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Monday, April 29, 2013

UPFRONTS 2013: What NBC Should Do

Upfront season is upon  us! This week, I am proposing what I think each network SHOULD do for the fall. I want to stress that this is not a prediction, that will come next week. This is what I think would be a good idea based on their current shows and the loglines/pedigree of the pilots. This year, NBC had a strong fall followed by a disastrous winter and then a spring that was somewhere in-between. They have some potential hits but so much seems to be based on their top hit, The Voice. Next year, NBC has the Olympics in February. Olympic promotion has been hit and miss (mostly miss) for NBC but I still think they should (and will) save some big guns for post-Olympics midseason. NBC has a lot to fix as usual and I would be aggressive in some areas with heavy promotion and more conservative in other places. They can't just upend the whole schedule and they have some solid dramas. Check out what I said NBC should do last year and in 2011. For details on NBC's pilots, click here.

8:00 The Voice
Monday nights are strong whenever The Voice is in session and so far that show doesn't look like its burning out. Revolution has not been able to hold enough of the audience to warrant a continuation in this high profile slot. I would give the slot to the promising new thriller The Blacklist. It seems a little more accessible than Revolution and NBC can promote it like crazy all summer. Even though it has been hard for Revolution this spring, I would still cut off The Blacklist when The Voice ends its fall cycle and bring them both back together after the Olympics assuming Blacklist performs ok. In January, I would air a short run of The Sing Off which NBC is supposedly bringing back. I would maybe follow it with Hannibal for a few weeks and then let Hannibal air elsewhere (Fridays?). I wouldn't put a lot of stock in January, I would focus on September-December and then March-May after the Olympics.

8:00 The Voice
9:00 Revolution
10:00 Parenthood
I would go conservative on Tuesdays but this would be a solid lineup. The Voice is of course a beast at 8pm. I would let Revolution continue to follow The Voice for the fall but air it at 9pm leading into Parenthood at 10pm. The night doesn't have a ton of flow to it but I think it's a smart move because The Voice and Parenthood can stand on their own and Revolution should be a better option than the comedies this year. There are a fair amount of people who tune into Revolution after The Voice on Mondays, I think they would follow it to Tuesdays. A better 9pm show could help Parenthood too which has had to self-start often. Depending on how Revolution does, Tuesday 9pm could be prime real-estate for a post-Olympics premiere.

8:00 Go On
8:30 Parks and Recreation
10:00 Chicago Fire
Wednesdays are interesting. I think NBC needs to be aggressive on Thursdays and that means taking Parks and Recreation out of the lineup there. Because I think NBC should give all its comedy promotional push to Thursdays, I would not launch a new comedy on Wednesdays. Instead, I would give it to one of their severe underperformers. My pick would be Go On because I think it fits the best with Parks & Rec but any of them could go here for a 13 episode order in the fall. I just wouldn't worry too much about this hour if I'm trying to make Thursdays work. I would let Parks & Rec go to 8:30pm because it will be a better lead-in for 9pm. Many have suggested Chicago Fire go to 9pm but why? It's working in a difficult slot, don't move it. We all saw what happened to Revenge on ABC this year. SVU is an adequate lead-in but I would try a new procedural drama here and not the planned Chicago Fire spinoff (save that for midseason). Fire really surprised at 10pm this year and I think the medical drama After Hours could do the same at 9pm. It wouldn't get the marketing push of The Blacklist or the Thursday comedies but Chicago Fire didn't have that either. It might be a nice pairing.

10:00 Law & Order: SVU
In the fall of 2009, ABC went with all new comedies on Wednesday and established a real presence on the night which they continue to reap the rewards from. NBC had historically owned Thursday night but things have gotten real bad in recent years. It's time to start over. I would take a page from ABC's 2009 playbook and launch four new comedies in a row and promote them together as a block. I said the same thing last year and it didn't happen because they decided to focus on the front half of the week. With those nights slightly more secure thanks to The Voice, Parenthood, and Chicago Fire, it's time to tackle this night. Even if CBS goes to two hours of comedy, these are family sitcoms that would be a nice counter-programming block. I would build it around the Michael J. Fox comedy which already has a 22 episode order. I would air two multi-cam sitcoms at 8pm and single-cam at 9pm. But all four shows are family sitcoms with leading men including big names Fox and Sean Hayes, both former Must-See-TV stars. I really think this is the only way to go. Putting three of them with Parks and Recreation isn't the fresh start NBC needs on this night. At 10pm though, I would not launch a new drama and instead give it to Law & Order: SVU. It could do better than a lot of NBC's failed shows in this slot in recent years. It won't be amazing but it seems to do better when it's away from Criminal Minds or CSI. It would have to go up against Scandal but I think it has a different audience. If I'm NBC, I would also stockpile comedies for midseason in case one of these fail. And they should be new comedies, none of their losers from this year.

8:00 Dateline NBC
9:00 Grimm
NBC needs to give Grimm some help on Fridays where it just suffers by itself and tries to put up good numbers. I would move Dateline NBC back to 8pm where it can get adequate Friday night ratings. Then I would take a chance at 10pm. It could be Hannibal but that show seems to already be losing steam. Instead, I'd give the slot to Dracula, which seems like it has been ordered forever and not aired. It would be a good tonal fit with Grimm and could develop a cult audience on Friday nights.

8:00 Encores
10:00 Rock Center with Brian Williams
Why not give Rock Center a chance on Saturdays. It will keep it on the air if it needs to be a filler somewhere else.

7:00 Football Night in America
8:30 Sunday Night Football
Of course football will and should continue in the fall. In January, I would just air specials and the Golden Globes and then after the Olympics, I would do The Biggest Loser at 8pm and Celebrity Apprentice at 10pm. No need to really invest in Sundays when half the season is always taken up by football.

I would stock up big time for midseason because the more shows you try, the more chances for the hits that NBC needs. I already mentioned what I would do with Loser, Apprentice, Hannibal, and The Sing Off. Betty White's Off Their Rockers can literally be a filler anywhere. It could even go Wednesdays at 8pm if Go On completely tanks (a distinct possibility but I would give Go On one more try). As for the new shows, Brenda Forever, The Gates, and the Craig Robinson project all sound promising to me. They could be on hand if one of the Thursday sitcoms go down or Brenda Forever would make a nice midseason partner for Parks and Recreation when they can afford more promotion. For the dramas, I would make these big priorities for post-Olympics launches. If everything works, space will be limited but that's not too likely so I would wait and see with these but give them a lot of promotion, particularly Hatfields and McCoys which sounds very promising and could certainly go Tuesday at 9pm if Revolution season two doesn't pan out. Crossbones might be a nice Friday 8pm option to lead into Grimm and Dracula. And of course the Chicago Fire spinoff could go on Wednesdays if After Hours fails.

CANCELLED/ENDED: 30 Rock, 1600 Penn, Animal Practice, Community, Deception, Do No Harm, Fashion Star, Guys with Kids, The New Normal, The Office, Ready for Love, Smash, Take it All, Up All Night, Whitney
NBC needs to be aggressive and that means not renewing many low-rated shows. I already gave a pass to Go On but the other comedies need to go. None of them are deserving of another season. The other shows on this list are pretty much no-brainers.

Tomorrow: FOX!

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