Monday, May 7, 2012

2012 Upfront Questions, NBC

Last year, I did a series of "Upfront Questions" posts during the pre-upfront week, and I used those questions plus the revealed schedules for "Upfront Answers" during upfront week. I liked that format, so I'm gonna try generally the same thing this year.

This network's upfront happens just one week from today!

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

For further reference, see the April NBC True Power Rankings.


2011-12 Schedule
8:00 - The Sing-Off / Who's Still Standing? / The Voice
9:00 - The Sing-Off / Fear Factor / The Voice
10:00 - The Playboy Club / Rock Center / Smash

Question: How much The Voice?

The good thing about having A-listers on the judging panel is that they bring considerable built-in audiences, and that's certainly happened with The Voice. The bad thing is that those A-listers also have a lot of stuff going on beyond the realm of the show. I'm not sure it'd be a good idea to run two Voice seasons per year in a vacuum, but it may end up out of NBC's control. It looks like they're going for a season in the fall, and we'll find out next week if NBC makes the call on a midseason cycle. It seems like they'd have a big hole without that second season, though I think NBC has enough decent unscripted options floating around (Fear Factor, Off Their Rockers, maybe even Who's Still Standing? or a drastically shortened The Sing-Off) that they could get through it. Whether they'd be competitive is another question.


2011-12 Schedule
8:00 - The Biggest Loser
9:00 - The Biggest Loser / The Voice
10:00 - Parenthood / Fashion Star

Question: Will NBC build its own House/Castle?

As The Voice was taking off last year, I noted that a lot of the big reality franchises have launched some kind of procedural franchise: American Idol had House, Dancing with the Stars had Castle and Survivor had CSI. I give NBC credit for trying to get a big buzzy serialized drama going, but a network savior Smash is not. I think NBC must use the network's widest-reaching lead-in to go after something a little more... wide-reaching. I'm putting this question on Tuesday because I think it's less likely there will be two successful, established crime dramas on this night, but I could see them trying something like this on Monday too.


2011-12 Schedule
8:00 - Up All Night / Whitney / Off Their Rockers
8:30 - Free Agents / Are You There, Chelsea? / Best Friends Forever
9:00 - Harry's Law / Rock Center
10:00 - Law and Order: SVU / Rock Center  

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

NBC Wednesday is the only combination of network and night that's finished in fourth place each of the last six seasons. Unbelievably, their plight is actually getting worse; this season they're just barely managing half of the ABC/CBS numbers (those two nets are in a tight race for second). How in the world do you reverse this? In theory, my pick would be a two-hour block of multicamera comedies, Whitney and three newbies. But recent pilot updates have them souring on their multicams, so that may not be a real possibility. There's also this show called Modern Family that would be tough competition. I still think they should at the very least continue with comedy in the 8/7c hour, perhaps with Whitney and one other multicam.

Whatever they choose, this would be a good night to launch right after the Olympics to try to capture some kind of early momentum. The early launch certainly helped Up All Night, at least in the early going.


2011-12 Schedule
8:00 - Community / 30 Rock
8:30 - Parks and Recreation / 30 Rock
9:00 - The Office
9:30 - Whitney / Up All Night / Parks and Recreation
10:00 - Prime Suspect / The Firm / Awake

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

As I said in the Power Rankings a couple weeks back, I really do think we're now past the point where NBC can just throw on Community / 30 Rock / Office / Parks and pump their fist into the air. I'm also pretty sure at least three of those four shows (and likely all four) are coming back. Some suggest burning some of them off on another night and completely overhauling Thursday. What I'd do is just rotate them within the Thursday 8/7c hour, take the hit against the big competition/low viewing levels, and start over beginning at 9/8c. We'll see if they do something even more transformational.


2011-12 Schedule 
8:00 - Chuck / Who Do You Think You Are?
9:00 - Grimm
10:00 - Dateline

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

This has been the big question about Grimm from the moment it showed promise on premiere night. Back in the fall, I thought NBC should move it right away, but the show proved me wrong in one sense by holding up pretty decently on Friday. The other part of my argument is still golden: there are multiple weeknight timeslots (Wednesday 9/8c and Thursday 10/9c being the two best examples) where Grimm even at its current Friday numbers would bring about a drastic improvement. That said, the show has not held up so well that it's a no-brainer move to another night. I could see it hanging on Friday and pairing with co-production Hannibal.


