Does NBC really have an Office spinoff?

Inside the big picture show.
May 12 2008 12:25 PM

Does NBC Really Have an Office Spinoff?

Also: Gaming out the Conan, Fallon, Leno, and Kimmel late-night musical chairs.

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Ben Silverman. Click image to expand.
Ben Silverman

In front or upfront?: This evening, NBC's "experience" will be taking the place of the usual upfront presentation. Recall that the network said it would forgo all of that this year, opting for the "in-front" session several weeks ago. So instead of filling Radio City Music Hall with advertisers and the press, as usual, the network will instead have reporters walk through some sort of display that will expose us to the many facets of NBC—including its mighty cable properties and the Internet stuff that CEO Jeff Zucker bored us with in upfronts past.

This is a weird year for the upfronts. The writers' strike converged with ongoing digital-revolution-related problems plaguing the industry to throw everything out of kilter. The networks have said they wanted to cut back on the hoopla, anyway, though some think that's not such a great idea. If you're going to brag about being the greatest aggregator of eyeballs, this thinking goes, you gotta keep the show in show business. But it's not going to happen so much this year. Only Fox is going for the full-on upfront presentation. The others are austere—no Tavern on the Green party for CBS, no rousing Dancing With the Stars turn at Lincoln Center from ABC entertainment president Steve McPherson. (That was two years ago now, but that was a show. We've never looked at McPherson quite the same way.)

Shari Anne Brill, who analyzes programming for advertisers, says she's concerned that this year's upfront won't provide her with the usual dose of clips from upcoming shows. That's partly due to the strike, though in some cases NBC is boasting of going straight to greenlighting shows without a pilot. Brill thinks that idea is rubbish, by the way. "If you don't have a pilot, that's going to hurt your success rate," she warns. "Pilots allow you to make adjustments."

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Brill seems piqued with NBC generally. She wanted to take a look at Kath and Kim, an upcoming remake of an Australian sitcom. (Like so much of NBC programming—The Office, the planned Office spinoff, American Gladiator, The BiggestLoser—the show comes from Reveille, NBC Entertainment co-chairman Ben Silverman's former company. Happily for him, the fact that he gets paid for getting his own shows on his network doesn't bother parent company GE.)

Brill, concerned that she won't get to see clips from NBC's version of Kath and Kim, got hold of an episode of the Australian original. "That thing makes Married With Children look like The Brady Bunch," she says. (To be clear, that is not a good thing in her mind, though Married With Children had quite a run and it may be a great thing in Silverman's mind.) All in all, Brill seems unimpressed with Silverman's progress to date. "Everything that he's done has been an acquisition," she says. And she says talk of an Office spinoff has gone on for so long that she's beginning to doubt that the project will jell. "He doesn't have an Office spinoff," she says tartly. "He has spin."

Well, we'll see, won't we?

NBC is also poised to announce today that Jimmy Fallon will replace Conan O'Brien when the latter takes over Jay Leno on TheTonight Show next year. In time, that ought to set off an interesting round of musical chairs. Leno won't be able to make a new deal for six months, per his NBC contract, but he isn't likely to take a break longer than he has to. He will be coveted by both ABC and Fox. New York Times reporter Bill Carter, who wrote The Late Shift (the book about the last changing of the late-night guard in the early '90s, when Johnny Carson retired), thinks Leno will go for ABC, which would give him an 11:30 p.m. time slot (Fox's news lead-in ends at 11 p.m.). That would allow Leno to go head-to-head with O'Brien and David Letterman and prove that he's the real king of late night.

Carter doesn't think ABC would hesitate to kill off Nightline to make room for Leno. In that scenario, Jimmy Kimmel's show would be pushed back 30 minutes, which might not sit well with him. So maybe Fox could chase him to fill its late-night void. With all that Leno's seemingly premature forced retirement sets in motion, the drama around late night might be more compelling than anything on the networks' fall schedule. (link)

May 8, 2008

Steven Spielberg. Click image to expand.
Steven Spielberg 

Don't dream it's over: Steven Spielberg finally allowed the folks at Paramount to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull on Tuesday afternoon, less than two weeks before the film's premiere at Cannes on May 18. That's nice, considering that Paramount sunk a few pfennigs into this little romp. We're told that no one at the studio had been permitted to see it before, and we have no word on how it played.