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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