NBC will pack 10 comedies into prime-time fall lineup


From left, Anthony Anderson, Jesse Bradford and Zach Cregger star in “Guys With Kids,” a show about 30-something dads trying to hold on to their youth, executive produced by NBC late-night star Jimmy Fallon. (NBC/Vivian Zink)
May 13, 2012

NBC will pack 10 comedies into four nights of its prime-time lineup in the fall, and two new dramas, from J.J. Abrams and Dick Wolf, have been scheduled on Monday and Wednesday nights, respectively, the network announced Sunday.

But the network’s biggest move is returning its singing competition series “The Voice” on Monday and Tuesday nights, where it will gobble up three hours of prime time. And NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt forecast confidently that it will greatly improve his network’s ratings compared with last fall, which, he had acknowledged in January, was a particularly tough time.

Adding “The Voice” to the fall lineup is part and parcel of a plan to focus on Monday through Wednesday nights, said Greenblatt, whose network barely managed to escape a fourth-place finish among 18- to 49-year-old viewers (the currency of TV ad sales), thanks to its broadcast of this year’s Super Bowl.

“We’re trying to build a schedule that has lead-ins and flow — which is something we have been sorely lacking,” Greenblatt told The TV Column.

“We reconfigured Monday with ‘The Voice,’ which puts us in a really solid position there. We’re really focused on Tuesday and Wednesday. The further you get from Sunday and Monday, the harder it is to keep the momentum going — you can’t do it all at once,” Greenblatt said.

To that end, of the 10 comedies, the two deemed promising enough to make Tuesday’s lineup, following “The Voice” results show, are “Go On,” in which “Friends” alumnus Matthew Perry plays a grieving widower sportscaster in therapy — yes, it’s a comedy — and “The New Normal” about a gay couple having a child via a surrogate, from Ryan Murphy of “Nip/Tuck,” “Glee” and “American Horror Story” fame.

And what new drama won the lottery for the post-“Voice” but-in-the-teeth-of-Monday-football time slot? Abrams’s apocalyptic drama “Revolution.”

On Wednesdays at 8 p.m., where NBC had tepid results with two new comedies during this nearly ended season, the network will try again with two more new comedies in the fall. Justin Kirk stars as a hot-shot New York veterinarian who can’t stand humans in “Animal Practice,” while “Guys With Kids,” about 30-something dads trying to hold on to their youth, is executive produced by NBC late-night star Jimmy Fallon.

Those comedies are the warm-up act for Dick Wolf Theatre: “Law & Order: SVU,” returning for its 14th season, and new firefighter drama “Chicago Fire” at 10.

Familiar comedies with rabid fan bases and upscale audiences are returning to NBC on Thursday: “30 Rock,” “Up All Night,” “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation.” And, although much has been written about the coming season being the last for “30 Rock” and “The Office,” Greenblatt insisted Sunday that there had been no end dates set. “We haven’t definitely said that on any of them yet.”

On the other hand, Greenblatt said, he’s adding several comedies that portend the network’s future: broader, more accessible shows that, in theory, will garner bigger audiences.

Next season’s biggest disconnect on any network might be NBC’s Thursday night, where its four comedies with small, rabid, upscale young fans will be followed at 10 by “Rock Center with Brian Williams,” which, despite being one of the least-watched shows on a major broadcast network and skewing old, has been promoted to prime time’s most important night.

And yet, on a conference call Sunday with The Reporters Who Cover Television, NBC Broadcasting Chairman Ted Harbert insisted that the network has not thrown in the towel on the time slot that was once home to “L.A. Law, “Hill Street Blues” and “E.R.

“There are things the show is going to do to try to improve its position,” Harbert said of “Rock Center,” adding that the show’s anchor, Williams, “is this huge asset that we want on television.”

One TV critic on the call, who is also “Community’s” biggest fan, having even appeared in the show once as the guy in the background leering at two of the show’s chick stars as they wrestled in oil, told Greenblatt that he was curious as to why Greenblatt decided to leave other Thursday comedies on that night next season, while shipping “Community” off to the vast wasteland that is Friday night.

NBC thought “Grimm,” which airs at 9 Fridays, would benefit from having scripted shows as its lead-in, Greenblatt said.

Poor “Community” has really got its work cut out. It’s paired with “Whitney,” which barely escaped the axe last week as NBC was finalizing its lineup. And “Community” has one of the younger-skewing audiences on broadcast TV — younger viewers who don’t watch broadcast TV on Friday nights. Look for “Community” to be the show in which 100 percent of its audience DVRs it.

Saturday continues as the home of NBC Rerun Theater, and Sunday is all about football in the fall; in the spring, it will host “Dateline” at 7 p.m., “Fashion Star” at 8, “Celebrity Apprentice” at 9 and a new Jekyll and Hyde-ish drama “Do No Harm” at 10.

In its announcement Sunday, NBC reminded reporters it has also picked up “The Biggest Loser” and “Smash” for next season. As expected, NBC axed comedies “Bent,” “Are You There Chelsea?” and “Best Friends Forever” as well as dramas “Awake” and “Harry’s Law.”

“We are all terribly sad. Many thanks for all your support,” “Harry’s” star Kathy Bates tweeted of the series. The show was NBC’s most-watched drama but skewed very old and was produced by Warner Bros., not NBC Universal — so the network’s parent company did not own its ancillary rights. Harbert said Sunday that they tried but failed to attract more young viewers to the show over its two seasons.

NBC has also ordered for mid-season a rich-folks murder-mystery soap, “Infamous,” and “Hannibal,” based on the books and flicks. On the comedy front, for mid-season, NBC has ordered up “Save Me,” starring Anne Heche as a woman with a direct line to God; dysfunctional first-family comedy “1600 Penn,” starring Jenna Elfman as the first lady, Bill Pulllman as POTUS and Josh Gad as the first son; and “Next Caller” starring Dane Cook as a foulmouthed satellite radio DJ who is forced to share the mike with a — feminist!

CBS nixes ‘CSI: Miami’

Looks like Horatio Caine Day is destined never to become a national holiday as we had hoped: CBS has canceled “CSI: Miami.”

“ ‘CSI: Miami’ leaves an amazing television legacy — a signature look and style, global popularity and as a key player in CBS’s rise to the top over the past decade,” the network said Sunday in a statement about the camptastic David Caruso vehicle for sunglass-donning.

CBS chief Leslie Moonves had hinted to investors weeks ago that one of the “CSI” spinoffs was going to get it in the neck to clear the way for fresher programming. But most money was on lackluster “CSI: NY,” particularly because “CSI: Miami” enjoys strong overseas sales and AMC recently closed a deal to air reruns — including an 11th season if it were ordered.

Less spectacularly, CBS also canceled freshman shows “A Gifted Man,” “NYC 22” and “Unforgettable.” Raise your hand if you are surprised. . . . Nope, no one.

Getting back to that fresh material for which Horatio has laid down his life: CBS has picked up a drama starring Dennis Quaid as a rodeo star turned mayor of Las Vegas, a Sherlock Holmes update set in modern New York, a drama about a street-smart chick lawyer who makes it in Manhattan and one about a young cop’s meteoric rise to commissioner.

Comedy-wise, CBS has ordered “Partners,” about two male business partners — one’s gay, one gets married and hilarity ensues; and “Friend Me,” about two guys who go to Los Angeles to work for Groupon. Quick, before the layoffs start.

To read previous columns by Lisa de Moraes, go to washingtonpost.com/tvcolumn.

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