Dave Gee: Entertainment Now: US TV Networks Reveal New Season Schedules
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It was decision time in the United States as the major TV networks confirmed their programme lineups for the coming Autumn season.

Last year the big 4 network (NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox) pre-sold US$9.6 billion in advertising slots for the autumn and winter seasons, but those numbers are expected to be well down this year.

That will put more pressure on the networks' programming budgets, with more reality and talk shows set to fill up primetime.

NBC has renewed spy show Chuck for a third season, despite it failing to ignite the ratings in the United States (although it is more popular overseas). However Chuck producers have denied rumours that NBC demanded big budget cuts or a smaller cast to cut the cost per episode (although signing a last-minute sponsorship deal with Subway probably helped).

NBC's former-hit-show Heroes is back, as is the 20th(!) season of Law & Order (matching Gunsmoke as the longest-running primetime tv drama series). The spinoff show Special Victims Unit also returns, along with a new season of Celebrity Apprentice.

Jay Leno's new talkshow will fill the 10pm timeslot during the week, forcing some shows to move to earlier in the night. However NBC has cancelled Medium, My Name is Earl, The Chopping Block, and gameshow Deal or No Deal. The network also has substantial coverage of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver over February.

Over at Fox, executives have axed low rating series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which lasted two seasons but was expensive to make, as well as long-running animated show King of the Hill.

However Fox surprised many commentators by renewing its other big-budget Friday night sci-fi series, Dollhouse (from Buffy/Angel creator Joss Whedon) for a second series.

Fox also has new seasons of hit shows American Idol, 24, So You Think You Can Dance, The Simpsons, and House (albeit with a shorter season of 18-20 episodes) to hold the network steady.

It's also launching five new comedy series, including an animated spin-off from Family Guy called The Cleveland Show, following slow-talking Cleveland Brown, and a heavily-hyped High School Musical-style comedy called Glee (about a high school glee club - basically a choir).

Meanwhile a former pro-footballer moves home with his Mom in Brothers, while Sons of Tucson sees 3 brothers hiring a man to impersonate their imprisoned father. Comedian Wanda Sykes also gets her own Saturday night show.

ABC is hoping the return of old sitcom favourites will bring viewers back to its network, and is dropping shows like Samantha Who? and According to Jim. In their place is former Frasier star Kelsey Grammar as an out-of-work corporate hotshot in Hank, while former Everybody Loves Raymond star Patricia Heaton becomes a small-town family Mom in new comedy series The Middle.

Former Friends star Courtney Cox (Monica Geller) meanwhile is playing a newly single Mom in Cougar Town, while former Married with Children Dad Ed O'Neill heads up Modern Family, a sitcom filmed in the documentary-style of The Office.

Scrubs will be back for a 9th season (although only its second on ABC, after 7 seasons on NBC), but star Zach Braff will only appear in a few episodes. Paul Gross replaces Jack Nicholson as the devil in Eastwick, a small screen adaptation of the film Witches of Eastwick. Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? gets a special "10th Anniversary" run over the US summer.

Also on ABC's slate is V, a mini-series remake of the 80's lizard alien invasion series, and Shark Tank, a Dragon's Den-style show from reality tv expert Mark Burnett.

Desperate Housewives is renewed for a sixth season, while Lost will return for its sixth and final season in early 2010. Ugly Betty gets a fourth season, but has been relegated to late Friday nights after a ratings decline.

* Digital Spy - 2009-10 US TV Season

* NZ Herald: Networks face grim future as advertising lifeline shrivels