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TV Bulletin Board (Thurs., March 20) -- NBC renewals a boon for network's still potent big bad Wolf

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Chicago Fire and spinoff Chicago P.D. get new seasons. NBC photos

By ED BARK
@unclebarkycom on Twitter
One of his long-running drama franchises has wound down to the still surviving Law & Order: SVU. But producer Dick Wolf is now happily immersed in another one.

NBC has renewed both of Wolf’s latter-day creations, Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D., while still holding back on an expected go-ahead for Wolf’s SVU, currently in its 15th season.

The Peacock’s package of official returnees for next season also includes Grimm, Parks and Recreation, The Blacklist, Celebrity Apprentice and The Voice. On the sports front, Sunday Night Football of course is a lock. That still leaves a number of series awaiting their fates, including Community, Hannibal, About a Boy, Growing Up Fisher, Parenthood and Revolution.

NBC still ranks No. 1 this season among advertiser-prized 18-to-49-year-olds. It’s been 10 years since the network has been ahead this late in the season among viewers who comprise TV’s most sought-after demographic.

NBC also continues to roll in late night, particularly with Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show. For the week of March 10-14, Fallon crunched runner-up Jimmy Kimmel in total viewers by a score of 4.260 million to 2.830 million in the national Nielsens, with CBS David Letterman at 2.778 million.

Among 18-to-49-year-olds, Fallon led with 1.676 million, with Kimmel (965,000) and Letterman (699,000) both far behind.

Seth Meyers’ NBC Late Night also beat CBS’ Craig Ferguson in both ratings measurements.

It’s still been just a month since Fallon took over from Jay Leno. But so he’s been an unqualified success story, exceeding NBC’s expectations.

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

TV Bulletin Board (Wed., March 19) -- Fonda, Tomlin re-team in Netflix sitcom from Friends creator

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The 9 to 5 crew: Tomlin, Parton and Fonda circa 1980.

By ED BARK
@unclebarkycom on Twitter
Audience demographics be damned -- especially if you’re Netflix and you don’t release audience figures anyway.

The “world’s leading Internet television network” announced Wednesday that it’s teaming golden agers Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin in Grace and Frankie, a sitcom set to premiere next year.

The head executive producer is Marta Kauffman, who created Friends and hasn’t done a whole lot else since that hit series left NBC in 2004. A Netflix publicity release describes Grace and Frankie as “warm, very funny and anything but wholesome.”

Fonda, 76, and Tomlin, 74, play wives whose husbands “announce they are in love with each other and plan to get married.” Uh-oh, Grace (Fonda) and Frankie (Tomlin) “find their lives both turned upside down and to their dismay, permanently intertwined. Eventually, to their surprise, they find they have each other.”

The premise isn’t entirely unlike TV Land’s Happily Divorced, whose star, Fran Drescher, learned that her husband is gay. Drawn from her real-life experiences with ex-hubby Peter Marc Jacobson, the comedy ran for two seasons before being canceled in August of last year.

Tomlin recently played Reba McEntire’s crotchety mom in the since canceled ABC comedy Malibu Country. Fonda recurrently has played the powerhouse CEO of a communications conglomerate in HBO’s The Newsroom, currently in production on its announced final season. Tomlin and Fonda last acted together in the 1980 feature film 9 to 5, which oddly is not mentioned in the Netflix release despite a headline touting them as “Back Together Again.”

Thirteen episodes of Grace and Frankie have been ordered. As usual, Netflix will make them all instantly available for streaming on the series’ launch date.

*** CBS’ Late Show with David Letterman, being badly hammered among advertiser-prized 18-to-49-year-olds in its New York-based face-off with NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, does not seem overly concerned with skewing old.

The program has announced 89-year-old former president Jimmy Carter as its featured guest on Monday, March 24th. Carter will be touting his latest book, A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence and Power.

Fallon also is going the former politician route, booking Arnold Schwarzenegger, hardly a youngster at 66 but still young enough to be Carter’s son. The ex-California governor’s promotional considerations are less lofty. He’ll be plugging his new action movie, Sabotage.

***In another old-timer development, FX has inked Billy Crystal, 66, to star in his first prime-time TV series since Soap. He’ll join Josh Gad (The Book of Mormon) in The Comedians, playing a “superstar veteran” comic paired with an “edgier up-and-coming” one. It’s due in 2015, with a 13-episode first season planned.

