Sunday, May 10, 2015

2015 Upfront Answers, NBC

Last week, I asked "Upfront Questions" to preview each network's fall 2015 schedule. With the schedule now official, here are the "Upfront Answers"!

NBC's upfront previews: True Power Rankings | Upfront Questions

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


Fall 2015 Schedule
8-10 P.M. — “The Voice
10-11 P.M. — “BLINDSPOT”

My Question: Which drama gets the best slot on the network?

It's not a returnee and it's not something with built-in name recognition that would be better utilized elsewhere. And it looks like a potential winner. Good job.


Fall 2015 Schedule
8-9 P.M. — “The Voice
10-11 P.M. — “BEST TIME EVER WITH NEIL PATRICK HARRIS” (through November)
10-11 P.M. — “Chicago Fire” (premieres in November)

My Question: How dedicated is NBC to getting comedies sampled?

Basically not at all. On a broad level, it's disheartening, because I still think comedies are a necessity for broadcast to survive over the long-term, so a part of me dies whenever they are thrown this badly under the bus. But on a more specific level, it's really hard to trust NBC's comedy development, especially in a year when even they didn't think there were standouts. I have little doubt that the "best" overall schedule for NBC probably includes dramas (or at least non-sitcoms) in both of the post-Voice slots. Credit to them for recognizing that and acting accordingly.

But then there's the specific choice of Heartbreaker. It sure feels like a misfire based on its early trailer. There were so many other drama choices, from The Player to Shades of Blue to Chicago Med, that this is really a high-stakes decision, and if it doesn't work it's probably pretty safe to say NBC screwed up here.

Also, putting Neil Patrick Harris at 10/9c is weird. If it's really ending in November, it seems like the reasoning here is that the early weeks will go alongside two-hour editions of America's Got Talent in August or early September. I think I'd rather they just put it at 8/7c and air it completely in the summer if that's the case. It looks surprisingly like an afterthought in this situation.


Fall 2015 Schedule
8-9 P.M. — “The Mysteries of Laura
9-10 P.M. — “Law and Order: SVU
10-11 P.M. — “Chicago PD

My Question: What takes the hit against Empire?

Well, one thing's for certain: NBC is 100% counting on Empire returning in the fall and moving to 8/7c. If all of us in wannabe scheduler-land end up being wrong about that, we can certainly take some solace that NBC was just as wrong. Because putting Laura at 8/7c is as much of a "take the hit" move as you'll ever see.

Here's how I see it: I'm very skeptical that there was need for NBC to order this much low-end filler stuff. But if they had to renew The Biggest Loser and Laura, they might as well put Laura here. Just go all-in on the idea that it's a very low-priority night promotionally, and this one doesn't have any newbies or any moves whatsoever. With Empire making Fox such a sudden factor, this has quietly become a really tough night. And again, if Laura has to be around at all, it may as well be in the fall; just in case it actually picks up steam or everything goes to pot again, maybe it could get more episodes.

To sum it up: Not sure Laura has to be back. If it has to be back, I can see the logic.


Fall 2015 Schedule
9-10 P.M. — “The Blacklist
10-11 P.M. — “THE PLAYER”

My Question: How much better can NBC do by/expect from The Blacklist?

They're giving The Blacklist another shot as a centerpiece. This certainly isn't as obvious a call as it would've been a month or so ago, but it still seems correct. The Player seems compatible enough. I'm really not a believer in Heroes, but if it does what NBC and others seem to think it's gonna do, this is a very logical setup.


Fall 2015 Schedule
8-8:30 P.M. — “Undateable
9-10 P.M. — “Grimm
10-11 P.M. — “Dateline

My Question: Is Grimm into a new drama still a thing?

Nope! We said last week that burying Grimm at 8/7c in the spring was not the treatment of a high-priority player, and it's clearly played out that way. But instead of putting it on an island at the start or end of the night, it's on an island... in the middle.

Meanwhile, NBC announced that an all-live season of Undateable and new multi-cam People are Talking will occupy the 8:00 hour. It reminds me a lot of the May 2012 announcement that Community and Whitney would be in this hour. That one didn't come to fruition, as NBC soon found midweek slots for those badly incompatible shows. This one is probably more likely to stick, since there are zero sitcom slots to be filled elsewhere, but maybe Heartbreaker will implode so quickly that it can be rescued. (Hey, maybe Grimm and a new drama end up here down the line after all!)

Overall, a big motivation here seems to be avoiding the "zero comedies on the schedule" press, and this is about the lowest-stakes way to make that happen.


Fall 2015 Schedule
7-8:20 P.M. — “Football Night in America
8:20-11 P.M. — “Sunday Night Football

My Question: After A.D.'s disappointment, is there another "event" solution for Sunday in the spring?

We don't really know yet, which is probably for the best considering how much help the fall needs. But there's undoubtedly a lot of stuff in reserve. Buzzy new dramas Chicago Med and Shades of Blue are both being held, along with The Biggest Loser and quite a few comedies. It seems like a decent bet that NBC will have some material left for this night.


Monday and Thursday seem like logical combos that will come down to how high the new shows can fly. If those nights don't work, then the whole thing was probably gonna be a disaster regardless. Wednesday will not do well, but NBC is undoubtedly going into that with its eyes open. Friday is strange, but it doesn't matter that much.

That leaves Tuesday (and, more specifically, Heartbreaker) as where the real verdict on the scheduling will be rendered. If Heartbreaker works, this ultimately ends up looking like a very smart arrangement. If it bombs, then it's safe to say NBC did a bad job and should've given the slot to one of the bigger guns. I lean toward the bomb end, so I'm not enthused. But we'll see...

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