NBC is Still NBC - Macleans.ca

NBC is Still NBC


A quick note about NBC’s fall schedule announcement: by leaving The Voice and its favourite new drama pilot Smash for midseason, the network is basically announcing that the fall is a work-in-progress schedule – like Fox in the days when all it had was American Idol, they’re almost saying “wait until January and the real fireworks start.” Still, NBC remains NBC; anyone thinking the network’s scheduling decisions were going to make more sense with the new regime should be disabused. A

mong the highlights in terms of poor scheduling are on Thursday, where they have:

1. Left Community at 8 o’clock, a slot it has proven over and over again to be wrong for;

2. Moved Parks & Recreation from the post-Office slot, where it was builidng momentum for the first time in its run, to the far more difficult 8:30 slot;

3) Scheduled one lone multi-camera comedy, Whitney, in an all-single-camera lineup. The executives probably think they’re doing it a favour by giving it the post-Office slot; the likely reality is that it will get worse reviews than it otherwise would have because multi-camera shows are no longer compatible with single-camera shows. I can’t believe networks haven’t caught onto this yet after repeated demonstrations of this problem; it’s like they listen to their Research people predicting the future instead of looking at past evidence of what has actually happened.

The network’s other new pickups are pretty underwhelming at a glance. The Playboy Club is an attempt to imitate Mad Men, except even the cable networks don’t want to imitate Mad Men. (The creator of FX’s Lights Out told the L.A. Times that the head of the network said “don’t bring me Mad Men acclaim and Mad Men ratings, that’s not what I need.” Wise man, from a commercial standpoint at least.) Prime Suspect is the other new drama of interest, and it could be good (if less likely to withstand comparisons to the original than The Office was) but not the sort of thing to get the heart pumping.

In terms of new comedy, NBC was rumoured to be considering a female-skewing comedy block for Wednesday to counter-program against ABC. The point of picking up multi-camera comedies from both Whitney Cummings and Chelsea Handler, similar comedians, was to create a compatible block, and they still might be considering that for midseason when Handler’s show begins (if Cummings’ show hasn’t already bombed in the post-Office slot, and as I said, I fear they’re killing it).

Instead they’ve gone with Christina Applegate’s pilot, which is said to be very good, followed by a less female-centric comedy, Free Agents, based on a dark British comedy. I am looking forward to Applegate’s show because the creator, Emily Spivey, is a good writer, but I wouldn’t advise the network to pin too many hopes on a show starring Will Arnett. Up against The Middle (if ABC keeps it in that slot) I know I would rather see Patricia Heaton with her charming, likable TV husband Neil Flynn than Christina Applegate with her smarmy, unlikable TV husband Will Arnett.

Now, some of my predictions will be wrong, and NBC could have some surprise hits or some surprise non-flops (maybe Whitney will perform better with The Office than I think it will). But looking at it without knowledge of the future, all I can say is that it looks like nothing has changed at NBC: needing aggressive scheduling and re-thinking of their approach, they’re still acting like they’re a super-successful network with an untarnished brand, instead of the fourth-place operation they still are.

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NBC is Still NBC

  1.  I disagree that Parks has built momentum at the slot. Last week’s episodes had the lowest ratings since March for the first half, and the lowest ratings in series history for the second half. It hasn’t been a massive ratings collapse, so I would have kept it there. But I understand the new regime’s desire for a shiny new hit at 930. Whitney just doesn’t project to be that, I don’t think.

    As for Community, they seem happy enough with its dud ratings at 8:00, especially given the competition. The choice mighty have been harder if they’d looked at the ratings post-hiatus, but my guess is that they’d already made their choice. I’m really pulling for a comeback in ratings so we can get a fourth season. That’d give the series a natural closing point (graduation) and allow for the series to reach its peak without too much moaning about cancellation. Some Emmy’s would definitely help.

    Also glad that NBC has basically guaranteed Chuck will end after next season’s thirteen episodes. Let the show go out on a planned finale.

  2. Yeah, while I love having Parks and Rec. after the Office, it just hasn’t had ratings success there. I continue to be surprised by just how much of The Office’s lead-in, both in households and 18-49, it loses each week. Not only is it more compatible with The Office than, say, Outsourced was, but at this point, Parks and Rec. is just the better show — and this is coming from a huge Office fan. Office fans seem to be a savvy bunch; you’d think they’d realize this.

    And yeah, multi-camera shows just don’t seem to work with single-camera shows anymore. There was a time when this wasn’t always the case, but the past few seasons have certainly seemed to demonstrate otherwise. It’s why I hoped the Better with You producers would have shopped the show to CBS after ABC canceled it. The show, while not great, was worthy of a second season, and it just would’ve fit in better with CBS’ comedies, which are all multi-camera (or in the case of How I Met Your Mother, at least shot to resemble as such).