Summer officially begins on June 20 this year. Except at NBC, which will roll out some of its summer programming more than a month earlier.
The network has set up a summer schedule that begins Monday, May 12 -- two weeks before Memorial Day -- with the return of "American Gladiators." Two other shows, "Last Comic Standing" and the horror/suspense anthology "Fear Itself," are also set for May premieres, with four more, including "America's Got Talent," to follow in June.
NBC is getting more shows on the air in part to clear the decks for the Olympics, which will take over the schedule for two-plus weeks in August. It also plays into the network's desire to have original programming on the air year-round.
Starting summer series in May borrows a page from the FOX playbook, which in recent years has used "American Idol" to help launch "So You Think You Can Dance" (which has worked well) and the filmmaking contest "On the Lot" (not so much).
In addition to starting earlier, several shows will run longer. "American Gladiators" will have a two-hour premiere and 90-minute weekly episodes; "Last Comic Standing" and "Nashville Star," which is moving over from USA, will also run 90 minutes.
Most of NBC's summertime shows will wrap up before the Olympics open on Aug. 8. One exception will be "America's Got Talent," which is scheduled to premiere June 24. The Simon Cowell-produced competition has added a "talent search" element to the early part of the season, with the show's judges seeking out prospective contestants in several cities.
The show will run through July, take a break for the Olympics and return in late August, leading into NBC's fall programming.
Premiere dates for NBC's summer shows are:
Monday, May 12: "American Gladiators"
Thursday, May 22: "Last Comic Standing"
Thursday, May 29: "Fear Itself"
Monday, June 9: "Nashville Star"
Wednesday, June 11: "Celebrity Circus"
Tuesday, June 24: "America's Got Talent"
Wednesday, June 25: "The Baby Borrowers"
Summer Begins in May at NBC
'American Gladiators,' 'Last Comic Standing' get early starts
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