Sunday, May 13, 2012

2012 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.

Other Upfront Answers: NBC | Fox | ABC | CBS | The CW | General

For further reference: NBC True Power Rankings | NBC Upfront Questions

MONDAY

8-10 p.m. - "The Voice"
10-11 p.m. - "REVOLUTION"

My Question: How much The Voice?

It sounds like the answer to this is "a lot," as Bob Greenblatt's comments would suggest they're going with two cycles in 2012-13. How does the double-pump end up working out ratings-wise? We will see, but it's worth being concerned about. It also means that a lot of that second-tier unscripted stuff becomes a lot less necessary; while Off Their Rockers is renewed, it doesn't sound like shows like The Sing-Off, Who's Still Standing? or even Fear Factor (AKA NBC's third-biggest entertainment program last season) are coming back.

TUESDAY

8-9 p.m. -"The Voice"
9-9:30 p.m. - "GO ON"
9:30-10 p.m. - "THE NEW NORMAL"
10-11 p.m. - "Parenthood"

My Question: Will NBC build its own House/Castle?

Not really. Instead, they went Smash part two by putting a very different-sounding drama in the plum Monday post-Voice slot, then they gave the Tuesday lead-in to comedies. Leading into comedies seems like a pretty good idea, but I still would've liked to see something a little wider-reaching in the Monday slot. Perhaps they are sure enough in Castle and Hawaii Five-0 staying put on Monday that they felt like going off the beaten path again.

WEDNESDAY

8-8:30 p.m. - "ANIMAL PRACTICE"
8:30-9 p.m. - "GUYS WITH KIDS"
9-10 p.m. - "Law and Order: SVU"
10-11 p.m. - "CHICAGO FIRE"

My Question: What can possibly get NBC back in the Wednesday game?

Apparently the answer is two new comedies, "10:00 show" SVU once again back at 9:00 and fellow Dick Wolf drama Chicago Fire at 10:00. Overall, it is another pretty uninspiring plan for Wednesday, but it again hinges on whether the new shows are up to the challenge. NBC did all right with Up All Night's arrangement last fall, so you can't write off the lead-off shows. Perhaps we'll see them try to sample these new comedies after the tail end of this summer's America's Got Talent once again, and maybe they'll get an even longer run (if they're among the August launches).

THURSDAY

8-8:30 p.m. - "30 Rock"
8:30-9 p.m. - "Up All Night"
9-9:30 p.m. - "The Office"
9:30-10 p.m. - "Parks and Recreation"
10-11 p.m. - "Rock Center with Brian Williams"

My Question: How heavily will NBC lean on those fast-fading returnees?

Very, very heavily, as NBC essentially raises the white flag on once-proud Thursday night. This will get pretty ugly. I do rather like the fact that they didn't try to mix any new shows into this mess, though. What I really meant by this question was: would NBC have enough confidence in the returning comedies to just mix in new comedies around them? Clearly not. And that's honestly probably pretty smart. Perhaps NBC's real best play was to just admit that there are going to be big holes regardless and try to consolidate them all on one night. It's the scheduling equivalent of a quarantine zone. Of course, doing this kind of thing means the other nights had really better work.

FRIDAY

8-8:30 p.m. - "Whitney"
8:30-9 p.m. - "Community"
9-10 p.m. - "Grimm"
10-11 p.m. - "Dateline NBC"

My Question: How much can a network with multiple complete failure weeknights commit to a weekend night?

Well, Grimm stays, alongside what feels like probably the last two comedies renewed. I can't say Whitney and Community feels like a good pairing, but... it's what's left over. I don't see them doing much of anything, and in fact I wouldn't be stunned to see them hold off on premiering those two for awhile to see how things develop. (Whitney feels like the only of the returning comedies that I might feel OK about incorporating with the new shows.)

MIDSEASON SUNDAY

7-8 p.m. - "Dateline NBC"
8-9 p.m. - "Fashion Star"
9-10 p.m. - "The Celebrity Apprentice"
10-11 p.m. - "DO NO HARM"

My Question: Who wins the great Harry's Law debate?

