NBC, which is projected to win the season among adults 18-49 for the first time in 10 years, is betting big on The Blacklist with a post-Super Bowl berth and a high profile new time slot. The network has made the bold Thursday move we’d been expecting, shifting the flagship drama starring James Spader to the 9 PM tentpole slot on February 5, after a big showcase behind the Super Bowl on Feb. 1. Without further ado, here is NBC’s fall schedule, followed by analysis:
NBC FALL 2014-2015 SCHEDULE
(New programs in UPPER CASE; all times ET)
8-10 p.m. — “The Voice”
10-11 p.m. — “The Blacklist” / “STATE OF AFFAIRS” (beginning Nov. 17)
8-9 p.m. — “THE MYSTERIES OF LAURA”
9-10 p.m. — “Law & Order: SVU”
10-11 p.m. — “Chicago P.D.”
8-9 p.m. — “The Biggest Loser”
9-9:30 p.m. — “BAD JUDGE” (“The Blacklist” beginning Feb. 5)
9:30-10 p.m. — “A TO Z”
10-11 p.m. — “Parenthood”/”Allegiance”
8-9 p.m. — “Dateline NBC”
9-10 p.m. — “Grimm”
10-11 p.m. — “CONSTANTINE”
8-11 p.m. — Encore programming
7-8:20 p.m. — “Football Night in America”
8:20-11:30 p.m. — “NBC Sunday Night Football”
NBC knew they had to shake things up on Thursday where the two-hour comedy block has been flat-lining. Exactly a decade after the network broke the Must See TV two-hours of comedy tradition by slotting The Apprentice at 9 PM, the network again is replacing an hour of the comedy block with a reality series. This time it is The Biggest Loser at 8 PM. The move is not expected to pack the same punch as The Apprentice or the arrival in the Thursday 8 PM slot of CBS’ Survivor in 2001 as both of those shows at the time were breakouts on the rise, while The Biggest Loser is a long-running franchise past its heyday. While clearly a defensive move, the proven utility player could provide a needed modest but reliable number at 8 PM.
NBC will keep two comedies on Thursday at 9 PM for the fall, freshmen Bad Judge starring Kate Walsh and A to Z, as a counter-programming to CBS, whose Thursday comedy block will be pre-empted for football. NBC will nuke the Must See TV comedy block completely in February when The Blacklist will take over the 9 PM slot, following The Biggest Loser. Despite killing the Thursday comedy block in February, the network is not retreating from the genre, entertainment president Jennifer Salke said. “Comedy is very important to this network, which is why we are launching new series on Tuesdays following The Voice and on Thursdays in the fall as CBS frees up some of the comedy audience when it turns to NFL football,” she said. “Furthermore, we have several of our strongest comedies by some of our best auspices being held for midseason, including the final season of Parks and Recreation.” NBC is keeping the current 9-10 PM comedy block on Tuesday, with About a Boy sliding to 9:30 PM and hot newbie, David Caspe’s Marry Me, getting the post-Voice 9 PM berth. The remaining four new comedy series, including Tina Fey and Robert Carlock’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, will launch in midseason as part of the network’s post-Super Bowl push.
The Blacklist move resembles CBS and ABC’s successful transplants of then-freshman dramas CSI and Grey’s Anatomy to the time period a decade ago. Both got solid support at 8 PM from Survivor and Ugly Betty, respectively; The Blacklist will have to rely on a boost from The Super Bowl.
Closing Thursday night in the fall will be Parenthood, returning for a 13-episode final season. It will be followed in midseason by hot new Russian spy drama Allegiance as NBC is creating a new launching pad with The Blacklist to establish a 9-11 PM drama block.
For a third consecutive season, NBC is putting a new drama behind The Voice on Monday. After Revolution and The Blacklist, this time it is DC-set State of Affairs starring Katherine Heigl. However, in a departure from previous years, State of Affairs will not launch in September but in November, with The Blacklist starting off in its old slot before getting off to prepare for its move to Thursdays.
