Ben Silverman Does Good: The TV Addict Take on NBC’s New Schedule

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It looks like television critics — including this TV Addict — might just have to search for a new whipping boy.

After all, it’s kinda hard not to feel at least a little love for NBC co-chair Ben Silverman, seeing as many of the announcements he made during Tuesday afternoon’s upfronts might well have been lifted directly from the Wish Lists of every viewer who has lamented the death of quality television over the past few years.

Yes, there will be more reality. No, Howie Mandel and his bevy of case-carrying beauties haven’t been sent to Exile Island. (Whoops, wrong network.)

But there will also be more FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS.

And that right there’s gotta buy the guy a little good will, right?

Don’t worry. It’s not like Silverman didn’t make some major mistakes. (SHARK TAGGERS? Seriously? What was the pitch on this? “Now, every week can be Shark Week!”) But we’re going to focus on the positive. (At least for a few minutes… then we’ll dish the negatives.)

What were the highlights for me? So glad you asked! Here’s the top four:

Even as rumors circulated over the past few weeks, this TV Addict will admit to having been skeptical. Perhaps even cynical. But danged if Silverman didn’t score big points — a touchdown, one might even say — with every critic in the room by announcing that the Panthers will kick off their third season this October thanks to a landmark deal which will see the episodes airing on DirecTV several months before they actually appear on the network. And no, they won’t be streamed on Hulu or before making their network debut. (Which means it’s time to either sign-up for DirecTV or become best buds with someone who will tape those suckers for ya.)

2. THE OFFICE scores… big time!
Finally, a network that has the cajones not to waste the post-Super Bowl spot on established hits like SURVIVOR and (Lord help us) CRIMINAL MINDS and instead puts that time slot to the use God and the NFL intended by launching a new show! And not just any new show, but the much-anticipated (and, to be honest, in some corners dreaded) spin-off of THE OFFICE. Somewhere, Jim Halpert — who, along with his Scranton-based co-workers will offer up an episode leading into the show they’ve spawned — is giving the camera a sly, knowing grin.
3. Low-rated newbies get new LIFE
Unlike some of those other networks (FOX) whom we won’t embarrass here (FOX), NBC has learned a thing or two about nurturing shows that haven’t proven quite as successful as they may have liked right out of the gate. So unlike, say, FOX, who cut REUNION short and put the brakes on DRIVE, NBC has not only stood by FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, but also given second seasons to CHUCK, LIFE and LIPSTICK JUNGLE. Apparently, someone over at NBC has been reading the history books and remembers that people weren’t exactly bellying up to the bar in droves when CHEERS first hit the airwaves.

4. Fan favorites land new gigs
We like what we like. And we love who we love. So yeah, you bet we’re going to tune in to see BUFFY’s watcher, Anthony Head, work his magic in what could be a major family-friendly hit, MERLIN. Heck, even putting people we love behind the scenes — like re-teaming HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREET execs Tom Fontana and Barry Levinson for the off-beat sounding rich-guy-vigilante THE PHILANTHROPIST — will get our attention and give you a fighting shot of earning our affections. But giving Molly Shannon another shot at sitcom stardom with KATH & KIM? Yeah, that might even get me to give you a pass on having renewed CELEBRITY APPRENTICE.

Then again, maybe not.

But you know what, NBC? You made me so happy that in return, I am going to put off focusing attention on the fumbles which came out of the upfronts… at least until later this afternoon.

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  • Jenny

    I’m fairly happy with the schedule. Not happy about Medium, but at least it WILL be back again like it was this season. Nothing of mine didn’t get renewed (that wasn’t already cancelled like Las Vegas), except for My Dad is Better Than Your Dad and Amne$ia. And while I liked them (mainly because I enjoy watching with my son, who really likes them), there will always be other game/reality shows to enjoy. So… Good for NBC. I’m thrilled about Chuck, Life & Lipstick Jungle getting a 2nd season and am so thrilled for FNL fans. Now, don’t screw yourselves by downloading what will surely be ripped from DirecTV episodes and then NOT watching when it’s new on NBC!

  • Flutie

    I’m particularly excited for the return of “Life”….it never got the credit it deserved, and hopefully it has a better chance to establish itself. Charlie Crews and company will be back soon!

    And my main fix, “The Office”, bowing after the Super Bowl is definitely some of the most exciting news for the show….EVER!

  • Cheryl

    Woohoo! The Panthers are back! Daniel, you’ve made my day! :)

  • Sof

    I’m exited for the return of FNL!!!! I love Ben Silverman and everyone else involved for making this awesome deal!
    On a side note, I think Ben Silverman is becoming somewhat of a remake king: Ugly Betty, The Office, Bionic Woman, Knight Rider.

  • TALL

    FNL lights being renewed is enough positive karma to overlook NBC’s mistreatment of Scrubs (being cut and sent to ABC for a forced and unceremonious final season) and Knigth Rider (which will be next year’s Bionic Woman).

  • theTVaddict

    TALL, I’m going to slightly disagree with you. If NBC doesn’t care about SCRUBS, god riddance. Let ABC give it the final season it deserves.

    As for KNIGHT RIDER, yes the movie sucked, but who knows, they may have learned something, although I doubt it.

  • Matt P

    Flutie I am also glad that NBC renewed Life, but they put it on Friday nights which has shown not to be the best night for tv programming. So wonder if that is more of a hinderance and did not give it any favors with that slot.

  • Sheindie

    FNL on Fridays works for me:)
    Happy about Life and Chuck
    Heroes..Sept..Mondays @ 9pm —YAY
    ….and Medium will be back…
    not bad at all =)

  • Adam

    Knight Rider would be AWESOME if they drop the ford sponsorship!!!! I hate the new car… they should go get a new 2009 Firebird and really rock… not every other car on the road should be a Ford Edge (its like watching those american idol videos in the middle [soooo stupid and sooo doesnt make me ever want that car!!!])

    I’m sorry to hear Friday Night Lights will air 5 months after it aired on DirecTV maybe a week later would stop people from downloading it… but seriously 5 months later – NBC will loose alot of young viewers to the internet downloads… (although i love the idea that it starts to air after the superbowl [it should take monday night footballs spot :) ])

  • shanna

    I’m happy about FNL. I have DirecTv (yay!). I’ll reserve my happiness for Heroes until it comes back. If the third season starts like the second I might not be as forgiving.

    I wish I could get more Las Vegas because I did want to see Danny and Delinda’s baby. But c’est la vie. That show always makes me laugh and there’s not a lot of Friday night fare (I don’t usually go out Fridays cause I have work Sat morning).

  • Aces Birdies

    Silverman is about to go down in TV history as making the dumbest mistake ever. Forcing Jay Leno out to be replaced with Conan, the Dufus. How did anyone this stupid get to the top???? Well when Leno leaves, I will not be watching The Tonight Show any longer. Maybe NBC needs to consider spending major bucks to get Silverman a brain transplant.