Part two of the upfront preview is the SCHEDULE-centric portion, examining the big-picture scheduling questions each network faces on each night in the final week before its upfront. This post tries to lay out the reasonable possibilities rather than spending a lot of time committing to one, but I am including "Spot's Answer" in each section to try to be a little clearer about where I'm leaning. They're not really "official predictions" (more like a hybrid of predictions/recommendations) but you can consider them that way if you want.
Last week's Power Rankings were the SHOW-centric portion, in which I drilled more into the merits of individual shows: NBC True Power Rankings
Other Upfront Questions: NBC | Fox | ABC | CBS | CW
8:00 - The Voice | Celebrity Apprentice | The Voice
10:00 - The Blacklist | State of Affairs | The Night Shift
Question: Which drama gets the best slot on the network?
It's a repeat of last year's NBC Monday question, and a question that will probably keep getting repeated as long as The Voice is strong. It seems fairly clear now that NBC really didn't have any remotely decent new drama option in 2014-15, so it was probably bound to be a comedy of errors no matter how it was scheduled. But throwing State of Affairs under the bus very late in The Voice's fall season and then phoning it in with a former summer burn-off isn't even trying. They are almost bound to schedule it better this time.
Spot's Answer: The Player/Endgame with Wesley Snipes seems potentially splashy. Tough question to answer without seeing pilots, so just some general advice: this is a place to start a new franchise. I'd avoid shows like Shades of Blue or Chicago Med that might have the kind of name recognition to attract some audience in worse situations, unless those shows are simply miles ahead of everything else.
8:00 - The Voice | Parks and Recreation | The Voice
9:00 - Marry Me | Undateable
9:30 - About a Boy | One Big Happy
10:00 - Chicago Fire
Question: How dedicated is NBC to getting comedies sampled?
Another repeat of last year's question in the same spot. It got even worse for the NBC comedy department in 2014-15, and there's now absolutely nothing whatsoever comedy-wise to build around. Like last year, this is probably the only place to give the genre any shot, but might NBC just bail on it altogether with a new comedy field that even NBC seems to think has "no clear frontrunners"? I mean, they loved Go On and Marry Me, so this must be pretty dire. (Or, alternatively, maybe they are so clueless comedy-wise that they actually have a bunch of gems this year...)
Spot's Answer: New comedies go back at 9/8c. Getting completely out of the game would be tough to sell.
8:00 - The Mysteries of Laura
9:00 - Law and Order: SVU
10:00 - Chicago PD
Question: What takes the hit against Empire?
Since NBC goes first, they won't be 100% sure where the Fox giga-hit is getting scheduled in the fall. But it's probably best to bank on it being Wednesday 8/7c. That makes the slot even less desirable than usual for a new show, so something older should be here ideally. Things probably aren't dire enough even at the peacock for The Mysteries of Laura to return in this role, but it might be a lower-cost show that was pretty close to the same level of weakness (The Biggest Loser) or it might be something like SVU that, while much stronger, is not a top priority at its advanced age and could funnel more audience into a newbie.
Spot's Answer: If there's not a new drama on Wednesday, go with The Biggest Loser and call it a day. If there is a new drama, move SVU here and put the newbie at 9/8c or 10/9c. Since there are reports that Chicago Med may be a midseason launch like PD was, it's possible both could happen, with Loser launching early and then SVU shifting to 8/7c in January.
8:00 - The Biggest Loser | The Slap | Dateline/repeats
9:00 - Bad Judge | The Blacklist
9:30 - A to Z | The Blacklist
10:00 - Parenthood | Allegiance | The Slap | Dateline
Question: How much better can NBC do by/expect from The Blacklist?
These two things are true: 1) The Blacklist has gotten really, really ugly. 1.2 last week is just ridiculous. 2) Scheduling The Blacklist after The Slap, a show that they couldn't have possibly expected to garner much interest, and 0.5 repeats of itself was also really, really ugly. How much of the blame goes to scheduling and how much to the show? We all have our own positions on the spectrum. With a drop of this magnitude, there's plenty of room for a lot of both sides, but I'm not convinced it can turn it back around on a major scale at this point.
So NBC's Thursday question is no longer about what NBC chooses to launch after The Blacklist. It's more about whether recent ratings have gotten so ugly that the network won't even treat it like a centerpiece anymore. After all, even when the ratings were more reasonable, its attempts to "launch" were eerily disastrous. The seemingly somewhat compatible Allegiance was totally DOA and later episodes of The Slap actually did better after local programming.
Spot's Answer: The Blacklist was productive enough in its first season and a half that the network really ought to make a real effort at giving it a support system. But there aren't that many options that are worth the risk of a move to Thursday at 8/7c. The Heroes Reborn limited series is something that, at least in theory, could attract some audience without getting a preferred timeslot. But are people really interested in returning to a series that was so badly rejected in its later seasons? As I said last week, The Biggest Loser is weak, but even it would be an upgrade on Blacklist's 2015 lead-ins thus far.
8:00 - Dateline | Grimm
9:00 - Grimm | Dateline
10:00 - Constantine | Dateline
Question: Is Grimm into a new drama still a thing?
Prior to Grimm's late-season move to 8/7c, the veteran drama was not down year-to-year by significantly more than the the league average decline. So if it returns to 9/8c as a launch pad, it's not a given that it'd be significantly worse than the Grimm that has led into many a new drama at 10/9c. But the fact that they moved the show to 8/7c at all (especially given their numerous late-season issues) is not a particularly promising sign for NBC's interest in the show. The string of weak post-Grimm dramas have also helped demonstrate just how unique Grimm was four years ago in finding a genre audience on this night, and spending bigger on DC Comics' Constantine didn't really improve matters.
Spot's Answer: On the one hand, there are a couple new dramas in the pipeline (like the already greenlit Blindspot) that seem like potential decent pairings. On the other hand, the scheduling tea leaves suggest a network looking for a different direction. Since there are plenty of other places new dramas could go, I tend to lean toward the scheduling tea leaves here and say NBC will do something different with the third Friday hour: either a cheaper unscripted option or a drama that may be more of a Dateline pairing than a Grimm one. That leaves Grimm back on an island at 8/7c or 10/9c for what may be the last run.
7:00 - Football Night in America | Dateline
8:00 - Sunday Night Football | Dateline
9:00 - Sunday Night Football | A.D. The Bible Continues
10:00 - Sunday Night Football | American Odyssey
Question: After A.D.'s disappointment, is there another "event" solution for Sunday in the spring?
Spot's Answer: Eh, I'm a lot more interested in whether a network with nothing more than The Voice and a few decent-rated dramas can actually fill a fall schedule. The stuff with actual promise ought to be in the fall, and the last 2.5 months of Sundays can just be the leftovers or something lower-cost. We'll see if the net has anything worth announcing.
Bottom line: NBC's lineup is going to be The Voice, just a few OK players and a lot of new stuff. Without knowing that much about the new stuff, it is tough to make this post interesting! We'll try to do better in future ones.