As many had predicted, NBC is creating an all-procedural Wednesday lineup, with new light crime drama Mysteries of Laura starring Debra Messing getting the 8 PM slot to lead to Law & Order: SVU and Chicago P.D. Also predictably, comic book drama Constantine is joining NBC’s Friday genre block in the post-Grimm 10 PM slot.
Here are detailed descriptions of NBC’s new series for next season — dramas Allegiance, Constantine, The Mysteries of Laura, Odyssey and State of Affairs; comedies A to Z, Bad Judge, Marry Me, Mission Control, from Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, Mr. Robinson, the Ellen DeGeneres-produced One Big Happy and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt; and event series Emerald City, Aquarius, marking David Duchovny’s return to broadcast TV, A.D. and Heroes reboot Heroes Reborn. Returning series that had been renewed but left off the fall schedule include Hannibal and Parks and Recreation on the scripted side and Celebrity Apprentice and Hollywood Game Night on the unscripted.
2014-2015 NEW SERIES DESCRIPTIONS
A TO Z – This is the A-to-Z story of Andrew (Ben Feldman, “Mad Men”) and Zelda (Cristin Milioti, “How I Met Your Mother”) — a pair that almost wasn’t — and all that happened from the day they met. Andrew has always been a secret romantic … not above crooning to Celine Dion while driving to work, with dreams of finding “the one.” He imagines her to be just like that shimmering beauty he spotted that night in that silver dress at that concert two years ago. Zelda, having grown up with a hippie mom who believed the universe would provide for everything, rebelled into a no-nonsense practical lawyer who prefers the control of online dating. But when a computer glitch sends her a total mismatch, she’s asked to come in for an interview at the Internet dating site where Andrew works, and this is where it all begins. Andrew and Zelda meet for the first time and despite their differences, sparks fly. She thinks it’s chance. He thinks it’s fate. After all, he’s convinced she’s the shimmering girl in the silver dress. Is it true love forever or just a detour in destiny? The cast also includes Henry Zebrowski, Lenora Crichlow, Christina Kirk and Katey Sagal (narrator). Writers Ben Queen (“Drive”), Rashida Jones (“Parks and Recreation”) and Will McCormack (“Will & Grace”) serve as executive producers. “A to Z” is a production of Warner Bros. Television and Le Train Train.
BAD JUDGE -No excuses, no apologies, no compromises. Wild child Rebecca Wright (Kate Walsh, “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Private Practice”) knows how to have a good time, but she also happens to be one of L.A.’s toughest and most respected criminal court judges. She has a reputation for unorthodox behavior in the courtroom, including creative rulings and saying exactly what’s on her mind. Her private life, on the other hand, is anything but innocent. She parties too much and rocks out on the drums in a band with her best friend, Jenny. While there’s no shortage of male admirers who would love to spend time with her, she’s not ready to settle down … except when an 8-year-old boy — whose parents were put in jail by Rebecca — needs her help. He may, in fact, be the one thing that starts to tame this “bad” judge. The cast also includes John Ducey, Tone Bell and Theodore Barnes.
Writer Chad Kultgen (“The Incredible Burt Wonderstone”) serves as executive producer with Adam McKay (“Anchorman,” “Talladega Nights”), Will Ferrell (“Step Brothers”), Anne Heche (“Men in Trees”), Jill Sobel Messick (“Baby Mama”), Kevin Messick (“The Other Guys”) and Kate Walsh. “Bad Judge” is a production of Universal Television and Gary Sanchez Productions.
MARRY ME – Six years ago, Annie (Casey Wilson, “Happy Endings”) and Jake (Ken Marino, “Eastbound & Down”) bonded over their mutual love of nachos and they’ve been inseparable ever since. Now, after returning from a romantic two-week island vacation, Jake’s all set to pop the question. Before he can ask, though, Annie lets loose on Jake for his inability to commit. She was expecting him to “put a ring on it” in paradise and now Jake’s perfect proposal is ruined. Not wanting to spend the next 60 years talking about that mess of a proposal, Jake and Annie decide to hold off on the engagement until they can do it right. Yet if history tells us anything, it’s when we really want things to go right that they all tend to go wrong. The only thing we know for sure is these two are destined to be together whether they can get it together or not. The cast also includes Sarah Wright, John Gemberling, Tymberlee Hill and Tim Meadows. Writer David Caspe (“Happy Endings”) and director Seth Gordon (“The Goldbergs”) serve as executive producer with Jamie Tarses (“Men at Work”). “Marry Me” is a production of Sony Pictures Television and FanFare Productions.
