If Sunday’s NBC phone call with reporters is any indication, the network will spend a goodish chunk of Monday’s Upfront presentation touting its mid-season push on the reality-TV front. Calling it NBC’s “most ambitious mid-season in years,” network execs boasted about a slate that includes summer hit America’s Got Talent’s in-season debut, featuring Simon Cowell as a judge, on Mondays, in January and February, to fill the slot between The Voice editions.
The second summer season of Jennifer Lopez’s World of Dance is set to launch this month, after which the series also will get a mid-season run on Sundays after football wraps, in early 2019.
Ellen’s Game of Games will make mid-season, Tuesdays at 8 PM. And new competition series The Titan Games will feature former professional wrestler turned actor Dwayne Johnson as the next NBC reality-TV star with political aspirations. He will host the series in which in which everyday people get a chance to compete, on Wednesdays at 8 PM.
Paul Telegdy, President of Alternative and Reality Group at NBC Entertainment, said it has taken time to get NBC’s non-scripted series to this position, adding, “we need to make moves while The Voice is still strong.”
To his point, AGT, which is returning for its 13th summer round on May 29, clocked a 3.5 demo rating and 16 million viewers in Live+7 viewing in its 12th season – the franchise’s most watched season ever.
Telegdy credited show runners who “really want to win and changed the show in a thousand ways the audience might not appreciate,” and put the show in peak form. That coincided with AGT’s first run in Donald Trump’s America, or, as Telegdy described it, a time of “so much change in the country” and in which things familiar, and wholesome, prevail on TV.
The midseason edition is being billed as a spinoff and a “champion” edition, returning competitors from previous seasons and from other markets.
Johnson’s series, like Lopez’s dance series, is produced at Universal Television Alternative Studio, which was set up in June of 2016. The non-scripted studio, run by Telegdy and Meredith Ahr, is ramping up the number of shows it produced for third party broadcasters and digital services as it starts to move a number of its talent-led formats around the world.
“That’s the next round of headlines from Universal Television Alternative Studio,” he told Deadline.
During Sunday’s phone call with reporters, one reporter remarked about the names attached to NBC’s reality programming being bigger than those attached to its new scripted series.
Telegdy acknowledges the perception that “some sort of arms race for talent going on” in the non-scripted game, but insists NBC is not engaged in that race, and has cut “generous” but “responsible” paychecks for established stars who are looking for a programming partnership.
Those names, he said, understand the value of appearing on a national platform that, in success, has maximum relevance.
And if, like Dwayne Johnson, you are a star with political aspirations, it’s a very valuable platform. The wrestler turned actor/producer first fueled speculation about a presidential race when GQ published a piece one year ago this month headlined simply, “Dwayne Johnson for President.”
“I think it’s a real possibility,” he told GQ, when asked if he would make a run at the White House, though he has ruled out 2020.
Should Johnson keep up the will-he-won’t-he tease, he won’t be the first person to do so while paving his way to the White House starring in an uplifting NBC reality series, in which ordinary people prove their mettle.