NBC still has much rebuilding to do. They had a really rough year, even with the Super Bowl, but they can take solace in that they finally have a big entertainment competition show in The Voice and as a result they finally launched a drama that is averaging a 2.0 (Smash). Granted, much of that 2.0 is due to its placement after The Voice, but still that’s a victory for them. They also have a very decent Friday night player, Grimm, which is also returning.
I’d like to commend NBC on being smart and not rushing The Voice back on the air in the fall. I think that restraint and using the Super Bowl to launch it helped ensure its success this year. I think if it returned in the fall, the same time as returning scripted hits and X Factor, the results wouldn’t have been as strong.
I do think NBC did many strange scheduling things this year. I never understood relegating Grimm to Friday once all their fall offerings had flopped before it premiered. Their Wednesday scheduling all year has been somewhat perplexing. But the one thing that I really didn’t understand was not using The Voice results show to either launch Awake or at the very least not deprive Parenthood a full season and strong lead in. This is one of their best performers at 10 and easily their most critically acclaimed drama. Cutting the order made no sense to me, but it would have really benefited NBC to at least let the final 4 eps air behind a Voice results show instead of Fashion Star which is completely squandering that lead in.
I do expect Parenthood to return for the reasons I mentioned above. I also expect The Office to return for possibly a final season. Parks & Recreation needs one more season for syndication and is their most loved comedy. Its renewal is a sure thing. I believe Community will return for a final season as well. It’s NBCs second most loved comedy by critics, another year will give them 93 total episodes for syndication which will net them nice profits. The show also does well with young males. Lorne Michaels has two bubble shows. I’d expect a final 13 episode season for 30 Rock but I don’t expect Up All Night to return. NBC has too many underperforming comedies. They need to rebuild and they can’t renew them all. That being said, I wouldn’t be shocked to see them renew Whitney. It did better as a self-starter on Wednesday with total viewers and the demo then Up All Night on Thu and Community too. If they end up picking up some multi cams (like Roseanne’s Downwardly Mobile) I would not be shocked to see it paired with Whitney. That leaves Harry’s Law. The demo is not good, but find me one other show on NBC that gets 9 million viewers that’s not The Voice. You can’t. So yes, the demo is awful but why wouldn’t NBC renew this show for Friday night where it would likely retain those viewers? At this point I’m thinking it has a very good chance to return. Oh and expect lots more of Betty White’s Off Their Rockers.
While I commended NBC for holding the Voice for midseason this year, most early reports have it returning this fall. On one hand I get it, NBC finally has a big hit, they need it on in the fall. But I would argue that they are only shortening its life cycle. As is, the show has been trending down every week. Most of that is due to airing against DWTS. Both shows are hurting each other somewhat. But if its down to 3’s in only its 2nd second cycle, it’s not gonna get easier from here. NBC also has Sunday Night Football in the fall which gets them a number that no other net can come anywhere to producing in primetime anymore. So they can have NFL in fall, The Voice in Winter/Spring. I think the problem for NBC is they really have no returning hits they can slot it on Mon and Tue in the fall, so it appears, the thought process at NBC is, we have NFL on Sunday, Voice Mon and Tue and can use those shows to launch and promote new hits after The Voice and Wed and Thu. So while it will likely shorten its life as a hit, NBC seems to be feeling “we need this right now”and if they are fortunate to create new hits, they can always back down on The Voice in the future. Maybe if Howard Stern brings America’s Got Talent to an even bigger hit status (there’s no guarantee beyond the first night being huge), they’ll move that in the season and use the Voice half the year and AGT, the other half. But I’m getting ahead of myself. On to the Fall Scheduling.
I am going to assume that NBC will not produce 22 eps of Smash next year. As is, 15 proved to more of an undertaking and even with that amount, there was much criticism of the quality in storytelling. They could always spread 15 eps through February, but my guess is they’re gonna want to take advantage of NFL Sunday and Voice Monday to launch a new hit after The Voice in the fall and use The Voice Winter season (I assume there will be 2 next year) to bring back Smash OR move it to Tue either in fall or Winter.
Looking over NBCs drama development, I think they need to go after shows that are unique and ones that stand out from all that is on the air currently. Bad Girls has a really diverse cast and a premise (women in prison) unlike any on TV. John Wells producing doesn’t hurt and it feels like this could be the kind of show that would bring new viewers to NBC. It might make a good Mon 10p option.
