Critics Weigh in on TV's Fall Shows

Many at Confab Wary of Networks' Serialized Dramas

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PASADENA, Calif. (AdAge.com) -- Marketers made their judgments about the coming TV season back in May. This month, it was the critics' turn, as hundreds gathered here at the Television Critics of America conference for two weeks of presentations on the fall shows.
NBC's 'Studio 60' is one of the shows critics think will be a likely hit.
NBC's 'Studio 60' is one of the shows critics think will be a likely hit.

The collective verdict won't make or break a good show but will help drive the initial sampling -- something the networks may be more dependent on than ever this year given the high number of serialized shows that require folks get hooked early or miss out on the premise.

Surprise hit
Most likely hit? NBC's "Studio 60," from Aaron Sorkin. Surprise hit? ABC's telenovela adaptation "Ugly Betty."

TV reporters from outlets as diverse as Zap2it.com, Us Weekly and The Kansas City Star said networks, with their drama-heavy lineups, are asking too much of audiences, and viewers will be left in the lurch when the inevitable cancellations come.

Before they worry about cancellations, producers must deal with the tricky new world of brand integration. Already, savvy marketers have begun shipping their wares to producers in hopes they will be worked into a show. When asked about product placement on his CBS comedy "The Class," David Crane, who created "Friends," said: "Someone's already sent us a box of Victoria's Secret underwear and a box of Tupperware." Mr. Crane said he's not sure he has much use for frilly panties, but if something fits, the writers will work it in.

'Desperate Housewives' integrations
Jeff Greenstein, a member of the production team at ABC's "Desperate Housewives," said he'll include a brand if it's one he already likes. But he added that he's pushed hard against integrations on other shows he's worked on when it didn't feel right.

John Wells, the executive producer of "ER" and "West Wing" and now helming crime thriller "Smith" for CBS, appeared enthusiastic about the idea of working with marketers as long as it didn't impinge on his work. But he laments that deadlines rarely work out; deals generally come in during the second cycle of a hit show. Some things that might get airtime on "Smith," which stars Ray Liotta, are websites showing how crimes might be committed. Mr. Wells was astounded by what he found online.

Sponsorships, anyone?
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