Sunday, May 15, 2011

Upfront Answers, NBC

Last week, I did a series of pre-upfront posts called "Upfront Questions" in which I posed one question for each night of the schedule. My post-upfront coverage is called "Upfront Answers," in which I take a look at how they addressed my questions.

My NBC Upfront Questions

8-10 p.m. — The Sing-Off
10-11 p.m. — The Playboy Club (NEW)

My Question: What's the next Monday centerpiece?

It appears the actual answer here is The Voice, which will return this midseason and is currently slated for Monday. For now, it's a fall run for The Sing-Off, which has done some pretty good business in a holiday filler role but now gets to go up against the big boys on a consistent basis. I would expect it's not going to do very well, especially going up against the DWTS performance every week. Then, if The Voice is anywhere near its current levels when it returns, it should become a Monday staple moving forward.

8-10 p.m. — The Biggest Loser
10-11 p.m. — Parenthood

My Question: An embarrassment of riches? On NBC?!

I talked about this in other posts though not with this particular night, but I think Biggest Loser/Parenthood is one of those not bad, not great pairings that ends up staying together longer than many feel like it should. The other big Tuesday staple The Voice is indeed leaving the evening, though, as it's currently slated for Monday at midseason. Will there be a second night of Voice? If so, and if the first night remains on Monday, you'd think Tuesday is where that will end up. Perhaps that is when we will finally see a shrinking of The Biggest Loser. (Especially if this fall brings further declines to the franchise.)

8-8:30 p.m. — Up All Night (NEW)
8:30-9 p.m. — Free Agents (NEW)
9-10 p.m. — Harry's Law
10-11 p.m.— Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

My Question: How to stay above water on Reality Wednesday?

As hoped, NBC is indeed going scripted on Wednesday, but I'm surprised to see the Lorne Michaels-produced Up All Night establishing new comedy territory elsewhere. Harry's Law may end up being OK counterprogramming (it's certainly pretty different from Criminal Minds), but overall this is still gonna be a pretty tough two-hour run up to SVU.

8-8:30 p.m. — Community
8:30-9 p.m. — Parks and Recreation
9-9:30 p.m. — The Office
9:30-10 p.m. — Whitney (NEW)
10-11 p.m. — Prime Suspect (NEW)

My Question: Will NBC comedy cut its Thursday losses and seek new frontiers?

Well, they cut them insofar as they didn't stick with three hours on Thursday. Instead, Prime Suspect tries to be the next big Thursday drama for NBC. They did seek a new frontier with the Wednesday hour. But I don't think these are arranged very well. Up All Night seemed a natural fit with the Thursday shows and Whitney seemed to be signaling a potential new "brand" (along with the Chelsea Handler comedy). Instead, they're sort of mashed together in a move that doesn't really commit to either off the possibilities I'd expected. Will need to see more of these shows to know for sure, but at the moment I don't like it.

8-9 p.m. — Chuck
9-10 p.m. — Grimm (NEW)
10-11 p.m. — Dateline NBC

My Question: Can NBC resist the two-hour Dateline?

My first sentence in this section on the Questions post was, "Let's be clear on something: them resisting the two-hour Dateline at the upfront does not mean they won't resist it very soon into the fall season." Well, they resisted it at the upfront, but it's hard not to look at this lineup and still feel pretty confident that they won't eventually give in. The networks always seem to want to appear aggressive on Fridays at the upfront, but they don't usually want to follow through. This lineup kinda smacks of that to me. Either they don't like Grimm that much or they are going to eventually shelve one or both of these in favor of unscripted stuff. (Like hour two of Dateline!)

7- 8:15 p.m. — Football Night in America
8:15-11:30 p.m. — NBC Sunday Night Football

7-8 p.m. – Dateline NBC
8-10 p.m. – The Celebrity Apprentice
10-11 p.m. – The Firm (NEW)

My Question: What if NBC loses both the NFL (to a labor dispute) and Donald Trump (to a presidential run)?

As I said last week, we still don't know the answer to this. It was totally expected that NBC would present the schedule as if both will be back. So there isn't much to say here until more develops. An interesting note here, though: The Firm is a 22-episode co-production. It could probably launch immediately after football ends and pretty much run straight through. But it might have some pretty stinky lead-ins in the short term, as Apprentice typically doesn't get going till March. So will NBC split up the Firm order into two seasons, start Apprentice earlier, or what?


What sticks out to me is the arrangement of the comedies; they seem to want to give their best one the best lead-in, compatibility be damned. I think it's tough to look at the fall lineups for Monday and Wednesday and feel like they're really gonna make any progress on those troubled nights, but it'll depend on whether The Sing-Off can hold up at all against the DWTS performance shows. I'm not even sure The Voice can. Overall, it looks like a pretty rough fall for NBC and we're not gonna get the real verdict on it all until midseason.

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