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In Sorkin's talent they trust

May 16, 2006|Scott Collins | Times Staff Writer

NBC rolled out its 2006-07 fall season schedule with a Monday morning news conference in New York. Most of the new shows pop up in critical 9 p.m. time slots. Here are a few details:

NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly expressed great enthusiasm for "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" and, in an effort to silence questions about drug abuse and erratic work habits in creator Aaron Sorkin's past, said the writer had already finished five scripts.

"He's back, he's in good health and he's one of a kind," Reilly said.

NBC confirmed that "Fear Factor" is dead. Likewise "Conviction," producer Dick Wolf's youth-skewing legal drama.

"Crossing Jordan" and "Scrubs" are being held for later in the season, as is "The Apprentice," which Reilly said diplomatically has "just settled in from being a phenomenon to being a success."

Who let him in?

As usual, UTA -- the now-acronymic United Talent Agency -- kicked off the upfronts week with its traditional party Sunday night -- cosponsored by -- this time at a Chelsea nightclub called Marquee. I'm not a cool guy, but this seemed like a cool party, so someone obviously made a mistake with my name on the guest list. But I turned that to my advantage and had a good time; there was plenty o' free booze, guests packed so tight they recalled Rob Reiner's lubricant joke from "Postcards From the Edge" (it's a funny scene, rent it) and, around 11, two young women actually danced on a table.

This last part frightened me, but before I fled I saw a whole bunch of industry bigs coursing through the packed, bass-shaking room, including Walt Disney Co. TV czarina Anne Sweeney, "Desperate Housewives" creator Marc Cherry, CBS scheduling guru Kelly Kahl and Marc Graboff, NBC Universal TV's West Coast president.

'Survivor' drop

Sunday's two-hour "Survivor: Panama" finale on CBS predictably dominated its first hour, at 8 p.m., but still wound up the lowest-rated wrap-up in the series' history. The special averaged 17 million viewers, with a 6.1 rating/15 share among 18- to 49-year-olds, according to figures from Nielsen Media Research. The finale shed more than one-fifth of its young-adult audience compared with last year's "Survivor: Palau" closer and also last fall's "Survivor: Guatemala."

Watch CBS' schedule closely when it's announced Wednesday. "Survivor" still does well in its time slots, but don't be surprised to see the network reduce the frequency of the show.

The series finale of "The West Wing" rounded up 9.9 million viewers, with a 2.8 rating/7 share among 18- to 49-year-olds.

All in all, it was a hard-fought night, but ABC's combo of "Desperate Housewives" and "Grey's Anatomy" ultimately held the line. "Housewives" gathered 20.8 million viewers (8.1 rating/18 share in demo), although it's been losing steam during this May sweep. "Grey's" was the most-watched program, with 22.3 million viewers, 9.6 rating/22 share in the demo.

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