Scheduling rant time! There's been a fair amount of buzz on the Internets today about a post on Deadline about a potential NBC sked shake-up that would see the horrifically-rated The Apprentice moved to Wednesday at 9, Law & Order: SVU up an hour to Wednesday at 10, and Law & Order: LA to Thursday 10. What's shocked me is how many people seem receptive to the move. Here's the usual rationale: "Law & Order: SVU would be up because it's a 10:00 show! Law & Order: LA would hold up well on Thursday because it's a recognizable brand! The Apprentice couldn't do any worse!"
I say: don't do it, NBC!
Why? OK, call me conservative, but if I were in charge of a network (and I'm decidedly not), one of my governing philosophies would be that every move has to have a good reason. If you're moving a bunch of shows around for effectively the same total in ratings, it's probably a losing game because you have to promote all those moves, and even with said promotion, there's likely an inherent hit in such moves just due to a lot of people not being as totally savvy about network scheduling as some of us are.
And I think that, really, the absolute best case scenario here for NBC would be that SVU would gain a couple ticks because "it's a 10:00 show" and the other two would hold up perfectly. Is that really worth the considerable risk? Somebody comes to me with a scheduling idea that puts my best-looking new show at risk, the first thing I ask them is, "What are we gaining from this in the best case?" and if the answer is "A couple tenths higher demos for a twelfth-year drama!" I am going to fire them. (Sorry, I'm getting a little power-hungry.)
Meanwhile, the risks: oh, the risks! With The Event tanking again in week 3, most of the hopes for a good new series launch on NBC rest on Law & Order: LA, a show that premiered pretty well last week with the SVU lead-in. What you are doing to this show is 1) moving it within weeks of its debut; 2) throwing it up against more legit crime drama competition (The Mentalist); and 3) giving it at best a less compatible lead-in (Outsourced) and at worst a weaker one (we don't know how Outsourced will ultimately do). With the one week of data we have on LOLA, I can't fathom a move that would potentially throw this show to the wolves. At this point in time, it is your best hope of the whole season. Yes, it's a recognizable brand, a brand so recognizable that the mothership was getting mid-1 demos last season and Criminal Intent is one of the weakest originals on USA Network.
And the whole "SVU is a 10:00 show" thing? It has some basis in ratings, but not really all that much. It averaged a 2.58 at 9:00 and a 2.78 at 10:00 last year. That's two ticks. What people are really remembering when they say that, I think, is how strong it was for all those years on Tuesday plus some vague notion that "it did better at 10:00 last year." Yes. But two freakin' ticks! And the show has actually done better at 9:00 than it did at the beginning of last fall. If the show were at like a 2.0 and it seemed like Criminal Minds was absolutely destroying it, maybe we can think about this. But SVU is not actually getting slaughtered!
Then there's The Apprentice, whose disastrous 10:00 results are probably what really has NBC scrambling to shake things up. Would it do worse on Wednesday at 9:00? I guess not. I don't really know, and it doesn't really matter. It probably wouldn't be hugely significant either way. The point is, I think scheduling has to work in favor of the new shows, and this one puts the new show at risk while marginally helping one really, really old show.
So what would I do? As I see it, there are two major trouble spots on these two nights, Wednesday at 8:00 (Undercovers) and Thursday at 10:00 (The Apprentice). If you do anything at all, I would simply flip those. Throw the old show to the Survivor wolves, give the new show something of a lead-in before you write it off completely. What I think prevents them from doing this is The Mark Burnett Connection between Survivor and The Apprentice. But if The Mark Burnett Connection causes all this other stuff to shake down, most notably major damage to a somewhat promising LOLA (at this very early juncture), well... I'll be speechless. Hopefully, cooler heads will ultimately prevail.