him for over eight years, he was really the only person I considered when I was formulating the show. My feeling is that when you take a subject matter as rich and universal as marital disputes, and throw Tom Papa into the mix, the end result is bound to be refreshing and hilarious. Viewers are going to love him.”
A seasoned comedian, Papa has starred in two standup specials on Comedy Central, with his next one to be directed by Steven Soderbergh. A familiar face to late-night television audiences, he has amassed more than 10 appearances on the NBC’s “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and was a frequent guest on NBC’s “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” and “Late Show with David Letterman.”
As an actor, Papa starred opposite Matt Damon in the Soderbergh film “The Informant,” and opposite Paul Giamatti in the animated feature, “The Haunted World of El Super Beasto,” as the voice of the title character. He had a voiceover role on the DreamWorks animated feature “Bee Movie” and also served as a writer on the project. Among his other big-screen credits are the films “Analyze That” opposite Robert DeNiro, and “Comedian.”
On television Papa also had a recurring role on “The New Adventures of Old Christine.” Papa opened his one-man show “Only Human” to rave reviews at the prestigious ‘Just for Laughs Festival’ in Montreal, and he continues to tour with Seinfeld.
In “The Marriage Ref,” married life takes center stage as disputes between real-life couples are revealed, examined -- and ultimately judged on who is right and who is wrong. For the first time, these couples will get something they’ve always wanted and never had, an undisputed winner ending their ongoing rift once and for all. These marital tiffs will run the gamut of disagreements -- quirky, funny, revealing, relatable, classic -- all in the signature Seinfeld tone.
“My goal is to bring the simplicity of sports and apply it to the overly complicated situations that we all face in marriage. A call is made, a decision is rendered, everyone moves on,” said Seinfeld. “This is not a therapy show; it is a comedy show and after 10 years of marriage, I have discovered the comedic potential of this subject is quite rich.”
Papa will be at the center of the action and ultimately will make “the call.” He alone will have the final say in determining the victor of each spat. He will decide right in the spot, who is right and who is wrong - just like a referee. Advising and influencing Papa’s decision will be a rotating panel of “experts” comprised of opinionated top celebrities, comedians and sports stars who will weigh in and offer their own wit, wisdom and unique opinions.
"The Marriage Ref" is produced by Seinfeld's Columbus 81 Productions and Ellen Rakieten Entertainment. Seinfeld, Ellen Rakieten ("The Oprah Winfrey Show"), Shed Media’s Nick Emmerson ("Supernanny”) and Jennifer O'Connell ("Supernanny"), Al Berman (“The Biggest Loser Live Finale,” “The Celebrity Apprentice Live Finale”), Howard West (“Seinfeld”) and George Shapiro (“Seinfeld”) serve as executive producers. Beth McCarthy-Miller (“Saturday Night Live,” “30 Rock”) is the director. International distribution is by Endemol<./em>
NBC unveiled some of its early development projects that have been green-lit for 2010-11, including a large slate of dramas such as “Prime Suspect” (from Hank Steinberg, “Without A Trace”), an updated version of the classic “The Rockford Files” (from David Shore, “House”), “Undercovers” (from J.J. Abrams, “Lost”), “Chase” (from Jerry Bruckheimer, the “CSI” franchise), “Kindreds” (from David E. Kelley, “Boston Legal”) and “The Event”; Comedies include the untitled Adam Corolla project.
The announcements were made today by Angela Bromstad, President, Primetime Entertainment, NBC and Universal Media Studios.
• On the drama side, “Prime Suspect” is based on the award-winning BBC series centering on a courageous female detective who investigates complex mysteries in a politically explosive big city. Casting will be announced later. The pilot is produced by Universal Media Studios and ITV. Hank Steinberg (“Without a Trace”) and Erwin Stoff (“The Blind Side”) are the executive producers.
• In “The Rockford Files,” the successful NBC drama from the 1970s is re-imagined by executive producers David Shore (“House”) and Steve Carell (NBC’s “The Office”). The title character, Jim Rockford, remains a roguish private eye who tackles the dangerous, quirky and unpredictable cases that no other detective wants to handle. The pilot is from Universal Media Studios and Carousel Productions.
• “The Event” is a thriller with a unique storytelling device that features multiple points of view concerning a decent, regular fellow who battles against mysterious circumstances that envelope a larger conspiracy. Universal Media Studios produces the pilot that includes Steve Stark (“Medium”) as the executive producer; Nick Wauters (“The 4400”) is the co-executive producer/writer. Casting will be announced later.
• In “Undercovers,” a domesticated husband and wife return from years in retirement and are re-activated as CIA agents. As they work together for the first time on new cases, they discover new aspects from their past - even as they re-ignite their passion for each other. J.J. Abrams (“Lost,” the 2009 feature film “Star Trek”), Bryan Burk (“Lost,” “Star Trek”) and Josh Reims (“Dirty Sexy Money”) are the executive producers; Abrams and Reims are the writers. The pilot is produced by Warner Bros. Television and Bad Robot Productions.