Assuming The Voice results airs for the last 6 weeks, the question becomes what does NBC do prior? I can’t imagine they are gonna run a 2 hour Biggest Loser again. I’m not even sure TBL returns in the fall and on Tue. Maybe NBC can get an extra hour of Voice auditions til the results show starts. Tuesday is harder to predict and I assume I will be way off the mark from what actually happens on this night. I don’t think NBC will attempt to go comedy on this night since ABC will have multi cams covered 8-9 and FOX will likely have 4 single cams from 8-10, so I’m thinking that either a 1 hr TBL airs at 8, or maybe NBC airs Parenthood at 8 (and holds TBL til midseason) and uses The Voice results to launch a new drama. Again, I will assume they will try to use The Voice to launch something different/unique. Do No Harm is a Jekyll/Hyde drama, the likes of which is not on TV now and might make a good 10p option or do they go with what sounds like their version of Revenge, called Notorious, which despite an almost exact sounding premise to the former, boasts a terrific cast?
The one thing I’m pretty confident about is SVU is back at 10p. I assume NBC will finally try to give this show a decent, more compatible lead. If they do greenlight a number of multi camera comedies, Wed might be a good place for 2 of them as there are none represented here and they did do decently with Whitney by itself. I really don’t think they’ll attempt to put comedies, even multi cams, at 9. The comedy audience is so well served with Modern Family. I think they might go for a new drama. Earlier in the year I would have suggested moving Grimm here. It has a devoted audience, and is counter programming to everything else in the hour and skews younger, but at this point I think it stays on Fri. Could they possibly air Chicago Fire here, which is different enough from Criminal Minds and comes from Dick Wolf and will probably be the most compatible lead to his own SVU? Yes it will likely come in 4th but it could still do a 2.0 and come in 4th and NBC would happily take a 2.0 at 9 which will also give SVU its best lead in its had in a long time. Another option might be a one hour The Biggest Loser at 9 which should give them a 2.0 against tough competition and keeps them from sacrificing a new drama there. I’m gonna guess that NBC airs their two best new multi cams at 8p. Maybe Lady Friends and Table For Three – two female led, adult, multi camera comedies which will contrast with the family oriented single cams on ABC.
NBC needs to totally rebuild this night but interestingly enough NBC might have their most promising options here. CBS will likely be multi cams from 8-10, and NBC has to expand from their niche single cams that have been airing here. They do, however, have very promising sounding, family oriented single cams in development. The New Normal from Ryan Murphy and Ali Adler is a family comedy about gay parents and their surrogate who form an unlikely family. This sounds fresh and yet relatable in the same way Modern Family did a few years back. I could easily see NBC making this the centerpiece of a rebuilt Thu and slotting it at 9. Will it get trounced by TBBT? Sure, but it’s not hard to see it vastly improving on the 2.1 The Office has been getting lately and if it garners great reviews and buzz, it could possibly grow in the long run. I am going to assume NBC moves The Office to 8pm and possibly puts their best, most mainstream new comedies after it. Matthew Perry’s Go On has already been ordered, so that might be a good option for 8:30 (support group comedy, might pair well with workplace The Office) and after The New Normal at 9:30, 1600 Penn is another family comedy with fresh new dressing (It’s set in the white house and boasts familiar faces in Bill Pullman, Jenna Elfman plus the very hot Josh Gad who co wrote it). If NBC doesn’t want to go with 3 new comedies, they could always slot Parks & Rec at 8:30. I don’t expect Community or 3o Rock to show up before midseason (or earlier if they’re needed to fill in for a cancelled show.) They will be renewed. They will air sometimes next season – midseason, possibly into summer, but their numbers don’t justify being on the fall schedule. NBC needs to rebuild and I could see 3 new mainstream single cameras on this night. Remember, ABC debuted an entire new night 3 years ago and got 2 hits out of it, including one mega hit that’s still there. At 10p a new option could be County. Jason Katims makes wonderfully nuanced shows and the last medical drama to air here was huge for NBC.
I assume Grimm returns at 9, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see Harry’s Law at 8 or 10 with possibly the other hour going to Dateline. Who Do you Think You Are should be renewed to air sometime next season on Friday.
I would expect NBC to use Sun, Mon and Tue to help promote the new offerings the rest of the week. I also expect them to order a lot of new shows for next season and to sprinkle the premieres throughout the season. I’d expect Sarah Silverman’s Susan 313 to be one of the other comedies ordered, possibly magical comedy Isabel, and Roseanne’s comedy too. On the drama side would not be shocked to see JJ Abrams/Eric Kripke’s Revolution as well as LOST sounding, Midnight Sun. (Update 5/2/11 – NBC also has two projects from the brilliant Bryan Fuller in development – his take on The Munsters – Mockingbord Lane and his take on Hannibal which has already been ordered and wil air sometime next season).
Of course, with NBC in the state they are currently in, it’s quite possible they have some big reality show they are developing on the DL ready to spring on their schedule when they announce it in a few weeks. NBC has many holes to fill, and I feel far less confident about what they’re likely to do than any other network. Should be interesting.