2011-12 Schedule
7:00 - Football Night in America / Dateline
8:00 - Sunday Night Football / Harry's Law
9:00 - Sunday Night Football / Celebrity Apprentice
10:00 - Sunday Night Football / Celebrity Apprentice

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

Whatever happens with highly-viewed, low-demo Harry's Law, it promises to be interesting, because both sides of the argument about this show have extreme confidence in their positions. My take is that it's highly unlikely that they can get viable ad rates from its 18-49 rating. I don't think "they should be able to monetize all those 50+ viewers" is the right argument. But I do believe there's something to be said for the notion that when you're in NBC's shape, you can't totally ignore a show that's drawing a lot of interest in any demo. It's a scheduling argument, not an advertising one; take the hit to help funnel a large audience into something else that can make money. For example, SVU was doing a few ticks better after Harry's Law than after Rock Center. But even if that argument is not complete bullshit, it requires a very specific situation, and incompatible Grimm sitting in the middle of Friday night complicates what would be the ideal spot. So I'm fairly confident it's getting the axe. Stay tuned.


Spot said...

Wednesdays are the really interesting day for me.

There seems to be enough evidence to indicate that mixing multicams and single cams within a single hour doesn't work. But could an hour of one followed by an hour of the other work on Wednesdays? Preferably the multicams at 9 to try to counter Modern Family?

I've read suggestions that SVU go to 9 to launch a new drama at 10. But is SVU really in the position to launch anything? Especially since it's always been weaker at 9?

An 8pm drama would have to self-start, a tall order for a network that can't get anything going at all. But on the plus side, it would almost certainly be the only drama in the hour, except for possibly the CW, and they aren't exactly a threat.

Spot said...

Community will most certainly be a syndication survivor next season. It would probably be a decent option to put on Wednesdays if they just want (relatively) inexpensive programming in the slot.

Spot said...

Nice article. Didn't knew NBC sucks so much on Wednesdays. Then, couldn't they simply completely ditch that day (temporarily) with idea of dealing with other problems first and not fighting on too many fronts at the same time.
8PM and 8:30PM slots, rotate 3 comedies: 30 Rock / Community / Parks and Recreation, 13 / 17 / 20 episodes.
Law & Order at 9PM, Parenthood at 10PM.
That would be "we'll deal it with it later" route, for now just using Wednesday as syndication farm weekday - put there veteran shows with second to none hope for ratings revival, but with good prospects of syndication revenue.

In that scenario, Mondays and Tuesdays would be The Voice and The Biggest Loser, total 4 hours in whatever ratio, used to launch new dramas at 10PM. Perhaps Kripke's Blackout (AKA Revolution) and Chicago Fire.
Thursday 10PM Smash, Friday 9PM Grimm.
Remaining 3 hours for comedies, 2 blocks at Thursday + Friday 8PM: The Office and 5 new comedies. Just throw it at the wall and see what sticks. That (mud throwing) seems to be their strategy, they already picked 5 sitcoms without even touching ordered multi-cam pilots. For that strategy, I expect them to pick 5 more comedies among bubble shows (Whitney, Up All Night) and multi-cam pilots - Gays With Kids, Table For 3, Ladyfriends, Friday Night Dinner (would it fit nice on Fridays) and Isabel (looks very compatible with Grimm).
They need not to worry about pairing new comedies - NBC doesn't have any good comedy hour anchors, even The Office is not it anymore.

Spot said...

Scratch that 5th comedy block. NBC picked 5 drama pilots: Infamous (FKA Notorius), Do No Harm, Chicago Fire, Blackout (FKA Revolution) and Hannibal. Not all are fall shows, but with 4 dramas returning and only 10 hours for scripted programming, no chance.
It was my wishful thinking anyway. Ever since Monk ended I miss my weekly dose of Tony Shalhoub. So I irrationally rooted for schedule with Friday Night Dinner in it.
:ashamed: Not because of rooting, but for writing irrational comments.

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