Crystal was a regular on Saturday Night Live in the 1984-’85 season.

***Starting this fall, MyNetworkTV will be the exclusive broadcast network home for repeats of The Walking Dead. It’s currently the No. 1 scripted series in all of television among advertiser-coveted 18-to-49-year-olds. In D-FW, MyNetworkTV programming is carried on KDFI-TV (Ch. 27).

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

TV Bulletin Board (Fri., March 14) -- slew of CBS renewals leaves only handful of shows on chopping block

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Robin Williams, Sarah Michelle Gellar of The Crazy Ones. CBS photo

By ED BARK
@unclebarkycom on Twitter
CBS doesn’t mess around. The No. 1 network in total viewers banks on stability, not rampant change. So it’s renewed 18 prime-time series for next season, bringing the grand total to 20 after previous announcements on Survivor and The Big Bang Theory (which has a three-year deal that will take it all the way through the 2016-17 TV season).

In situations like this, it’s easier to spotlight the ongoing series that haven’t yet made the cut. And that basically boils down to The Mentalist (winding down its 6th season) and two first-year shows -- The Crazy Ones (starring Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Intelligence (with Josh Holloway of Lost fame). They’re still “on the bubble,” but in reality all but dead.

How I Met Your Mother also won’t be back, but CBS announced a while back that this is its last season, with the finale set for Monday, March 31st. And it’s a foregone conclusion that two shows no longer breathing CBS’ air space have also breathed their last. Namely Hostages and We Are Men.

The returnees include CBS’ most critically acclaimed drama, The Good Wife. Its ratings continue to be problematic but CBS still likes the show’s patina.

Two series that seemingly entered this season with very iffy futures -- Hawaii Five-O and Two and a Half Men -- also will be returning. Hawaii Five-, shifted from Monday to Friday nights, has proven to be surprisingly resilient in a slot between Undercover Boss and Blue Bloods.

One remaining new series, the comedy Friends With Better Lives, will be launched on March 31st after the How I Met Your Mother finale. Reckless, a freshman drama series announced as a midseason replacement last spring, has been pushed back to a June 29th premiere.

After all the dust clears, CBS will have a maximum of six casualties from the ongoing 2013-14 TV season, which ends in May. And that’s only if Friends With Better Lives doesn’t make it.

Says CBS entertainment president Nina Tassler in a statement: “The best way to launch new shows in the fall and throughout the season is to surround them with a strong and stable lineup of successful series.”

CBS has executed that game plan time and again while its rivals try to stop their merry-go-rounds. ABC in particular has been a revolving door of failure this season. The network has ample series still on the bubble. And its officially dead or intensive care list includes Lucky 7, Back in the Game, Betrayal, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, Super Fun Night, Trophy Wife, Killer Women, The Neighbors, The Assets, Mind Games, The Taste and Mixology. That’s a lot of carnage.

QUICK HITS

***FX’s acclaimed Louie, starring Louis C.K., will launch its fourth season on Monday, May 5th with back-to-back episodes. FX says two new episodes will air each Monday through June 16th. Louie has been on a 19th month hiatus after Louie C.K. asked for more time to retool and re-charge.

***Another critically praised series, BBC America’s Orphan Black, will return on Saturday, April 19th with Season 2.

***Showtime has picked up the drama series pilot Billions, brainchild of Too Big to Fail author Andrew Ross Sorkin. Showtime says it deals with the “collision and, at times, collusion between an aggressive U.S. attorney in New York and some of the richest hedge fund billionaires in the country.” No cast has been announced yet.

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

TV Bulletin Board (Tues., March 4) -- Dancing with the Stars throws out latest cast -- and a changeup

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By ED BARK
@unclebarkycom on Twitter
Just a hunch, but comedian/game show host Drew Carey would seem to be at a disadvantage opposite Olympic ice dancing champs Charlie White and Meryl Davis when ABC’s Dancing with the Stars returns for its 18th edition on Monday, March 17th.

