Bob Greenblatt is putting his stamp on NBC with his first schedule that introduces 12 new scripted series — six dramas and six comedies — and features some bold moves, including opening a two-hour music reality block against ABC’s Dancing With the Stars on Monday and a female-skewing 8-9 PM comedy block Wednesday against ABC’s comedies as well as X Factor/American Idol.
Additionally, gone is the Thursday 10 PM comedy block as NBC is returning to its tradition of running high-profile character-driven procedurals in the hour once occupied by ER. The network’s remake of Prime Suspect with Maria Bello will now take over the spot. As for the large volume of new shows, it is understandable given the shape NBC is in.
MONDAY REALITY BLOCK: NBC is streamlining its reality franchises, running all series — veterans The Biggest Loser and Celebrity Apprentice and relative newbies The Voice and The Sing-Off — in the same format of two-hour 8-10 PM blocks. Encouraged by the performance of The Voice, whose live shows were recently expanded to two hours, NBC first decided to bring the show back on Mondays in January with two-hour episodes. Then “we thought, let’s begin building that in September with The Sing-Off,” Greenblatt said. As for pitting the singing competitions smack against ABC’s venerable Dancing With the Stars, “The Sing-Off and The Voice are younger-skewing shows, and we think that there is room for both –- an old-skewing dancing show and a young-skewing singing one,” Greenblatt said. Still, the move is risky. While skewing older, Dancing is a very broad show that also attracts large young audiences. NBC is completing a female-oriented Monday night with the new drama Playboy Club at 10 PM, which should do OK against the male-skewing Hawaii Five-0 on CBS.
WEDNESDAY COMEDY BLOCK: Christina Applegate and Hank Azaria have been given a tall order: Their new comedies Up All Night and Free Agents are launching a new NBC comedy block at 8 PM on Wednesdays. “One of the goals was to launch more comedies as that is vital for the long-term growth of the network,” Greenblatt said. With Tuesday’s lineup of The Biggest Loser and Parenthood “stable and working,” the only option was Wednesday. “We’re taking two of our strongest new comedies with our brightest stars and will try to establish a foothold on Wednesday. We’re not fooling ourselves that it will be easy, but we think have the goods, we will put marketing behind it and we will be patient.” One think that I find odd: the young-skewing comedies are followed at 9 PM by Harry’s Law, starring 62-year-old Kathy Bates.
NO 30 ROCK ON IN THE FALL: Last year, NBC’s decision to hold back Amy Poehler’s Parks and Recreation after it had just built great momentum created uproar. This time, it is the show of Poehler’s pal and newly minted best-selling author Tina Fey that is not on the fall schedule. But there are practical reasons behind the decision. I hear that pregnant Fey is not due until August, so she probably won’t be able to start filming until October. So instead of doing a few episodes in November before a holiday hiatus, NBC opted to bring back 30 Rock in midseason with an uninterrupted run of originals. In the interim, Parks and Rec goes back to 8:30 PM behind Community, with new comedy Whitney starring Whitney Cummings taking the post-Office 9:30 PM slot.
SCRIPTED PROGRAMMING ON FRIDAY: NBC has not aired scripted series on the night for a while but will run Chuck’s final season and the first season of the fairy tale-themed Grimm from 8-10 PM, leading into Dateline. ”I think reinventing Friday with some genre shows is the way to go,” Greenblatt said, adding that he decided to use fan favorite Chuck to support freshman Grimm. The decision is somewhat surprising as Fox has already put a claim on Friday as genre night with Fringe.
Speaking of CHUCK and NBC’s decision to renew it, “Chuck is a good show, which gets a bad rap from always being on the cancellation line,” Greennblatt said. “We’re giving the show a send-off with a final season, that’s what the fans want.” As for LAW & ORDER: LA, Greenblatt gave Dick Wolf credit for reinventing the show. “We tried, but we didn’t have the time period to bring it back if it isn’t going to show signs of growth.” He put some blame for the failure of the show on the previous NBC regime. “They didn’t put it on the ground properly,” he said. “It went on the air without a pilot, then it did well but was taken off.”