U.S. broadcasters’ unscripted upfronts: NBC and Fox

With America's big five broadcasters unveiling their upfront schedules this week, realscreen rounds up the essential unscripted and non-fiction news coming out of Los Angeles, starting with NBC and Fox.
May 16, 2011

With the majority of upfront news and reports coming out of LA focused on comedy and drama projects, what of the unscripted and non-fiction fare?

In the first part of this week-long report, realscreen focuses on the unscripted and non-fiction news, renewals and movements taking place at America’s flagship five broadcasters, starting with NBC and Fox.


The network’s big bet talent show The Voice (whose judges are pictured above) will return mid-season on Monday nights (8-10 p.m. EST), while the autumn will see NBC reality show The Sing-Off, which is now in a weekly format, airing on Mondays from 8-10 p.m. EST.

Competition series America’s Next Great Restaurant has been cancelled, as has makeover series School Pride. NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt said next season would be the start of “the rebuilding” of the NBC primetime schedule.

“We’ll be placing a great deal of emphasis on how we launch each one of our programs and on maximizing the network’s strengths throughout the fall and well into mid-season,” Greenblatt added.

“Considering it’s only been three months since new management took over, I’m very pleased with what has resulted from a very strong pilot season. And with a powerful new asset like The Voice already in hand, we go into the 2011-12 season with cautious but incredible optimism.”

The network highlighted two unscripted series in the works. The tentatively titled Brian Williams Newsmagazine will launch this fall with Williams – anchor and managing editor of newscast NBC Nightly News – spearheading what promises to be “an eye-opening” primetime newsmagazine.

According to the network, “the live broadcast will be built around the day’s biggest and most interesting events, meaningful and in-depth stories, and timely newsmaker interviews. In addition to the innovative primetime television program, there will be a groundbreaking, constantly evolving on-line edition of the magazine.”

Further details were also given for Fashion Star, which was unveiled last month and will be fronted by model Elle Macpherson. The series will offer 12 emerging designers the chance to compete for a top prize of a multi-million dollar contract to launch their line in the largest retail stores in the U.S.

The show’s exec producers are Ben Silverman (The Biggest Loser, The Office), Dan Cutforth & Jane Lipsitz (Top Chef, America’s Next Great Restaurant) and Rick Ringback (Treasure Hunters).

Finally, Greenblatt confirmed that reality series The Apprentice would return regardless of whether or not potential presidential candidate Donald Trump is involved.

“If [Donald Trump] decides to run for president and is unavailable to do the show, we will bring the show back and there will be somebody else sitting at the head of the boardroom table,” he told reporters in LA. “Who that is, we’re not even going to really entertain, because I’m still hoping we’ll have Donald back in the seat.”

UPDATE: Donald Trump has told reporters at the Upfront that he will not be running for president and will continue the show, citing the money Celebrity Apprentice has raised for charity as a factor in continuing the series.



American Idol

Fox is pushing strongly behind the U.S. launch of The X Factor, which will feature Simon Cowell and Cheryl Cole – former presenters of the UK version of the format – alongside Antonio ‘L.A.’ Reid and Paula Abdul. The show will award a US$5 million recording contract with Syco/Sony Music to its winner.

The series will play in the fall over Wednesday and Thursday nights, with the performance show running 8-9.30 p.m. EST on Wednesday nights, and the results show running 8-9 p.m. EST on Thursdays.

Meanwhile, American Idol (pictured above) returns for its 11th series, kicking off its midseason with a special premiere event January 22 (10-11 p.m. EST). “Going into next year, we’ve rejuvenated American Idol, built a core strength across the week and developed a really fresh, creative new lineup for next season,” said Kevin Reilly, Fox Broadcasting Company’s entertainment president.

“From razor-sharp comedies to epic dramas to a massive talent competition series, I think we have the goods to continue to be pop culture’s most vibrant platform, as well as the top network.”

Other Fox series returning in 2011-2012 include: America’s Most Wanted (quarterly specials), Cops (season 24), Hell’s Kitchen (season nine), Kitchen Nightmares (season four), MasterChef (season two), Mobbed (specials) and So You Think You Can Dance (season eight).

On the demotion of America’s Most Wanted to four, two-hour quarterly specials, Reilly told The Futon Critic that the show was “economically getting to the place where it was not really particularly viable” to continue, adding that he would “not be at all surprised” if its creators took it to another network.

Finally, Fox will also celebrate its 25th birthday with a special looking back at its last quarter-century. The Fox 25th Anniversary Special (working title) will air next year on Sunday, April 1, and promises to feature appearances from the network’s past and present stars.

ABC, CBS and The CW

ABC unveils its fall lineup tomorrow (Tuesday), with CBS following on Wednesday and The CW on Thursday.

So far ABC has confirmed that reality series Secret Millionaire and Shark Tank will be back for third seasons. It has also made a number of schedule moves – the summer premiere of 101 Ways to Leave a Game Show is moving to Tuesday, June 21 at 9 p.m. EST, while the series premiere of Expedition Impossible moves to Thursday, June 23, at 9 p.m. EST.

Game show Wipeout will air a special original episode June 21, with the season premiere airing June 23, both nights having an 8 p.m. EST slot. The premiere of ABC’s new reality series Take the Money and Run has also moved, to Tuesday, August 2 at 9 p.m. EST.

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news reporter at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joins the rs team with journalism experience following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.