Guessing The Upfronts: NBC

Scroll down to after Wednesday if you want to see the 4/27/11 update:

Previously on Guessing the Upfronts:

FOX: guessing-the-upfronts-first-up-fox

CBS: guessing-the-upfronts-cbs

ABC: guessing-the-upfronts-abc

NBC has many issues. In fact, they need a complete revamp of Monday night and Wednesday from 8-10. But with those needs comes freedom. Freedom knowing that whatever risky moves you might make on those days can’t do much worse than what you were already doing and the potential to do much better. NBC also has the NFL on Sunday as a cushion (I firmly believe all will be worked out. There is just too much money at stake for too many people and organizations for it not too. Even if it gets settled in late July, I believe there will be Football on Sunday come September).

As with ABC, on paper NBC has really interesting sounding pilots. In fact out of the 10 drama pilots there is nary one procedural. Well I guess Metro (formerly S.I.L.A) could be considered in that camp, but it resembles something much bigger like the Steven Soderbergh film Traffic and it’s created by that film’s brilliant screenwriter Stephen  Gaghan. It also boasts of a major star in Jimmy Smits.

I guess 17th Precinct could be considered a police procedural but when it’s set in an alternate version of San Francisco where magic rules instead of science, you know you’re not watching your father’s Law & Order. Oh did I mention it’s from the mind of Ronald Moore, you know the man who reinvented Battlestar Gallactica for a new critically acclaimed generation? Oh and Michael Rymer who directed that show’s best episodes also directed this pilot. Not enough? Well it’s basically a Battlestar reunion as Jamie Bamber, Tricia Helfer and James Callis are among the cast. Plus fellow sci-fiers  Esai Morales (Caprica) and Kristin Kreuk (Smallville) plus Emmy Winner Stockard Channing, and actor extraordinaire, Eamon Walker, (fresh off his acclaimed 2 ep guest stint on Lights Out), co star. Yes that show is getting picked up.

How about Grimm from Angel’s David Greenwalt and is about a police detective who discovers fairy tale creatures live among us? That sounds pretty interesting (and has some themes in common with ABCs Once Upon A Time).

Mann’s World is from Sex & The City’s Michael Patrick King and is about a straight Beverly Hills hairdresser in his 50s who is struggling to stay young and relevant in a place where looks are everything. Did I mention it stars Don Johnson and features among its cast Ellen Barkin making her television debut, and the hysterical Mario Cantone and Sandra Vergara (Sofia’s sister)?

Playboy is another 60s themed drama (like ABCs Pan Am) set in the Playboy club and starring Eddie Cibrian, David Krumholz and Amber Heard. If NBC wants noise this will certainly get attention.

SMASH is another musical drama, but unlike GLEE, it’s about adults as they attempt to create a Broadway musical about Marilyn Monroe, The cast boasts Debra Messing and Angelica Huston, yes that Angelica Huston, but more importantly the show will feature original music by the amazing duo of Mark Shaiman and Scott Wittman (Hairspray). Talk about different!

NBC even has a post Civil War Western called Reconstruction directed by Peter Horton who after thirtysomething has become an amazing director (like most of that cast). He directed the pilot of Grey’s Anatomy. This show was created by Joshua Brand who has created some of the best TV shows of the last 30 years (St. Elsewhere, I’ll Fly Way, Northern Exposure).

After much development, NBC’s update of Prime Suspect is ready to go, written by Desperate Housewives’ Alexandra Cunningham and featuring Mario Bello returning to TV in the role made famous by Hellen Mirren.

Finally there is REM, created by Kyle Killen who created last season’s best drama, Lone Star. This time it seems he has married the original themes of that show with Inception and a cast that boats Jason Isaacs in a starring role, and features Wilmer Valderrama, BD Wong, Steve Harris and Laura Harris. It’s one of the best reviewed Drama scripts of the season. I’d be shocked if this doesn’t get picked up and a major marketing campaign from NBC.

The interesting thing about NBCs drama pilots is I could see them picking up most of them. They all sound unique and like I said, when you have little to lose, go for broke. ABC was in dire straits in ’04 when they greenlit and spent all their promotion on LOST and Desperate Housewives. The results were a game changing 6-year-old series and a show that’s going into its 8th season next fall. More importantly it made them a ratings player and a network known for taking risks with development. NBC is in the same position now and with a guy like Robert Greenblatt calling the shots now (he made Showtime a force with Dexter, Nurse Jackie, Shameless) I’d imagine there will be more risks taken.