MISSION CONTROL – Houston, we have a problem! Dr. Mary Kendricks (Krysten Ritter, “Don’t Trust the B— in Apartment 23”) is a tough but brilliant aerospace engineer, leading a team of NASA scientists at the cutting edge of space exploration. The only problem is, this is the 1960s and she’s a woman. Navigating the ridiculous boys’ club of astronauts and engineering nerds is no easy task, but she’s up to the challenge … until her boss brings on Tom (Tommy Dewey, “The Mindy Project”) — a former hotshot test pilot and overall man’s man — to co-manage her team. It doesn’t help that he initially mistakes her for a secretary. Between him, her astronaut boyfriend, Cash, and her offbeat all-guy team, Mary certainly has her hands full… but at the end of the day, they all want the same thing: to get a man on the moon. It might just take a woman to get him there. The cast also includes Malcolm Barrett, Jonathan Slavin and Julie Meyer. Writer David Hornsby serves as executive producer with Adam McKay (“Anchorman,” “Talladega Nights”), Will Ferrell (“Step Brothers”) and Owen Burke. “Mission Control” is a production of Universal Television and Gary Sanchez Productions.
MR. ROBINSON – As lead singer and keyboardist of a rock band, Craig (Craig Robinson, “The Office”) knows a thing or two about working the crowd, but his day job is where he really makes the grade. Every struggling artist knows the drill: you got to pay the bills while you wait for that big break. So when Craig finds himself short on cash, he takes a job as a substitute teacher. It’s an easy gig, right? Throw a DVD in the player, dim the lights and sleep off last night’s party. Yet when he realizes that the kids think his class is an easy A, Craig’s moved to inspire his students. Music is his passion and he’s not about to let anyone sleep though this period … period. The school principal (Jean Smart, “Samantha Who?”) is a woman who believes that rules were made to be strictly upheld. She’s none too fond of Craig’s unorthodox teaching style, or his crush on the pretty English teacher. If he wants to keep his gig, get the girl and teach these kids the joys of music, he’ll have to buckle down, shape up and rock out. The cast also includes Ben Koldyke and Amandla Stenberg. Writers Mark Cullen (“Back in the Game”) and Robb Cullen (“Back in the Game”) serve as executive producers with Howard Klein (“Parks and Recreation”) and Mark Schulman (“Chelsea Lately”). “Mr. Robinson” is a production of Universal Television and 3 Arts Entertainment.
ONE BIG HAPPY – Best friends Lizzy (gay and a bit type-A) and Luke (straight and more laid back) are like family. When they were kids and both of their parents were getting divorces, Lizzy (Elisha Cuthbert, “Happy Endings”) and Luke (Nick Zano, “2 Broke Girls”) stuck together, and they’ve been there for each other ever since. Now, all grown up and still single, they’ve decided to start a family of their own. No, not like that (there are some lines even they won’t cross), we’re talking the non-romantic, go-to-the-doctor’s-office type of baby-making. Then one night, after yet another failed attempt at conception, the two head out to a bar to let off some steam. That’s where Luke meets Prudence (Kelly Brook, “Smallville”), a free-spirited British girl who’s slated to go back to England in a matter of days. Lizzy isn’t a huge fan — it might have something to do with Prudence waltzing around their apartment naked — but Luke really hits it off with her. Soon they’re spending every last minute of her limited time together. Then, just as Lizzy discovers that she’s actually pregnant, Luke announces that he and Prudence got married and a different kind of family is born. The cast also includes Brandon Smith, Rebecca Corry and Chris Williams. Writer Liz Feldman (“2 Broke Girls”) and director Scott Ellis (“2 Broke Girls”) serve as executive producers with Ellen DeGeneres (“The Ellen DeGeneres Show”) and Jeff Kleeman (“The Change Up”). “One Big Happy” is a production of Warner Bros. Television and A Very Good Production.
UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT – After 15 years of living in a cult, the unbreakable and wide-eyed Kimmy (Ellie Kemper, “The Office”) is rescued along with four other women, causing a national sensation that culminates with an appearance on the ”Today” show. Before getting back on the bus to Indiana, however, Kimmy decides it’s time to reclaim her life. Armed with just a backpack, light-up sneakers, a couple way-past-due library books and a big wad of rescue-fund cash, she’s ready to take on New York City. It’s easily the best time of Kimmy’s life as she rides subways, plays with street performers, frees Central Park horses and makes a spontaneous decision to rent a room from Titus, a gay wannabe Broadway actor who makes a living dressing as a robot in Times Square. This unlikely pairing may not seem ideal, but it quickly becomes clear that they can really help each other out: Kimmy needs someone to reintroduce her to the modern world, and Titus could use someone to show him that you should never give up on life, no matter how many times you get rejected from performing in “The Lion King.” As long as they stick together… they might just make it after all. Hakuna matata! The cast also includes Tituss Burgess, Sara Chase and Lauren Adams. Writers Tina Fey (“30 Rock”) and Robert Carlock (“30 Rock”) serve as executive producers with David Miner (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine”) and Jeff Richmond (“30 Rock”). “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” is a production of Universal Television, Little Stranger Inc. and 3 Arts Entertainment.
A.D. – In the follow-up to the eye-opening success of “The Bible” miniseries on History, the 12-hour miniseries “A.D.” — from producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey — will look at the lives that were instantly altered following the death of Christ. His disciples, mother Mary and key political religious leaders at the time saw their world turned upside down and their lives forever altered. Beginning at that fateful moment of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, part two of the greatest story ever told will focus on the disciples who had to go forward and disseminate the teachings of Christ to a world dominated by political unrest and the start of a whole new religion that would dramatically reshape the history of the world. Mark Burnett, Roma Downey and Richard Bedser serve as executive producers. Simon Block will write the script. “A.D.” is a production of LightWorkers Media.
ALLEGIANCE – Alex O’Connor (Gavin Stenhouse, “Person of Interest”), a young idealistic CIA analyst specializing in Russian affairs, learns a shocking secret and his close-knit, affluent family is about to be split apart when its revealed that his parents, Mark (Scott Cohen, “Necessary Roughness”) and Katya (Hope Davis, “The Newsroom,” “In Treatment”) are covert Russian spies deactivated decades ago. But today the Kremlin has re-enlisted them into service as they plan a terrorist operation inside the U.S. border that will bring America to its knees. Years ago, Russian-born Katya was tasked by the KGB to recruit American businessman Mark O’Connor as a spy — and the two fell in love. A deal was struck: As long as Katya remained an asset for Russia, and it was agreed that her services could be called on in the future, she would be allowed to marry Mark and move to America. After years in America building a happy life and without word from Moscow, they thought they had escaped. Now it seems that the new Mother Russia has one more mission — turning Alex into a spy. For these anguished parents, the choice is clear: Betray their country or risk their family. The cast also includes Margarita Levieva, Morgan Spector, Annie Ilonzeh, Alexandra Peters and Kenneth Choi. Writer-director George Nolfi (“The Adjustment Bureau”) serves as executive producer with Avi Nir (“Homeland”), Ron Leshem, Amit Cohen, Yona Wisenthal and Giyora Yahalom. “Allegiance” is a production of Universal Television, Keshet Media and Yes!
