Bulky Bird? Hand Me a Fork

Maybe it's just me, but if my symbol was a bird I wouldn't choose "bulking up" as my metaphor for success, as NBC did Monday in pitching its new prime time schedule to advertisers.

Birds are fattened just before they are slaughtered and served up on a platter, if memory serves me. That is, if a Fox has not already eaten them for lunch. Make of that what you will.

Perhaps as a peacock I would be intensifying my colors or flying higher, but bulky birds also remind me of turkeys, another unfortunate association.

NBC talked about building on its successes of this season, which I was wracking my brain to identify past Heroes. Deal or No Deal has been a solid performer, though not a breakout hit.

But while NBC has had the biggest hit among the freshman shows in Heroes, it has no upperclassmen to match Lost or CSI (Law & Order is close but not quite a cigar), or House or Desperate Housewives or Grey's Anatomy or Survivor or Idol. (OK, nobody can touch Idol, unless it's Hugh Laurie)

My guess is taht NBC is happy when it averages a 4 rating in prime. Imagine telling that to Grant Tinker in NBC's glory days.

NBC programmers tried to sound chipper Monday, and perhaps they should since the network arguably has nowhere to go but up. But there was something slightly desperate about new reality show, The Singing Bee, which sounded like an attempt to cross-polinate Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader with American Idol. The show is described as a combination of a spelling bee and karoake, which I will have to hear to believe.

Then there is NBC's upcoming late-season bingo game show, which,from the overhyped promos, looks like putting fins and a spoiler on a Corvair, which doesn't produce a Lamborghini no matter how many times you repeat the experiment.

Spelling Bees, bingo, singing competitions, big money game shows. All we need is a variety show featuring the Barricini tumbling ocelots and a celebrity bowling show and we could be back in the 1950's.

In the karma department, I liked the move of Friday Night Lights to Friday night. Call that the move of lowered expectations. Now if it gets a 2.something rating, nobody will be surprised since not that many people are watching on Friday nights anyway.

One problem with the move may be that all the high school football players who might have been watching the show won't be able to because they, and their parents and siblings, will be at the game or in the locker room or on the way home.

Fred Thompson won't be coming back to Law & Order, which may signal a run for president.I hope it is that rather than health reasons. I like Thompson, who I would occasionally see in the garage waiting for his car, probably after an appearance on ABC, whose D.C. bureau is next door to where I park. He seems like a solid citizen and a smart guy.

This is the same garage where I once saw Newt Gingrich padding in sock feet, shoes in hand, to some unknown destination, and waited with a tanned and heavily muscled Mike Love of the Beach Boys, who drove off in an acqua Mustant convertible a little darker than the sport jacket he was wearing. Then there was the night that the attendant forgot to put the card in the security slot and proceeded to blow all four of Sam Donaldson's tires when he ran over the security spikes.

Did I ever tell you about the time Ted Koppel had to wait for a half hour at 12:30 in the morning while the parking attendant–there was only one there–tried to explain how they had managed to break my gear shift knob off at the base in an attempt to park the car (German clutch with a tough point of engagement).

But I really, really digress.

Maybe NBC does have the right idea in adding a number of sci-fi dramas.There are a lot of peole who would like to be living in an alternate universe where events of the past few years could be sponged away like the writing on Scrooge's stone.

Here is to a more colorful and higher-flying peacock.

By John Eggerton

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.