Bubble shows:

Parenthood – I never considered this a bubble show. It consistently got no less than a 1.9. Always grows with DVR and  boasts a stellar cast and creator in Jason Katims. It gets deserved critical acclaim. This week’s time winning 2.5 and 6 million plus viewers solidified its expected renewal.

Chuck – it’s had 4 years on the bubble. It’s not owned by NBC and the last few weeks it’s been getting a low 1.3. Under old regime, no one can say NBC hasn’t done right by it. With a new chief with no ties to it, I think it’s falling on the cancelled side, as of late. If it gets a pickup it will be for a final 13 ep pickup. I also don’t see it on Fall sked (or if it is, It will be on Friday) .

I think that’s it. Anything else isn’t on the bubble. It’s dead

How the schedule might shake out:

As I said, Monday and Wednesday should be completely new from 8-10.

There are many ways the network can go. For the sake of this exercise I will assume a few things:

  • The Biggest Loser remains at Tue 8p but it gets shortened to an hour. With competition like Glee and NCIS in that hour I think NBC will leave TBL there as it does well, but the last two seasons of the show, the ratings have trended down. So I think NBC finally shortens it to an hour which accomplishes 2 things: 1) should make the 8p hour do better as the elimination occurs here and 2) Allows for something new Tues at 9p leading into Parenthood which for now, I will assume NBC will leave there, at least during the Fall
  • I am going to assume that NBC will get behind a few big projects for the fall. A few that are pre sold and can create lots of noise. I think Wonder Woman is a lock. It’s had so much interest before they even shot a frame. Yes lots of ink has been spilled on the silly first draft of the script and the costume, but they already finessed the script and there will be many changes going forward. There’s no doubt people will show up for the first ep.With a terrific star in Adrienne Pallicki, there’s no reason to think this show won’t get ironed out. What’s clear though is that there’s much interest to check it out and it’s a pre sold concept. I see NBC getting behind it big. Where to schedule?
  • I think NBCs other big promotional campaign in the fall will be around REM. It’s the most loved script, but with a concept that hews more to Inception than Lone Star something tells me this has a shot to break out.


NBC could do a number of things here. They could go all single camera, female skewing, sitcoms (since CBS has a block of multi cams on this night). What if they went with 30 Rock at 8p, new Amanda Peet comedy, Bent, at 8:30, New Christina Applegate/Will Arnett/Maya Rudolph family comedy called Alpha Mom at 9p That show was created by Parks & Rec writer, Emily Spivey (and produced by Lorne Michaels) and seems to be a lock for a Fall pickup. They could cap the block with Parks & Rec at 9:30. They could bill it as a night of funny ladies: Tin Fey, Amanda Peet, Christina Applegate, and Amy Poehler. Remember in the late 90s they did something similar like this with Caroline in The City, Suddenly Susan and Will & Grace made its debut on the night. It didn’t work in the 90s and it might seem too risky. NBC also might not want to surround its night with 30 Rock and P&R. While they are critically acclaimed, they don’t usually get more than a mid 2.5.

NBC could always just make this a block of 4 brand new sitcoms. Yeah it’s risky but ABC did that last season and 3 of them are coming back in the fall for their 3rd season. The shows NBC could add to the block could be Free Agents (with Kathryn Hahn and Hank Azaria) and the Jessica St. Claire comedy Best Friends Forever. As I type this, it just seems too risky for NBC. So what I think NBC might do for Mondays is put their most promotable and most buzzworthy projects from 8-10p.

8- Wonder Woman

9- REM (the other option is Wednesday, but with steep competition there, it has a better shot at breaking out on Monday), leading into Harry’s Law at 10. Yes the demo has been low but it’s been virtually a self-starter. The total viewers were always around 7 million which is the highest amount for any NBC show. With a better lead in it should do better all around.


8 A shortened Biggest Loser

10 Parenthood

From 9-10p I think NBC adds their 2 buzziest and easily promotable, female skewing, mutli cams:. Are You There God, It’s Me Chelsea followed by Whitney. There are no multi cams currently, Tue 9-10, and with a female skew they would fit in well with the other NBC shows on this night. Chelsea Handler and Whitney Cummings are known from Chelsea’s E! show and they have similar sensibilities and the two shows should flow well together.

*I also would not be surprised to see NBC use Playboy on Monday or Tuesday at 9p after Female skewing shows like Wonder Woman and The Biggest Loser.


