NBC went on a comedy pickup spree today, ordering four new series to join previously ordered Go On. That includes 1600 Penn, The New Normal, Save Me and Animal Practice. All five are single-camera, the format that has completely dominated NBC’s comedy slots since the network’s last big multi-camera comedy series, Will & Grace, went off the air in 2006. The quintet includes one workplace comedy, Animal Practice, a genre that has dominated NBC’s Thursday comedy block for the last few years. It also features two family comedies, a genre NBC had been looking to get into, both with a twist and an edge: a blended family of a gay couple and a surrogate (The New Normal) and a dysfunctional First Family living in the White House (1600 Penn). The remaining two comedies, Save Me and Go On, have a somewhat cable sensibility as they are centered on a flawed/wounded central character.
Missing from the list of NBC comedy pickups so far are multi-camera sitcoms. The network was very bullish on the multi-camera format earlier this pilot season, with 30% of its pilot orders going to traditional sitcoms. Despite being shut out today, multi-camera comedies will still likely have some presence on NBC’s schedule next year. There are three multi-camera pilots that are still in contention, with NBC expected to make a decision shortly. The Jimmy Fallon-produced Guys With Kids, which is meeting with writers, is considered a strong bet. If multi-camera freshman Whitney is indeed going away, its is logical to assume that NBC would pick up a companion for Guys between the two other multi-camera pilots still in the running, Daddy’s Girls, which has been gaining momentum, and early standout Lady Friends, which has lost some steam. (Also a possibility for midseason is singe-camera magical family comedy Isabel. The remaining NBC pilots, Friday Night Dinner, Sarah Silverman, Hilary Winston and Downwardly Mobile, are no longer in contention.)
NBC is expected to launch a number of series in August, following coverage of the Summer Olympics. Several newly picked-up comedies, including Go On, Save Me and The New Normal, are among those eyed for an August debut. NBC is expected to give short orders to its returning comedies, and word has it the same may apply to at least some of the new comedy series, which normally start with 13 episodes and, in success, get picked up for 9 more. With an unofficial August start of the season, NBC’s schedule could resemble that of a cable network, with (almost) year-round original programming and shorter series runs.
Never bet against J.J. Abrams. Despite the massive penalty attached to his NBC drama project Revolution, it was the second to last one to get a pilot order at the network in early February. Then the pilot, written and executive produced by Eric Kripke, had great difficulty casting, in the end moving Billy Burke from a supporting role to the lead, and was one of the the last NBC drama pilots to go into production. But today, as in the “last will be first” Bible verse, Revolution became the first NBC drama pilot to receive a series order. It brings Abrams back to the network where he most recently fielded the short-lived spy drama Undercovers. The pickup also assures that Abrams will have three series on the air next season: Revolution and the recently renewed Person Of Interest on CBS and Fringe on Fox (for a final season). Revolution was one of two pilots Abrams’ Bad Robot had this season. The other, the CW’s Shelter, is not expected to go forward.