Upfront ’13 Thoughts – NBC:

NBC is in much better shape than the industry is giving them credit for. Yes they had a very rough Jan and Feb. But think about it, NBC could conceivably bring back 4 10p dramas from Mon-Thu. 3 of those debuted this season. No other broadcast network can claim that this season. Revolution, though it has a The Voice lead and has dipped some since its return, still gets a L7 DVR boost of at least 1.4. Chicago Fire is usually #2 in its slot and many weeks comes very close to time slot leader CSI. It gets a DVR boost of 1.0. It also regularly grows from its SVU lead, something no drama NBC has ever scheduled after it could claim. It’s legit. Hannibal has received some of the best reviews of the TV season. Its second ep improved on its first and its second half grew from its first. Yes its second ep faced reruns on other nets, but that didn’t stop other NBC Thu 10p shows falling apart in week 2, plus the Wed pilot encore built on its SVU rerun lead and wasn’t far off from its premiere numbers in the demo. In 3 days of DVR viewing it grew almost a point. That’s big. Now could it fall apart in the next few weeks? Well sure, but I don’t think it will. Most importantly, both weeks it built substantially on its lead in and has given NBC its best Thu 10p program all season. Last Thu it was NBCs highest rated show of the night in total viewers, besting The Office by almost a million. This is a show that’s generating acclaim and appears to have a pulse and NBC would be smart to nurture it.

So NBC, at least to me, is in much better shape than say FOX whose highest same day show is generating a low 3.0 (Idol). The Voice is hitting series highs (5.2 and 14.5 million viewers Monday night) and growing each week, extremely rare these days, especially as the popular battle rounds have ended. The addition of Shakira and Usher only seems to have strengthened the panel.

NBC in the fall will have Sunday Night Football and 3 hours of The Voice which equals 6 hours of live appointment, DVR proof TV- something any network would crave. But they also launched 2 legitimate drama hits and one that’s off to a very good start. The latter is something no other broadcast network can boast. Throw in a very strong Friday performer (and huge DVR gainer) Grimm and critical hit (and possibly Emmy magnet this year)  Parenthood which regularly won its time slot  this season and you have a network that as I said above looks a lot stronger than the media would have you believe.

Now for the downside: The comedy cupboard remains mostly bare. Parks and Rec is holding its own on Thu and is a lock for renewal. But from my viewpoint, that’s about it. There’s lots of talk about NBC bringing back Go On and The New Normal. There are creative positives to both shows but NBC has been patient with both shows and after a nice start behind The Voice this fall, both cratered this winter, in a time slot that’s not too competitive, and showed their true value. Even airing behind The Voice this spring both shows couldn’t even hit a 2.0. The last two weeks behind The Office, Go On couldn’t even muster more than a 1.1. Hannibal built at least .5 out of it for both weeks. Frankly the biggest favor Go On did for NBC on Thu was demonstrate interest in Hannibal which more than self started both weeks. I could see NBC possibly giving both of these comedies another shot based on Matthew Perry and Ryan Murphy alone. There’s also that old adage of “you can’t cancel everything” but in this case any new show likely wouldn’t perform any worse. So if NBC does give one or both another shot, it might be best to hold it for later in the season and use the fall to try to launch new comedy hits. The biggest question facing NBC and comedy is do they still stick with their legendary comedy Thu block, especially since ¾ of it will have to be brand new and possibly face a comedy block on CBS that will feature two hits, including the biggest monster on TV, The Big Bang Theory.

I don’t think the latter question is simple. One might think just use The Voice on Tue to launch The Michael J Fox show followed by another new comedy. I get the logic there, but that strategy didn’t yield two comedy hits this season. As much as we all love M. J. Fox and the fact that NBC gave his show a 22 ep commitment, there’s still no guarantee it will be huge. Go On has Matthew Perry’s star power and had the Olympics and the Voice to launch it and was quite strong in the fall but since Jan has proven to be not even a moderate hit (not even big DVR gains). I also think NBC would be much stronger on Tue with The Voice as the anchor at 9p which can give somewhat of a halo to its lead in and lead out (like a new drama).  Lately The Voice has been an island on Tue with 9-11 not even remotely harnessing any of its superpower. At 9p it has a better shot of helping neighbors and if the 8p shows flop, NBC can always schedule a Voice encore from the night before and still be pretty potent.

