Last week was a big week for news from the world of television, as the 2013 Upfronts unfolded. It’s the head-spinning time of year when all the major networks (and some of the little guys) give the final word on what’s been canceled, what’s getting renewed, which pilots are being picked up and make any other big announcements they see fit about the fall season and beyond. Here, a roundup of some of the biggest stories of the past week.
Seth Meyers Moves to Late Night as SNL Bleeds Cast Members
In the wake of the news that Jimmy Fallon will take over NBC’s The Tonight Show from Jay Leno next year, Saturday Night Live head writer and “Weekend Update” anchor Seth Meyers was revealed to be the new Late Night host, replacing Fallon in the 12:35 a.m. slot. Both shows, which are under the production leadership of SNL creator Lorne Michaels, are expected to relaunch around the time of NBC’s coverage of the Winter Olympics next February. Meyers is expected to remain on SNL until January.
In other SNL news, Bill Hader bid farewell to the long-running sketch comedy show on the May 18th season finale. There are also rumors that this may have been Fred Armisen and Jason Sudeikis’ last season, though neither’s departure has been confirmed.
Yes, Fox announced it’s bringing back 24, the long-running Kiefer Sutherland hit that ended in 2010 after eight seasons. The network will air 12 episodes of 24: Live Another Day next May, but it will be handled more like a miniseries than a return to regular programming. Unlike the series, the new version will jump around rather than feature 12 linear, minute-by-minute storylines. As for which characters will return, lead Jack Bauer is a given, and “everybody who’s not dead is still in play,” according to producer Howard Gordon.
NBC Comedy Shake-up
NBC’s Thursday night comedy lineup is in shambles, as 30 Rock and The Office both ended their runs this year. Come fall, the network will rely on lone holdout Parks & Recreation to usher in three new shows. The most promising is probably The Michael J. Fox Show, based on its name alone. In it, Fox, returning to a network TV series for the first time since Spin City, riffs off his real life, playing a newscaster returning to work after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Rounding out the night are Welcome to the Family, a culture-clash show about an interracial couple and their in-laws, and the Sean Hayes-starring Sean Saves the World, about a gay divorcé whose teenage daughter moves in with him.
Community Gets a Last-Minute Reprieve
Speaking of NBC comedies, the fifth-season renewal of Community came as a shock to even its biggest fans. After being pushed to the dead zone of Friday night this past season and losing cast member Chevy Chase and creator/executive producer Dan Harmon, everyone thought it was a goner – and yet it miraculously soldiers on against all odds. The last-minute reprieve is probably due to the small but vocal cult following the show has, the fact that NBC is seriously lacking tent-pole comedies (see above) and that it does fairly well in the subscription video on-demand marketplace. Thirteen new episodes have been ordered as a mid-season replacement for 2014.
Southland and Happy Endings Canceled
Despite pleas from both fans and critics (including our own) for a sixth season renewal, Southland was canceled by TNT. The gritty cop show, starring Ben McKenzie, Michael Cudlitz and Regina King, initially premiered on NBC before being canceled shortly before its second season was set to air. TNT bought the rights to the unaired episodes and went on to film three more seasons, which enjoyed a solid fan following and critical acclaim. The more-questions-than-answers fifth season finale now stands as the series’ last episode. However, there are rumors that a two-hour wrap-up, made-for-TV movie might be a possibility in the near future.
Meanwhile, another fan favorite and critical darling, ABC’s Happy Endings, was also canceled. Despite flying under the radar, Endings – starring the likes of Elisha Cuthbert, Casey Wilson and Damon Wayans Jr. – lasted three seasons. But its fate became apparent this past season, when ABC began shuffling the series around to the point where even diehards couldn’t keep up, from Tuesday to Sunday to Friday. However, the show may follow in the footsteps of other network-jumpers like Southland and Cougar Town (ABC to TBS), as the USA network is considering picking it up.
American Idol, The Voice Say Goodbye to Big Names
The Season 12 American Idol finale on May 16th marked the end of an era for the Fox reality competition, as last original judge Randy Jackson said goodbye to the show. Reports have also surfaced that first-time judges Nicki Minaj, Mariah Carey and Keith Urban will not be returning, along with executive producer Nigel Lythgoe. This leaves ample opportunity for the one-time ratings behemoth, which has been steadily slipping, to overhaul its image in an effort to lure viewers back. The lone holdover appears to be host Ryan Seacrest, who’s expected to return next season.
Meanwhile, NBC’s The Voice, Idol’s main competition in the reality TV realm, is also rejiggering things. Newbie coaches Usher and Shakira will step aside in Season Five so that the original lineup can be reunited this fall. Yup, Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo Green will return to the spinning chairs, alongside mainstays Adam Levine and Blake Shelton. But have no fear, for Usher and Shakira will reportedly return for Season Six next spring. The idea behind pulling such a switcheroo is to keep things fresh even when the series cycles through two seasons in one calendar year.
Dancing With the Stars Cuts Back
In other reality show news, ABC’s Dancing With the Stars has decided to eliminate its weekly results show next season, cutting back to one two-hour episode per week. The decision is part of a bigger-picture plan to make room for the Joss Whedon-produced, superhero-centric Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., premiering this fall. The new Dancing format will combine results and performances, although there’s no official word on exactly how that will shake out.