Upfront 07

NBC Expands 'Today'; Picks Up 'Thank God You're Here'

At TCA: Also Touts Midseason Hope 'Black Donnellys'

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PASADENA, Calif. (AdAge.com) -- NBC made a slew of programming announcements today at the Television Critics' Association's biannual press tour -- but perhaps the most significant for Madison Avenue is that long-running morning franchise "Today" will be a four-hour show come September.
'Black Donnellys' is one of NBC highly anticipated new shows.
'Black Donnellys' is one of NBC highly anticipated new shows. Credit: NBC

The show is the most profitable on TV, commanding an estimated $250 million in ad revenue.

'Black' Mondays
In March, NBC also plans to air the Paul Haggis ("Crash") Irish-American drama "Black Donnellys" in the Monday at 10 p.m. time slot rather than Thursday at 10 p.m. because of the comeback of hospital drama "ER" this season. "Black Donnellys" is one of the network's highly anticipated new shows.

NBC will take a chance on an improvisational comedy from Australia called "Thank God You're Here." The network has ordered six episodes of the show, which comes from Fremantle North America, the company behind "American Idol." Celebrities are dropped into a situation, sometimes in costume, and welcomed onstage with the words "Thank God you're here." They're then forced to improvise the entertainment. It's unclear when the show might air.

Full-season pickups
The network has given early full-season pickups for four series: "The Office," "My Name is Earl," "Heroes" and "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit." NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly said the shows represent "NBC-brand" quality. The future of quirky hit "Scrubs" is less certain; the show's producer, Touchstone Television, is in contract-renewal talks with NBC.

The Peacock network also picked up "Identity," a game show starring magician Penn Jillette. The show asks contestants to identify a group of strangers using a list of 12 traits to identify them. The show first aired in December for a week. "Identity" comes from production company Reveille.

Sole sponsorship
NBC News President Steve Capus told AdAge.com that the news division was in discussions with Dutch electronics giant Philips about repeating its sole sponsorship of "NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams." He said both parties had been happy with a trial run Dec. 4.

"Philips was happy and we'd love to do another," he said. "We got a bigger audience and more content -- around five to six minutes -- and if you're a news producer you don't get better than that."

When asked about how cable news network MSNBC might evolve, Mr. Capus said the plan was to make it "NBC News on Cable." He said the network has aired a number of theme days featuring network talent such as Brian Williams and Tim Russert.
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