I could hear arguments being made for NBC to move around The Voice, to either Tue/Wed or even Wed/Thu (X Factor isn’t a factor, Voice is the leader, but why even go there) and while I think a year ago Tue/Wed could have been a strong possibility, at this point I think NBC owns Monday and the hour The Voice is on Tue and shouldn’t mess with it. They need stability and they have it all fall on Sun-Tue and with The Winter Olympics and a presumed earlier start for The Voice immediately after, they really only need to attack Thu and that’s what they should focus on.

(Just playing devils advocate here, NBC technically could bring back The Biggest Loser to Monday in the fall since they wont need it as much in the winter with 2 and a half weeks in Feb devoted to the winter Olympics and The Voice presumably starting right after. Then The Voice could go Wed/Thu. Tue could be a new hour at 8p followed by SVU and Parenthood. Wed would have The Voice into Chicago Fire. Thu could be Voice results into Michael J Fox and another new comedy into Hannibal at 10. They would be really strong all week. But I don’t think NBC should do this as they now own Monday and stability is important. Plus The Biggest Loser could be their Sunday 8-10 option next March.)

So what do they do? We know what Sunday looks like. I think for the fall, at least, NBC should leave Monday as is. Yes Revolution is not the performer it was in the fall. It was a clear leader, now in its last go round it could only tie Castle despite having a 3 point lead at 9:30. I’m sure NBC would love to use that lead to launch new dramas on both nights. BUT there’s no guarantee a new drama would do any better and they know with Revolution they have at least a low 2.0 show that will get at least a 1.5 DVR bump.  I definitely see NBC using Mondays The Voice to launch a new drama in the spring. But for right now I say NBC should keep Monday stable in the fall and leave as is.

(Should NBC opt to move it, I think Wed at 8p would be a good place. Its counter programming to the other offerings from ABC, CBS, and Fox and could make a nice night of Revolution/SVU/Chicago Fire) but I’m not recommending it for the moment).

So Tue I think NBC should move The Voice to 9p and launch a new drama at 10. I would go high concept like they did with Revolution. Some candidates that come to mind are Carlton Cuse’s The Sixth Gun, or “The Untitled Rand Ravich Project” which is a Washington based Conspiracy or Bloodline or maybe they go with another JJ Abrams Project (this one with Alfonso Cuaron) Believe.

I am sure many will suggest NBC Tue look like this: The Voice/Michael J Fox/About a Boy/Parenthood (two Jason Katims shows back to back) and that would be a fine option. But for reasons I explained above I just think NBC helps themselves more with The Voice at 9 and if they don’t use The Voice Mon to launch a new drama, they should on Tue, especially as there is currently a huge hole there.

There are a few options for 8p. They could go the reality route: The Sean Hayes produced Celebrity Game Night hasn’t been penciled in for summer thus far, so maybe it could be their 8p option leading into The Voice. There’s no strong reality show there currently on other nets. Another option might be for NBC to try those two single cam comedies at 8p leading into The Voice. I’m not recommending that.

In this fantasy schedule, NBC hasn’t launched new shows on Sun or Mon but they have huge promotional value those nights so maybe they can launch new shows at 8p and 10p. If that’s the case, and depending on how their development turns out, NBC might be well served by launching two multi cams here – it’s a slot that has none and likely won’t. In fact Tue has no multi cams anywhere. NBC has continually tried launching multi cams on Wed these last few seasons to no avail, but maybe leading into the The Voice is a better option. The John Mulaney project seems like a good bet to start off the hour. He’s one of the hottest comedians currently and with a cast that includes a comedy giant like Martin Short and current SNL performer Nasim Pedrad (and exec produced by Lorne Michaels) there’s a good bet this show will find the funny sooner than later. It can be paired with another multi cam, the Victor Fresco produced, Sean Hayes starrer, Happiness. Another option might be for NBC to start the night with Parenthood followed by The Voice followed by a new drama. Parenthood gets some kind of pre tune for The Voice and would play fine as an 8p show and the Voice gets to launch a new drama.