I say SVU stays at 10. The last two years the show has been hurt by being moved to 9. So what goes from 8-10? I don’t see them trying comedies on this night. This is a total guess but I could see them going with 2 new shows with a sci-fi bent. Maybe Grimm at 8 leading into 17th Precinct at 9? The latter is somewhat of a procedural with fantasy elements so might make a good bridge to SVU at 10. 17th Precinct could get initial interest based on the Battlestar reunion. But honestly with X Factor on this night, Survivor, and the ABC comedies, these new shows seem like the best counter programming. Yes it’s risky and I’m sure NBC won’t be expecting miracles, but they could do decently. UNLESS: NBC decided to go 25-54 like I suggested ABC try for Tuesday. They could conceivably go with Betty White’s “Off Their Rockers” at 8 into Prime Suspect at 9 into SVU at 10.

 I actually think Metro would make a good fit with SVU but it’s a much denser show and would get clobbered vs. much straightforward competition.

UPDATE: Thu 4/27/11 –

After the stellar premiere of The Voice and the impressive rerun numbers last night, it looks like NBC has a hit. I definitely think they’ll bring it back midseason launching it out of the Super Bowl. But it got me thinking that they would use The Sing Off at least for an hour Tuesdays at 8 in the Fall. It will definitely do better than The Biggest Loser. I could see them launching either the multi cams I mentioned above or a high profile drama like Playboy at 9p or possibly Smash at 9p which could pick up some viewers from the Glee audience and The Sing Off audience. The Biggest Loser could segue to Wednesdays and certainly improve that night. If they cut it down to an hour, I could see them putting Prime Suspect at 9p. It’s a female led police procedural out of the female skewing The Biggest Loser. It could be a nice bridge to SVU.

I think NBC will use the Super Bowl to premiere The Voice Season 2and the obvious place to air it is Tuesday. I would also not be surprised to see it expanded to 2 nights. Taking a page from the CBS and ABC playbook, I would also not be surprised if one of the nights it airs on is Thursday (CBS premiered Survivor seaosn 2 after Super Bowl and instead of returning it to Wednesday they surprised the biz by moving it to Thursday and with the tandem of that show and CSI they went from nowhere to #1. ABC also used the Super Bowl to make GREY’s a monster but instead of moving it the next season to Mondays where most expoected it would go, on Upfront day they moved it to Thursday and also went from nowhere on Thursday to #1) . Yes Thursday is NBCs comedy night. But the only show bringing in really good numbers is The Office. What if they aired The Voice at 8p into 2 hours of comedies. All of a sudden it could be a return to must See TV( It could also dent Idol). As CBS and ABC have proven, all it takes is one show to tranform a night.


Many are assuming that Smash will air at 10p on Thu. I could see that show meshing well the Thursday comedies. If that’s the case then I could see The Comedy lineup as such

8p- 30 Rock

8:30 Community

9p The Office

9:30 Alpha Mom or Brave New World.

The problem with this lineup is that would leave Parks & Rec out again and the opportunity to launch new comedies.

What if NBC left their 3 hour comedy lineup intact?

8p Community

8:30 Brave New World

9p The Office

930 Alpha Mom

10p 30 Rock

10:30 Parks & Rec

This scenario allows them to launch new comedies as well. Maybe Smash could go to Tue at 9p in between The Biggest Loser and Parenthood. It could potentially pick up all those music lovers that just watched Glee.

The more I think about it, with all the comedies NBC has in development, I am assuming they will launch comedies on a night besides Thu.


This is the easiest night to guess. They could go with a mix of Who Do You Think You Are and Minute To Win It at 8p followed by 2 hour Dateline. That combo usually does  very well on this night.

If The Voice pops, it’s not crazy to think NBC might order up a quick version for fall although it’s more likely for midseason when they don’t have the NFL. Also, I wouldn’t be surprised for NBC to do a fall version of Celebrity Apprentice based on how well it’s done this spring, to give them an extra cushion this Fall.

So after actually spending time trying to dissect this, it’s obvious NBC has many ways they could go and this is an almost futile exercise because they need help virtually every night of the week. If you have any guesses better than mine (shouldn’t be hard to accomplish), feel free to submit them in the comments below.

For another really smart take, check out Wesley Ambrecht’s here: armchair-scheduling-nbc-fall-2011

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2 Responses to Guessing The Upfronts: NBC

  1. Benjamonster says:

    I’ve loved reading these predictions… I don’t agree with all of them but they’ve certainly given me some things to consider as I go about making my predictions on my blog in a week or two, thanks for the great reading!!

  2. Pingback: NBC Fall Sked: Snap Judgment Analysis | Random Musings from a BigTVfan

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