AQUARIUS – It’s 1967 and the era of free love, drug experimentation and the Vietnam War is in full effect. When the teenage daughter of a respected lawyer goes missing, L.A. Police Sgt. Sam Hodiak (David Duchovny, “Californication,” “The X-Files”) starts asking around. He soon discovers that the hippie kids he’s questioning don’t take kindly to cops, especially one with hair as short as his. Needing the help of someone they will trust, he partners with rebellious undercover cop Brian Shafe, a man who’s more comfortable rolling a joint than patrolling a beat. It’s not long before they stumble upon a small-time cult leader seeking out vulnerable women to join his cause. From there, they follow this man’s trail down a rabbit hole of drugs, sex, murder and cultural revolution. Little could they know, however, the guy they’re hunting will eventually become the killer we now recognize as Charles Manson. He was a lost soul who desperately wanted to get into the music scene of the ’60s until something snapped. This is the show that will explore the cat and mouse game between him and the police that will go on for several seasons, ultimately ending with the infamous Tate-LaBianca murders. Writer John McNamara (“In Plain Sight”) serves as executive producer with Marty Adelstein (“Prison Break”), David Duchovny and Melanie Greene. “Aquarius” is a production of ITV Studios America and Marty Adelstein Productions.
CONSTANTINE – Based on the wildly popular DC Comics series “Hellblazer,” seasoned demon hunter and master of the occult John Constantine (Matt Ryan, “Criminal Minds”) specializes in giving hell… hell. Armed with a ferocious knowledge of the dark arts and his wickedly naughty wit, he fights the good fight — or at least he did. With his soul already damned to hell, he’s decided to leave his do-gooder life behind, but when demons target Liv (Lucy Griffiths, “True Blood”), the daughter of one of Constantine’s oldest friends, he’s reluctantly thrust back into the fray – and he’ll do whatever it takes to save her. Before long, it’s revealed that Liv’s “second sight” — an ability to see the worlds behind our world and predict supernatural occurrences — is a threat to a mysterious new evil that’s rising in the shadows. Now it’s not just Liv who needs protection; the angels are starting to get worried too. So, together, Constantine and Liv must use her power and his skills to travel the country, find the demons that threaten our world and send them back where they belong. After that, who knows… maybe there’s hope for him and his soul after all. The cast also includes Harold Perrineau and Charles Halford.
Writer Daniel Cerone (“The Mentalist,” “Dexter”) serves as executive producer with David S. Goyer (“Man of Steel,” “The Dark Knight Rises”). “Constantine” is produced from Bonanza Productions in association with Warner Bros. Television. The show is based upon characters published by DC Entertainment.
EMERALD CITY – Desperate for clues that will lead to the identity of her biological mother, a young woman breaks into a sinister underground facility somewhere in the Midwest. Unable to complete her mission and surrounded by security, our feisty heroine steals a K9 police dog and drives away into the night… and headlong into the path of a raging tornado. In the blink of an eye, she is transported to another world, one far removed from our own — a mystical land of competing kingdoms, lethal warriors, dark magic and a bloody battle for supremacy. This is the fabled Land of Oz in a way you’ve never seen before, where wicked witches don’t stay dead for long and 20-year-old Dorothy Gale becomes a headstrong warrior who holds the fate of kingdoms in her hands. You’re not in Kansas anymore, and this is not your Grandmother’s Oz. Writer Matthew Arnold (“Siberia”) serves as executive producer with Josh Friedman (“Terminator” The Sarah Connor Chronicles”). “Emerald City” is a production of Universal Television.
HEROES REBORN – The saga behind the 2006 breakout series “Heroes” will continue as creator Tim Kring returns to the fold and develops new layers to his original superhero concept. This highly anticipated 13-episode miniseries will reconnect with the basic elements of the show’s first season where ordinary people were waking up to the fact that they had extraordinary abilities. This series will be preceded by a new digital series that will introduce audiences to the new characters and storylines that will take the “Heroes” phenomenon to new places.