Tue could look like this: John Mulaney/Happiness/TheVoice/The Sixth Gun

Or : Celebrity Game Night/The Voice/The Sixth Gun

(Or Possibly: Parenthood/The Voice/The Sixth Gun)

I think NBC should leave their Wed 9-11 block as is, so what goes at 8? Well this might be another place for NBC to try another new drama (maybe one of the 4 I mentioned above). Outside of Arrow on the CW, there is no drama on the networks at this hour and with a drama lineup from 9-11 it might provide a decent lead in as well as serve as counterprogramming at 8. Something high concept and with a female lead (and younger skewing) like Bloodline could be a decent performer at 8. There is no show in this timeslot that’s dominating really strongly. NBC might be smart to take advantage (like LOST did in ’04) and schedule a big, high concept drama here where there is none. NBC also could move Grimm here as I have suggested before. It’s more than likely to do better than what it does on Fri and get close to a 2.0 which would be higher than this hour has produced for NBC in years and give SVU a drama lead it hasn’t had in years. This show has a strong fanbase. It usually gets around a 1.5 on lower viewed Friday and at least a 1.0 DVR boost. The only thing is that it probably shares some audience with Arrow, but NBC has that advantage here since Arrow usually brings in 3 mil and Grimm garners 5 mil on Friday. It would be easy for NBC to replace it on Friday. 2 hour Dateline into Rock Center did well for NBC those few weeks it ran. I’m sure it gets lower ad rates but if it means Wed at 8 is upgraded, NBC will gladly take it. If NBCs drama development is strong they would likely want to launch at least 2 new dramas in the fall and Wed at 8p is a good slot to try one. (I’m not penciling in that Chicago Fire proposed spinoff yet. Maybe its an option later in the year, but Chicago Fire is still relatively new and it seems a bit premature, but who knows?)

So Wed could look like this: Bloodline/SVU/Chicago Fire or Grimm/SVU/Chicago Fire

(I don’t know if there are any issues airing Grimm at 8, I wouldn’t think so as they rerun it there sometimes, but in case there is, then they should go the new drama route)

So now comes Thursday – the big question mark. My gut says NBC wants to uphold their Thu comedy legacy. What stands in their way is the fact that CBS could expand to 4 comedies (and they announce after NBC) and that could put a kibosh on their plans. Right now, I say NBC stays strong and goes with 3 new single camera comedies, with the Michael J Fox show as their 9p anchor. Most people think launching a brand new block is insanity and I get that. But I regularly point to ABC in fall of ’09 who launched 4 brand new comedies at once on Wed. 2 are still their 8p and 9p anchors and the 9p show is one of the biggest on TV. Yes they didn’t face a comedy block on CBS including the biggest show on TV, but NBC can go the single camera route and just expect them to be slow and steady. If they get one new hit out of it at the end of the season it’s a huge bonus and worth the effort. I regularly questioned why NBC was launching Hannibal against 2 hits and now its possible all 3 can co-exist. So I don’t think its crazy for NBC to try to launch new comedies on Thu. They are going to be strong the first three nights of the week and will have strong promotional value so they can afford to be a little lower on Thu and nurture their best new comedies. Part of me thinks it would be easier if they had 2 older comedies from 8-9 and then launch a new hour 9-10 but Community is getting a low 1 now and I don’t see that as helping them . At least Parks and Rec is getting a 1.5 on a night not doing much more. The Michael J Fox show is their 9p anchor, I’d follow with another family comedy, maybe Welcome To The Family which includes great actors and recognizable faces like Mike O’ Malley, Mary McCormack, Ricardo Chavira and Justina Machado.  Another 9:30 option is Jason Katims About A Boy. These family comedies should also be more mass appealing and less niche than the comedies NBC has been airing on this night for the last number of years.

