NBC will pack 10 comedies into four nights of its primetime lineup in the fall, and two new dramas, from JJ Abrams and Dick Wolf, have been scheduled on Monday and Wednesday nights, respectively, the network announced Sunday.
But the network’s biggest move for the fall is returning its singing competition series “The Voice” on Monday and Tuesday nights, where it will gobble up three full hours of primetime. And, NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt forecast confidently, will greatly improve his network’s ratings situation compared to last fall which, he’d 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, coming out of Sunday football, said Greenblatt, whose network barely managed to escape a fourth-place finish among the 18-49 year old viewers who are the currency of its 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 Sunday.
To that end, of the 10 comedies spread throughout the week, the two deemed promising enough to make Tuesday’s lineup, following “The Voice” results show, are “Go On,” in which “Friends” alum 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 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 timeslot on Mondays? JJ Abrams’ apocalyptic drama “Revolution.”
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 fanbases and upscale audiences are returning to NBC’s Thursday: “30 Rock,” “Up All Night,” “The Office,” and “Parks and Recreation.” And, though much has been written about the coming season being the last for “30 Rock” and “The Office,” Greenblatt on Sunday insisted there had been no end date set on either. “We haven’t definitely said that on any of them yet.”
On the other hand, Greenblatt said he’s adding several new comedies that portend the future of the network: broader, more accessible shows that, in theory, will garner bigger audiences.
Next season’s biggest disconnect may be NBC’s Thursday at 10, where its four comedies with small, rabid, upscale young fans will be followed at 10 by “Rock Center with Brian Williams” which, despite being of the least watched shows in the broadcast primetime TV landscape and skewing old, has been promoted to primetime’s most important night.
“There are things the show is going to do to try to improve its position,” Harbert said of “Rock Center,” noting that the show’s anchor, Brian Williams, “is this huge asset that we want on television.”
One TV critic on the call, who is also “Community’s” biggest fans, 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, like he meant it to sting, that he was curious as to why he’d decided to leave other Thursday comedies on that night next season, while shipping “Community” off to the vast wasteland that is Friday night, with “Whitney.”
NBC is deeply committed to “Grimm,” which airs at 9 p.m. Fridays — “Grimm” being NBC’s first freshman show to get a pick-up for next season, mostly because the show’s creator tweeted about it and forced NBC’s hand — and thought it would benefit from having scripted shows as its lead-inm Greenblatt responded.
Poor “Community” has really got its work cut out for it. It’s paired with “Whitney,” which barely escaped the axe last week as NBC was finalizing its lineup. “Whitney” is also the first multi-camera-and-laugh-track comedy to survive to a second season on a broadcast network that’s not CBS. Almost immediately after “Whitney” got its pick-up, ABC renewed its laugh-track sitcom “Last Man Standing” and it became No. 2.
And, “Community” has one of the younger skewing audiences on broadcast TV and they don’t watch broadcast TV on Friday nights. Look for “Community” to be the show in which 100 percent of its audience DVR’s it every week next season.
Saturday continues as the home of NBC Rerun Theatre, and Sunday is all about football in the fall; in the spring it will host “Dateline” at 7, “Fashion Star” at 8, “Celebrity Apprentice” at 9, and new Jekyll & 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 gave the axe to comedies “Are You There Chelsea?”, “Bent,” and “BFF,” 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 show, which 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 they tried, but failed, to attract more young viewers to the show over its two seasons.
NBC has also ordered for midseason a rich-people murder mystery soap “Infamous,” and “Hannibal,” based on the books and flicks.
Comedies ordered for mid-season include:
- “Save Me” starring Anne Heche as a woman who, after nearly choking to death on a hero sandwich, now has a direct line to god.
- Dysfunctional First Family comedy “1600 Penn,” starring Jenna Elfman as the First Lady, Bill Pulllman as the POTUS, and Josh Gad as the First Son.
- “Next Caller” starring Dane Cook as a foulmouthed satellite radio DJ who is forced to share the mic with a chipper feminist.
The network has three new reality series on the bench, including Dick Wolf’s “Stars Earn Stripes,” “Howie Mandel’s White Elephant,” “Ready for Love,” and “Surprise with Jenny McCarthy.”
NBC FALL 2011-12 SCHEDULE
(*New programs in UPPER CASE; all times ET)
8-10 p.m. — “The Voice”
10-11 p.m. — “REVOLUTION”
8-9 p.m. — “The Voice”
9-9:30 p.m. — “GO ON”
9:30-10 p.m. — “THE NEW NORMAL”
10-11 p.m. — “Parenthood”
8-8:30 p.m. — “ANIMAL PRACTICE”
8:30-9 p.m. — “GUYS WITH KIDS”
9-10 p.m. — “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”
10-11 p.m. — “CHICAGO FIRE”
8-8:30 p.m. — “30 Rock”
8:30-9 p.m. — “Up All Night”
9-9:30 p.m. — “The Office”
9:30-10 p.m. — “Parks and Recreation”
10-11 p.m. — “Rock Center With Brian Williams”
8-8:30 p.m. — “Whitney”
8:30-9 p.m. — “Community”
9-10 p.m. — “Grimm”
10-11 p.m. — “Dateline NBC”
SUNDAY (Fall 2012)
7- 8:15 p.m. — “Football Night in America”
8:15-11:30 p.m. — “NBC Sunday Night Football”
SUNDAY (Post-football/Winter 2013)
7-8 p.m. — “Dateline NBC”
8-9 p.m. — “Fashion Star”
9-10 p.m. — “The Celebrity Apprentice”
10-11 p.m. — “DO NO HARM”
More from Upfront Week:
PHOTO GALLERY: Which shows are on the bubble?
PHOTO GALLERY: Which shows are already dead?