CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- The Television Critics Association is set to conclude its summer press tour this week in which the various broadcast and cable networks talk about their upcoming plans to the nation's top critics and entertainment reporters. The final week of the tour rounds out the rest of the broadcast networks as NBC held the last of its two sessions on Friday for the press.
Here's a breakdown of the highlights of NBC's presentation:
-- The Peacock outlined its fall 2003 start dates, leaving ABC and the WB as the only networks left to issue a rollout plan. All but "Scrubs," "Good Morning, Miami" and "Las Vegas" will debut during "premiere week" (the first official week of the 2003-04 season as described by Nielsen Media Research) which runs September 22-28:
Monday, September 22
8:00/7:00c - "Fear Factor" (Two-Hours)
10:00/9:00c - "Third Watch"
Tuesday, September 23
8:00/7:00c - "Whoopi"
8:30/7:30c - "Happy Family"
9:00/8:00c - "Frasier" (One-Hour)
10:00/9:00c - "Law & Order: S.V.U."
Wednesday, September 24
8:00/7:00c - "Ed"
9:00/8:00c - "The West Wing"
10:00/9:00c - "Law & Order"
Thursday, September 25
8:00/7:00c - "Friends" (45 minutes)
8:45/7:45c - "Will & Grace" (45 minutes)
9:30/8:30c - "Coupling"
10:00/9:00c - "ER"
Friday, September 26
8:00/7:00c - "Miss Match"
9:00/8:00c - "Dateline NBC"
10:00/9:00c - "Boomtown"
Saturday, September 27
8:00/7:00c - "NBC Saturday Night Movie"
Sunday, September 28
7:00/6:00c - "Dateline NBC"
8:00/7:00c - "American Dreams"
9:00/8:00c - "Law & Order: C.I."
10:00/9:00c - "The Lyon's Den"
Monday, September 29
9:00/8:00c - "Las Vegas"
Tuesday, September 30
9:30/8:30c - "Good Morning, Miami"
Thursday, October 2
8:30/7:30c - "Scrubs"
-- To pad its limited run of "Friends" this season (only 18 episodes will be produced), NBC will allow viewers to vote for their six favorite episodes of all time as a countown to the series' send off. The "best of" run is expected to air during the usual repeat heavy months of March and April.
-- NBC topper Jeff Zucker defended the network's summer strategy, saying "We cannot tolerate lowly rated repeats; we just can't." Adding, "This [summer slate] clearly is best for us. It's worked." Overall Zucker said the network has pocketed an additional $30-$40 million they wouldn't have if they stuck to repeats despite not producing any hits along the lines of "American Idol" or "Survivor" this summer. He insists this will be the strategy for next summer as well.
-- Speaking of its summer schedule, NBC held a panel concerning its upcoming dating series "Average Joe." While no premiere date has been announced, it's likely the last of the network's new entries this summer (aside from next week's "Race to the Altar"). That would leave "American Princess" and "Perfect Partners" as holdovers for next summer, the later of which has been in the can for over a year. The network has also yet to address its limboed sitcom "The Jake Effect." While all parties involved with the series have moved on, seven episodes nevertheless remain completed.
-- Zucker also admitted that despite promises otherwise, some trims are in store for its "raunchy" comedy "Coupling." Producers plan to modify a few lines of dialogue that come early on in the pilot episode that discuss "swallow(ing)" in a sexually charged manner. Zucker insisted however it wasn't due to advertiser or corporate pressure.
-- Production is set to being shortly on NBC's "Saving Private Lynch" telefilm for a November sweeps air date. Since the network could not secure the rights to Jessica Lynch's story, the movie will now largely be told from the perspective of the Iraqi lawyer who alerted U.S. military officials to her whereabouts. NBC has an arrangement with the lawyer, who remains unidentified.
-- Zucker conceded that going into this season, NBC definitely needs to fix Tuesday nights which have been a growing sore spot for the network as of late. He also took the fall for the failure of "Kingpin" this past season, admitting it was "a stupid job and a bad job" to run the show it its "twice a week for three weeks" format.
-- Conan O'Brien will celebrate his 10th year as host of "Late Night" with a 90-minute special on Sunday, September 14 at 9:30/8:30c. The special will be shot in New York City's famed Beacon Theater and feature many of the sketches and recurring characters from the show's run, including "If They Mated," "In the Year 2000," Conan's "Clutch Cargo" and a visit from "Triumph the Insult Comic Dog." Former sidekick Andy Richter is also expected to make an appearance.
-- In addition to airing in widescreen this fall, "Third Watch" will add a new roster of writers including Carol Flint, Alexa Junge, Peter Noah, Lawrence O'Donnell, Paul Redford, Josh Singer, Eli Attie, Deborah Cahn and Mark Goffman.
-- Coming off the relative success of its "Behind the Camera" telefilm concerning "Three's Company," NBC is planning a second installment of the series this time focusing on "Charlie's Angels."
-- Lastly, a few more details have emerged about the upcoming "Friends" spin-off "Joey." The network has guaranteed a 13-episode order for the project as well as a 22-episode payday of $400,000-$500,000 per episode for star Matt LeBlanc regardless if the series makes it for a full season or not. While a pay cut from LeBlanc's current $1 million per episode salary for "Friends," it still makes him one of the highest paid actors on television.
NBC will also pay a premium license fee to Warner Bros. Television for the series however it will still be produced at a production deficit by the studio like most freshman series. The license fee however will increase each year based on ratings performance. The network also clarified "Joey" will definitely get a Thursday slot however whether it is the lead-off 8:00/7:00c spot remains to be seen. As for plot specifics, the producers remained mum about details however it's widely believed to involve LeBlanc's character moving to L.A. to pursue his acting career. They also mentioned that while they'd love to have guest spots from the remaining "Friends" cast members it seems unlikely early on as the series will try to establish its own identity first.