• “Chase” is a new action-procedural drama from Emmy Award-winning executive producer Jerry Bruckheimer (the “CSI” franchise, “The Amazing Race,” “The Pirates of the Caribbean” feature films). “Chase,” based on a real-life group and set in the American Southwest, follows a crucial fugitive apprehension team comprised of U.S. Marshals that tracks down the nation’s most notorious criminals. Tension builds as the cat-and-mouse game of the ultimate search escalates in each episode. The series is from Warner Bros. Television and Jerry Bruckheimer Television. Joining Bruckheimer as executive producers are Jennifer Johnson (“Cold Case”) and Jonathan Littman (“CSI,” “Cold Case”).
• “Kindreds,” created by Emmy Award winner David E. Kelley (“Boston Legal,” “The Practice,” “L.A. Law”), follows a curmudgeonly ex-patent lawyer and his group of misfit associates as their lives come together to form an unconventional kind of law practice. The series is from Warner Bros. Television and David E. Kelley Productions. Kelley is the writer and executive producer.
• “Love Bites” is an hour-long romantic comedy produced by Universal Media Studios and Working Title Films. Writer Cindy Chupack (“Sex in the City,” “Everybody Loves Raymond”), Timothy Bevan & Eric Fellner (both for “Love Actually,” “Bridget Jones’ Diary”) and Shelley McCrory are the executive producers. Casting and producer credits will be announced later.
• Among the comedies is the Adam Carolla comedy project that features the humorous radio and TV personality Carolla (“The Man Show,” “The Hammer”) as a contractor who sets out to re-build his life following a divorce. The pilot is produced by Universal Media Studios and BermanBraun. The executive producers are Carolla, Kevin Hench (The Hammer”), Jon Pollack (NBC’s “30 Rock”), Jimmy Kimmel (“The Jimmy Kimmel Show”), Gail Berman (NBC’s “Mercy”), Lloyd Braun (NBC’s “Mercy”), Daniel Kellison (“The Jimmy Kimmel Show,” “The Man Show”) and James Dixon (“Ace in the Hole”).
Announcement 3, guest stars on shows:
NBC will showcase an impressive gallery of marquee guest stars in its series in January-February with Kathy Bates in “The Office,” Jack Black in “Community,” Debra Winger in “Law & Order,” Elizabeth Banks, James Franco, and the return of Jon Hamm in “30 Rock,” Sharon Stone and Mischa Barton in “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” James Van Der Beek and Michael Imperioli in “Mercy,” Jason Ritter in “Parenthood” and Katharine McPhee in “Community”
In addition, Pam and Jim experience the birth of their baby in a special two-part episode of “The Office” on Thursday, March 4 and Thursday, March 11 (9-9:30 p.m. ET both nights).
The announcements were made by Angela Bromstad, President, Primetime Entertainment, NBC and Universal Media Studios.
A summary of the guest stars and their roles includes:
• In “The Office,” Oscar and Golden Globe Award winner Bates (“Misery,” “The Late Shift”) portrays the CEO of Sabre, the mysterious company that buys Dunder Mifflin. The charismatic and iconoclastic CEO is the most exciting guest the Scranton branch has ever seen - and a Southern charmer who has always done things her way. Bates will appear in a multi-episode arc beginning on Thursday, February 4.
• The popular Black (“King Kong,” “Nacho Libre”) plays a young man in “Community” who is eager to join the study group when it re-convenes after winter break -- and must convince the members that he is worthy of admittance -- on Thursday, January 14.
• Winger (“Terms of Endearment”) makes a rare television appearance in “Law & Order” as a high school principal on Friday, January 29.
• In “30 Rock,” Banks is a CNBC reporter who starts dating Jack Donaghy (Emmy and Golden Globe winner Alec Baldwin) beginning Thursday, February 11.
• Likewise in “30 Rock,” Golden Globe winner Hamm (“Mad Men”) returns as the doctor who arouses Liz’s (Tina Fey) romantic interest on Thursday, February 11.
• Also, “30 Rock” welcomes James Franco (“Spiderman”) who portrays himself on January 14.
• The Oscar-nominated and Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning Stone appears in a four-episode arc on “Law “& Order: SVU” as a former cop-turned prosecutor.
• James Van Der Beek (“Dawson’s Creek”) will appear on “Mercy” over an eight-episode arc as Dr. Liam West, the new head of Mercy Hospital’s intensive care unit who clashes with Nurse Veronica Callahan (Taylor Schilling) beginning Wednesday, January 27.
• Mischa Barton (“The O.C.”) will play a pregnant prostitute who turns to Detective Benson (Mariska Hargitay) for help in a life-or-death decision (date TBA) in “Law & Order: SVU.”
• Michael Imperioli (“The Sopranos”) guest-stars as a defiant hand transplant patient who wants his donor hand amputated after discovering it once belonged to a pedophile in “Mercy” on January 13.
• Jason Ritter (“Joan of Arcadia”) guest-stars in “Parenthood” in a multi-episode arc as a cute English teacher who inspires Amber (Mae Whitman) to focus on her studies.
• Katharine McPhee (“American Idol” finalist) will play Chevy Chase’s step-daughter and potential love interest for Jeff (Joel McHale) in the first post-Olympics episode.
The upfront thing:
NBC has named Monday, May 17 as the date of its 2010 Upfront presentation in New York City, it was announced today by Jeff Gaspin, Chairman, NBC Universal Television Entertainment.
The annual event is designed to introduce the advertising, sales and media communities to NBC’s new programming and scheduling. The site of NBC’s Upfront will be announced later.
As a result, NBC will not conduct its “Infront” presentation that the network introduced in 2008 and continued in 2009.