Via Good Morning America, ABC announced a dozen new hoofers Tuesday. The show also has a first-year co-host, ESPN’s Erin Andrews, and a “dramatic new twist” called The Switch Up. Viewers will make the calls, with contestants required to change professional partners at some point in the season. DWTS continued to fade in the prime-time ratings last season, particularly among advertiser-prized 18-to-49-year-olds. It now has a top-heavy older audience appeal -- at least as far as ABC is concerned.

Here are the 12 newcomers:

Drew Carey (paired with Cheryl Burke)
Charlie White (Sharna Burgess)
Meryl Davis (Maksim Chmerkovskiy)
Former NHL hockey star Sean Avery (Karina Smirnoff)
Author and ex-Full House star Candace Cameron Bure (Mark Ballas)
Reality TV habitué NeNe Leakes (Tony Dovolani)
Singer/actor James Maslow (Peta Murgatroyd)
Former Wonder Years co-star Danica McKellar (Valentin Chmerkovskiy)
Endurance swimmer Diana Nyad (Henry Byalikov)
Paralympic snowboarder Amy Purdy (Derek Hough)
Pop singer Cody Simpson (Witney Carson)
Actor Billy Dee Williams (Emma Slater)

The show’s three charter judges -- Len Goodman, Carrie Ann Inaba and Bruno Tonioli -- will all return.

***On Monday’s Jimmy Kimmel Live!, the host announced his first batch of guests for the March 10-14 shows from Austin. He plans to welcome Willie Nelson, Gov. Rick Perry, Seth Rogen and Rosario Dawson among others. The shows are tied to the annual SXSW music festival.

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

TV Bulletin Board (Thurs., Feb. 13) -- guest battlegrounds set for first Leterman/Fallon face-off

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By ED BARK
@unclebarkycom on Twitter
David Letterman’s CBS Late Show will be facing New York-based competition for the first time in its more than 20-year history next week.

That’s when Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show kicks off from Manhattan in the same time slot as Letterman.

It’ll be a battle like never before for guests. When his show aired in the hour following Letterman’s, it was no disgrace to accept leftovers if necessary. The natural pecking order took effect, with Late Show’s earlier and more visible time period sometimes a deciding factor. But it’s now unlikely that either host will take a guest after the other has had him the night before. That’s pretty much conceding defeat.

Letterman’s show has been in repeats this week while Fallon warms up for next week’s big splash. His first batch of guests for Tonight was announced on Monday. Now Letterman and CBS have put theirs out. And frankly, it’s not much of a contest, on paper at least. Fallon seems to have an edge on every night.

For their first-ever face-off, on Monday, Feb. 17th, Letterman has booked Kevin Spacey, actress Amber Heard and musical guest Gary Clark, Jr. Of more import perhaps, the nightly “Top Ten List” will be presented by the cast of CBS’ How I Met Your Mother, which will have its series finale on March 31st.

That’s not bad for starters. Still, Fallon is countering with Will Smith, U2 and likely some surprise drop-ins for his opening night. Advantage: Fallon (with curiosity also a major factor).

On Tuesday, Feb. 18th, Fallon is scheduled to roll out Jerry Seinfeld, Kristen Wiig and Lady Gaga. Letterman offers U.S. gold medalist Sage Kotsenburg (the Men’s Slopestyle Snowboarding champ) and musical guest Cole Swindell. It’s interesting that Kotsenburg is bypassing the home network of the Winter Games. But other than that, Fallon has a big edge.

Wednesday, Feb. 19th brings Bradley Cooper and musical guest Tim McGraw to Fallon’s Tonight. Letterman’s Late Show has booked Donald Trump, actress Lupita Nyong’o and musical guest Little Dragon. Again, advantage Fallon, even if Trump considers himself the biggest get on the planet.

For Thursday, Feb. 20th, Fallon has First Lady Michelle Obama,Will Ferrell and musical guest Arcade Fire. Letterman falls far short of matching him with Keri Russell as his only announced guest so far.

The week ends with Fallon and lone guest Justin Timberlake, which should be more than enough. Letterman will welcome NCIS co-star Pauley Perrette, comedian Jeff Caldwell and musical guest Lake Street Dive.

The desk guest playing field should even out in future weeks. It’ll have to or Letterman may be in very deep trouble not only opposite Fallon but against ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live. With Jay Leno out of the picture, Kimmel will have the West Coast parade all to himself for the first time.

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net