NBC has moved in to preemptively cut the orders of its midseason comedies Superstore starring America Ferrera and Hot & Bothered toplined by Eva Longoria from the original 13 episodes to 11 each. The move comes as NBC brass are starting to put together the network’s midseason schedule. I hear the two single-camera comedies were about halfway through production on their 13-episode orders, allowing for the reduction. The network’s third new midseason comedy, the multi-camera Crowded, is said to be further along, so it is expected to complete its 13-episode pickup. (As a multi-cam, it also is less expensive to produce.)
The decision is believed to be budget/scheduling-related as NBC executives are looking to keep the network’s lineup in originals throughout the year while staying on budget. The network has a big-ticket item next year, the Summer Olympics, along with the political conventions, which has put a squeeze on the budget for primetime entertainment programming. Additionally, NBC brass believe that a 10-11-episode run is long enough to inform them of a new show’s performance potential.
In the new economic realities of eroding Live+Same Day ratings, broadcast networks are trying to be pragmatic with their series orders, picking up the number of episodes their schedule needs and not more. ABC for several years has been handing out midseason orders that have been all over the place depending where the network would air them, including eight episodes (Scandal, Agent Carter) and 10 episodes (Secrets & Lies).
On the comedy side, NBC last month freed up midseason inventory by scrapping its direct-to-series Coach sequel. Quickly after that, the network added another midseason comedy by renewing summer newcomer The Carmichael Show. (NBC also has 10-episode acquired comedy-drama series You, Me And The End Of The World.)
The network has been struggling in the comedy genre. It has on the fewest half-hour series (two) among the Big 4 networks this fall, an hourlong block on the lower-profile Friday night. It consists of Undateable, which airs live, and new comedy Truth Be Told. The former started its third season soft but logged an encouraging Week 2 uptick, while the latter got off to a low start.
NBC had adjusted a 2015-2016 series order already. Variety entry Best Time Ever With Neil Patrick Harris was originally picked up for 10 episodes, with the order trimmed to eight episodes after the show was assigned a Tuesday time slot in May as that fulfilled NBC’s needs on that night. I hear other alternative series NBC has on tap for midseason may also see their orders reduced once they get scheduled.
There are no order cuts on the drama side for now. The Jennifer Lopez-starrer Shades Of Blue is set to stay at 13 episodes (and it also is close to wrapping production on its order). Game Of Silence already had been picked up for a 10-episode run back in May. Heartbreaker, originally slated for fall, had to be pushed to midseason because of star Melissa George’s pregnancy; the series filmed five episodes before taking a break for George to have her baby and is scheduled to resume production in January. The show could conceivably make fewer episodes then depending on NBC’s needs. The network already gave one fall drama, Blindspot, a Back 9 order, and there are high expectations for the latest entry in the Chicago franchise, Chicago Med, whose premiere was moved up from midseason to late fall because of Heartbreaker‘s delay.