THE MYSTERIES OF LAURA – Debra Messing (“Will & Grace”) stars as Laura Diamond, a brilliant NYPD homicide detective who balances her “Columbo” day job with a crazy family life that includes two unruly twin boys and a soon-to-be ex-husband (Josh Lucas) — also a cop — who just can’t seem to sign the divorce papers. Between cleaning up after her boys and cleaning up the streets, she’d be the first to admit she has her “hot mess” moments in this hilariously authentic look at what it really means to be a “working mom” today. Somehow, she makes it all work with the help of her sexy and understanding partner, and things becomes even more complicated when her husband, ironically, becomes her boss at the precinct. For Laura, every day is a high-wire balancing act. The cast also includes Laz Alonso and Janina Gavankar. Writer Jeff Rake (“Boston Legal”) and director McG (“Supernatural”) serve as executive producer with Greg Berlanti (“Brothers & Sisters”), Aaron Kaplan (“The Neighbors”), Todd Lituchy and Sarah Schechter. “The Mysteries of Laura” is a production of Warner Bros. Television, Berlanti Productions and Kapital Entertainment.
ODYSSEY – In this “Traffic”-like action drama, an international conspiracy explodes when three strangers’ lives unexpectedly collide — a female soldier, a corporate lawyer and a political activist. After a team of American soldiers battles Jihadists in North Africa, they’re shocked to find that one of the men they killed is Al Qaeda’s top man. Sgt. Odelle Ballard (Anna Friel, “Pushing Daisies”) — a soldier, mother, wife and the unit’s only female member — discovers computer files that suggest a major U.S. corporation is funding the Jihadists. But before she can tell anyone, her team is attacked and left for dead. News is reported that the unit was wiped out, but the truth is that Odelle survived and is the only witness to her unit’s assassination by U.S. Special Forces. In New York, former U.S. Attorney Peter Decker (Peter Facinelli, “Nurse Jackie”) is working on a merger deal for the same company that was funneling money to the Jihadists. Meanwhile, Harrison Walters (Jake Robinson, “The Carrie Diaries”), a political activist and trust fund kid, meets a hacker who claims to have unearthed a massive military-industrial conspiracy. And he’s right: He’s stumbled onto the cover-up that began with Odelle and will soon be out in the open and everyone’s lives will be in danger. The only way they’ll ever save their country, their families and themselves is by joining forces and exposing the people behind it. The cast also includes Jim True-Frost, Treat Williams, Nate Mooney, Elena Kampouris, Daniella Pineda, Sadie Sink, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Omar Ghazaoui. Writers Adam Armus (“The Following”) and Nora Kay Foster (“Heroes”), and writer-director Peter Horton (“Grey’s Anatomy”) serve as executive producers with Simon Maxwell (“Off the Hook”), Mikkel Bondesen (“Burn Notice”), Henrik Bastin (“Burn Notice) and Kristen Campo (“The Killing”). “Odyssey” is a production of Universal Television, Fabrik Entertainment and Red Arrow Entertainment Group.
STATE OF AFFAIRS – Each day the President is faced with dozens of life and death decisions, and to prioritize the biggest international crises facing the country, one top CIA analyst — Charleston Tucker (Katherine Heigl, “Grey’s Anatomy”) — assembles the President’s Daily Briefing (PDB). This list of the most vital security issues facing the nation brings with it moral and political judgment calls for Charleston and her trusted group of brilliant analysts at the agency. Aside from the political minefields she has to walk, Charlie has a close personal relationship with the President (Alfre Woodard, “Desperate Housewives”) because she was once engaged to her son before a tragic terrorist attack took his life. Charlie survived that attack and is now determined to bring the perpetrators to justice. Navigating a complex personal life and a pressure-cooker profession is, of course, a challenge, and Charlie sometimes engages in boundary-pushing behavior to avoid facing her grief. But when the clock strikes 2 a.m., she is all about her job — protecting her nation, serving her President and still trying to get to the bottom of her fiancé’s murder that will reveal itself as a shocking mystery. The cast also includes Adam Kaufman, Sheila Vand, Cliff Chamberlain, Tommy Savas and Leslie Odom, Jr. Writer-director Joe Carnahan (“The Blacklist”) serves as executive producer with Katherine Heigl, Nancy Heigl, Robert Simonds, Sophie Watts, Henry Crumpton, Rodney Faraon and Julia Franz. “State of Affairs” is a production of Universal Television, Bob Simonds Company and Abishag Productions.