Six New Series Housed in an Overly Cautious Line-Up
Given its spiral downward in recent years, there was no reason to think fourth-place NBC would make great inroads this past season. But a fall 2010 freshman return rate of 0 for 7 (including highly touted The Event), more deterioration for long-timers like Law & Order: SVU, 30 Rock and The Office (which lives on without Steve Carell), and an abundance of sluggish returnees (Chuck and Parks and Recreation, to name a few) means NBC’s uphill battle is even steeper.
On paper, six new series on NBC (three dramas, three sitcoms) sounds aggressive. But only 45 percent of the line-up is original scripted programming, The Biggest Loser on Tuesday is tired, veteran Law & Order: SVU has lost Christopher Meloni, and Parenthood is a mid-rated returnee.
The next problem is the lack of nightly anchor support, particularly on Thursday (with returning Community) and Friday (with the final 13-episodes of perennial cellar-dweller Chuck). Neither series should be returning based on another season of lackluster ratings returns, and a fall upgrade for holiday competition The Sing-Off (which has faced predominantly repeat programming in December) is no guarantee to ignite Monday opposite fresh fare. New Wednesday occupants Up All Night and Free Agents, meanwhile, will have to stand on their own in the 8 p.m. hour, which NBC has not occupied with comedies since 30 Rock and short-lived Twenty Good Years in the fall of 2006.
No one ever said rebuilding a network would be easy.
Despite the potholes, you have to give some credit to NBC. In a sea of crime solvers, nostalgic sounding The Playboy Club is an unusual option in the Monday 10 p.m. time period Harry’s Law in the Wednesday 9 p.m. hour, albeit older-skewing, could provide stronger support into veteran Law & Order: SVU (which will also pare down the work load for Mariska Hargitay). And positioning the U.S. version of Prime Suspect at 10 p.m. on Thursday (which capitalizes on our obsession with crime) means the sitcom block will be trimmed back to 8 to 10 p.m. Rule of thumb to any network: never position three hours of comedies.
You also have to commend NBC (and hopefully the other broadcast networks) for not abandoning Friday…yet. While should-not-be returning Chuck leads into Grimm, the story of a homicide detective with a mission to protect humans living in a world where the Grimm’s Fairy Tale characters actually exist, is a suicide mission (Grimm already sounds like an early casualty), you can’t blame the network for at least trying. Don’t be too surprised, however, if the now one-hour edition of Dateline on Friday increases back to two hours by November.
With Law & Order: Los Angeles one of the casualties of 2010-11 (along with sitcoms Outsourced and Perfect Couples, dramas The Event, Chase and Undercover, and game show Minute to Win It and non-scripted School Pride), you have to also cite NBC for finally realizing the growing weakness of the Law & Order franchise. Once SVU bids adieu, it is time to officially call it quits.
While the official rating results are still pending, the overall obstacle in NBC’s line-up remains the abundance of low-level rated returnees. Until the network can come up with a new breakout hit (or two), which seems unlikely based on this mix, there is no reason to believe its fortunes will increase. In all likelihood, NBC may have to wait until January until new musical dramedy Smash bows out of recent breakout The Voice on Monday. In a less competitive environment, Smash could very well be one of the key building blocks for the future.
Patience will have to remain in the cards at NBC.
Here is NBC’s fall 2011 line-up (with new shows in caps).
8:00 p.m. The Sing-Off (two hours)
10:00 p.m. THE PLAYBOY CLUB
8:00 p.m. The Biggest Loser (two hours)
10:00 p.m. Parenthood
8:00 p.m. UP ALL NIGHT
8:30 p.m. FREE AGENTS
9:00 p.m. Harry’s Law (new day and time)
10:00 p.m. Law & Order: SVU
8:00 p.m. Community
8:30 p.m. Parks and Recreation (new time)
9:00 p.m. The Office
9:30 p.m. WHITNEY
10:00 p.m. PRIME SUSPECT
8:00 p.m. Chuck (new day)
9:00 p.m. GRIMM
10:00 p.m. Dateline
8:00 p.m. Encore programming
7:00 p.m. Football Night in America
Marc Berman is the Editor in Chief for TV Media Insights, the online destination for television and media. Berman has appeared on camera for Extra, Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood, The CBS Evening News, CNN, and more; and his 2014 desk calendar, “Today in TV History,” will be available next fall.
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