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NBC in Fall 2011

August 30, 2011 by Marc Berman in Newsletter with 36 Comments

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).

Monday
8:00 p.m. The Sing-Off (two hours)
10:00 p.m. THE PLAYBOY CLUB

Tuesday
8:00 p.m. The Biggest Loser (two hours)
10:00 p.m. Parenthood

Wednesday
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

Thursday
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

Friday
8:00 p.m. Chuck (new day)
9:00 p.m. GRIMM
10:00 p.m. Dateline

Saturday
8:00 p.m. Encore programming

Sunday
7:00 p.m. Football Night in America

Written by Marc Berman

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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  • Elvis Bus

    Whitney: Worst show ever, or is it just the worst previews ever?

    • http://www.tvmediainsights.com/members/marcberman/ Marc Berman

      It defines the word generic, but the time period is not bad. I bet Whitney hangs around.

    • http://www.tvmediainsights.com/members/marcberman/ Marc Berman

      My pick for worst new comedy is Man Up. Dreadful!

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      This wbestie makes things hella easy.

  • http://www.tvmediainsights.com/members/mushu_jj/ mushu_jj

    While I get NBC wanting Whitney to get the biggest lead in possible with the Office, I still feel like they missed out on pairing that show with Are You There Vodka, It’s Me Chelsea, which also looks decent.

    • http://www.tvmediainsights.com/members/marcberman/ Marc Berman

      Hey mushu…if Chelsea does not deliver, and that is very possible, I imagine Are You There Vodka, It’s Me Chelsea will inherit the Thursday 9:30 p.m. half-hour. I just wish NBC would shorten the damn title!

  • Tom L.

    Hopefully Chuck finds a new audience on Friday’s (even though there isn’t much of an audience to be found on Friday’s-lol). I don’t know why NBC kept slamming Chuck’s head up against the wall that is DWTS on Monday’s for so long. It’s like when they used to air Friday Night Lights NOT on Friday nights! Common sense, people. Who would have thought that programming a network would be so difficult?? lol

    • http://www.tvmediainsights.com/members/marcberman/ Marc Berman

      I know you hate this when I say it, but NBC should have given up on Chuck after season two. No matter when it airs, it will never deliver a mass appeal audience. But I do give NBC credit for at least still programming Friday.

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  • Roy

    I actually watched the pilot for Whitney on my On Demand service and there’s some promise there as I was surprised at how good it was. I think people are overrating it being a bad show. I think its going to really get the generic comedy fans, the problem I see though its going to take a while for NBC to get some of those CBS comedy fans over to their network b/c the current NBC comedy fans just hate this show so they’ve got to get their audience through the heavy promotion during football and Got Talent.

    • http://www.tvmediainsights.com/members/marcberman/ Marc Berman

      Well, Roy, off the three new NBC sitcoms, Whitney has the best chance of making it because of where it is scheduled. Its not a given it will succeed Thursday at 9:30 p.m…look what happened to Outsourced. But it has a definite shot.

      • Roy

        I was thinking the exact same thing it looks like NBC is trying to protect it and get some type of guaranteed comedy hit out of this season. I think as long as Whitney can do slightly better than Outsourced which had a limited audience then it might be able to anchor Thursdays next season.

        • http://www.tvmediainsights.com/members/marcberman/ Marc Berman

          I think Whitney will be okay. It does not matter what the critics think…its the audience that matters.

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