NBC is bringing back 13 comedy series — seven new and six returning — vs. 9 dramas — five new and four returning, so it was clear its schedule was going to be comedy-heavy. But the network is making a big statement with comedy blocks on four nights: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. That is a very rapid expansion since for a number of years the network had comedies solely on Thursday until opening a second night on Wednesday last season. This fall, the network is launching two more blocks, one from 9-10 PM on Tuesday, following The Voice results show, with Go On and The New Normal, and one on Friday at 8 PM with Whitney and Community. Loading up on comedies was intentional, NBC chairman Bob Greenblatt said. “Comedy once was the backbone of NBC, and I think we need to really plan for the future. It is good for the health of the network. People are open to comedy more than they have been in long time.”
With the exception of The Office and Parks & Recreation, which were picked up with full-season, 22-episode orders, most NBC returning comedy series have 13-episode orders, including Community, 30 Rock and Up All Night. Greenblatt was quick to note that “a 13-episode order does not mean a death knell to the show.”
After hitting a ratings slump, veteran reality series The Biggest Loser will be given a makeover. That’s why it isn’t on the fall schedule for the first time in eight years. “Producers are revising and refreshing the show and they needed more time,” Greenblatt said.
NBC’s plans to launch series early, taking advantage of the Summer Olympics as a launching pad, have not been finalized. Several shows will premiere early, but in early September, not immediately after the Olympics in August. “We want to do an intelligent job using the Olympics to sample the new shows,” Greenblatt said.
Here is more from NBC’s top executives:
– Greenblatt on canceling Harry’s Law: “It was a difficult decision. Everyone here respects Harry’s Law a lot but we were finding it hard to grow the audience for it. Its audience skewed very old and it is hard to monetize that.”
– On renewing Whitney: “I think it has a future and creatively it found itself in the last third of the season.”
– On opening a comedy block with Whitney and Community on the low-trafficked Friday night: “There is an opportunity for comedy on Friday if we put on shows like Community and Whitney that have built-in audience. Friday may be a death lap for some, but we keep trying. Grimm is the No. 1 scripted series on the night. For us, it is a place to build.”
– On holding Smash for midseason: Greenblatt says he wanted to avoid breaks in the show’s run by putting it on in the fall. Also, “it was important to put a new show in that post-Voice slot, and it made sense ala 24 to hold Smash. Smash‘s second season order is for 16-18 episodes, and Greenblatt sees the series as a 15-18-episode-a-year series vs. the standard 22.
– Fellow NBC chairman Ted Harbert on bringing back low-rated Rock Center With Brian Williams: “We have a great respect for what they do and are very proud of some of the interviews they have done. Newsmagazines take time to grow, and Rock Center has a place on our schedule.”