I think Parks and Rec should remain at 8:30 and maybe 8p can open with one of Greg Daniels’ 2 projects in development, keeping the 8p hour all Gred D. and likely shows with similar tones. The Untitled Craig Robinson Project sounds like a good option. It stars a recognizable star to NBC Thu night and he plays a good-hearted musician adapting to a new role as a music teacher in a middle school. It sounds like a fresh concept and easily promotable.

I don’t know the logistics of Hannibal and its production schedule but I think NBC should plan to return it in the fall (unless it craters). It’s holding its own on Thu night where nothing on NBC has caught fire lately. Revolution has demonstrated that a long hiatus isn’t great for a new show. Even if it first showed up in mid October that is still a good option for NBC. They can air a handful of eps in the fall while they have huge promotional platforms.

NBC could roll out this night slowly. Maybe the first few weeks NBC airs another blind audition round of The Voice at 8p leading into the new 9p comedies and then roll out the 8p hour after a few weeks.

So Thu could potentially look like this: Untitled Craig Robinson/Parks and Rec/Michael J Fox/Welcome To The Family or About A Boy/Hannibal

Unless NBC uses Grimm on Wed, Friday could likely remain a reality show (like Celebrity Game Night) into Grimm into Rock Center.  The more I think about it, though, Grimm might be better served to be held for midseason and run 22 eps consecutively (except for the Olympics), and used in a timeslot they have holes. As I said above, 2 hour Dateline into Rock Center did just fine and if NBC does restart Thu they might just want to have a night that can pull decent numbers with little promotion. Plus Friday can be used to encore some new shows the first few weeks.

The more I think about it Friday should just be:  Dateline/Rock Center (maybe a reality project at 8p)  

Unless NBC uses Parenthood Tue at 8, I don’t have a place for it on this sked. In that case, I think they should save it for Jan and run it all the way through May in a hole they have. (Another option could be Sunday at 10 after The Biggest Loser in March). There’s no reason this show shouldn’t be able to produce 18-20 eps a season. Yes it’s an expensive show but so was Brothers and Sisters. Why can’t they just put actors on contract for 13-16 eps a season. They have a big enough cast that not every cast member needs to be in every ep. There have been more expensive shows that have worked this out. There’s no reason this show can’t as well.

At first blush, it might look a bit crazy that there’s a potential schedule with 5 new comedies in the fall alone (that’s if NBC launches 2 multi cams on Tue and 3 single cams on Thu). It’s more than possible that NBC won’t do that. They could easily put Parenthood Tue at 8 or reality like Celebrity Game Night. Maybe NBC does just launch one new hour on Thu. Maybe CBS goes 4 comedies on Thu and NBC wants to counter and launches a new drama on Thu or goes the reality route. But on further reflection, NBC won’t have to spend lots of money promoting Sun or Mon. They would have to promote 2 new hours on Tue, one on Wed and the bulk of their promotional muscle could be relegated to launching a new Thu, but one with well liked, promotable stars. It’s not that much when you think about it that way. Plus, outside of Thu, the new hours are on a night where there are other hits returning.

NBC could also stagger these launches (and should), as I mentioned above. The first few weeks of the season they could just focus on a new Tue 10p drama and the new 9p hour of comedy on Thu. They could potentially launch the new 8p comedy hour on Tue and Thu’s 8p hour weeks into the season, even extending to November.  With Sunday Night Football, and The Voice, NBC has huge promotional platforms all through the fall.  With smart planning and scheduling, it’s not unfathomable for NBC to launch a new comedy hit. As I said above, their comedy cupboard is bare. More comedies on the schedule (smartly scheduled and promoted)  gives them more opportunity to have at least one break out. One new comedy hit could be a game changer for them. If at the end of the season, a new Thursday only yielded that, that’s a huge win.

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3 Responses to Upfront ’13 Thoughts – NBC:

  1. dan says:

    Make a friggkn schedule. Too much what its and rambling. Sorry but it us too indecisive

  2. Pingback: CBSs Potential Move Of THE BIG BANG THEORY to 9p Creates Opportunity For The Other Nets: | Random Musings from a BigTVfan

  3. Pingback: Complete Upfront ’13 Thoughts From The Big 4: | Random Musings from a BigTVfan

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