"The demo" wins again, and in fact NBC will totally eschew the whole Sunday 8/7c drama idea and stick with two unscripted hours into newbie Do No Harm. Gonna be interesting to see how Fashion Star compares to the year-ago episodes of Harry's Law next May. This doesn't seem like a very good situation for Do No Harm (I'm guessing Apprentice will be on death's door by next season), but don't rule out DNH heading somewhere else if (when) a big hole opens up elsewhere. The second hour of Apprentice is always available.

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS

The first thing that must be said is that there's really no way NBC can make a "good" schedule. It would be very difficult to create an arrangement of these shows where you couldn't point to several hours and say, "This won't work."

What I like about NBC's schedule is that there are a couple very clear messages: 1) comedy is hot, and it's our best hope to get back in the game; 2) our existing comedies are not going to be helpful in that pursuit. I happen to agree with both of those things, and it's a good thing that they recognized them and committed to them (whereas I'm afraid at least one upcoming network will not). NBC could've very easily hedged things much more, mixing in new comedies with old ones and continuing the culture of comedy low-ratedness. Instead, there was a very clear segregation between old and new. In some cases, that seems rather odd (I figured Whitney would go alongside the only other multicam Guys with Kids), but for the most part it's probably their best shot. If all the new comedies go on to fail, well, then it was probably gonna happen regardless of arrangement.

The thing that most concerns me is the post-Voice choice on Monday. Of course, I haven't seen Revolution, but I still think some sort of procedural would've been a better call. Perhaps Do No Harm will fill in if Revolution struggles.

5 comments:

Spot said...

Wow, that Thursday schedule is just sad. Surrender indeed.

Spot said...

NBC: The Comedy Version of The CW

Spot said...

A couple personal thoughts: Figures the one NBC show I'm watching gets moved out of its timeslot (and to such a bad one, too)...

Secondly, figures that the one NEW show I'm interested in winds up in a timeslot where I already view something (although DVR is an option).

Looking at the schedule as a whole just gives off an overwhelming sense of apathy on the part of the NBCU chairmen. It feels like a blank check to fail. After all, if any show would've been my pick for post-Voice on Mondays, it probably would've been Chicago Fire, given the pedigree (surely SOMEONE watching NBC today remembers Law & Order. Anyone? Anyone?). That said, at least they can be seen to be doing "good works" in J.J. Abrams' direction. (even if, again, it sucks that Revolution, which I'm interested in checking out, is going against Five-0, which I already watch, saving grace of DVRs aside)

Spot said...

At least there's one NBC show that clears the "watchable" bar for me. I haven't been able to say that about CW since it was still UPN and WB...

Spot said...

Yes, NBC can not make a "good" schedule. They have no one to blame for it but themselves.
With no good comedy block anchors (even The Office nosedived in spring) and with Law & Order: SVU being best drama lead-in with sub 2.0 ratings, they were forced to have fall cycle of The Voice. Otherwise, they'd have zero good lead-ins. In such dire situation, they can't think about burning Voice too early. They paired new comedies as I expected - thus there's slim chance one is going to pan as good anchor - no veteran is to magcally suddenly revive. They ditched one day (Thursday, not Wednesday that I suggested) so they're aware they can't rebuild in one year. More important, they're aware of need for almost complete rebuilding.
Problem is not in scheduling, but in bad decisions that led to such awful stock of shows. Given what they have (not have. I'd say), nice schedule, they left themselves many options open. However, I can't see happy end story here.
- they bet most on Revolution, but to me that show screams FlashForward scenario: Pilot cut just the way broadcast networks execs like it ... but after few episodes thing falls apart, all the magic (and viewers) are gone
- other dramas don't strike me as potential hits (I'll give Hannibal benefit of doubt solely because of Brian Fuller), solid players at best
- new comedies are thrown in the water and left alone - maybe they'll swim well, but common sense (and spottedratings stats) says opposite is more likely
- they passed on comedy with Tony Shalhoub and Allison Janney. Even if pilot was not good, you don't bench Tom Brady after one bad game, don't you? And it comes from people that gave chance to Free Agents or Bent (not to mention all of those awful dramas) . So I'll reserve right to doubt picking abilities of NBC execs from past, present and future.


I remember Jerry Orbach, sure. He carried Law & Order.

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