NBC unveils fall primetime schedule
Eight new shows join returning 'Parenthood,' 'Community'In the fall, NBC will have an action-adventure Monday night, a crime drama Wednesday and an all-comedy Thursday. Despite expectations, the network will not launch a new comedy block.
The plan, to be unveiled Monday during the network's upfront presentation, stocks NBC with eight new shows on its schedule, in addition to bringing back the freshman breakout "Parenthood" and Thursday night's "Community." "Parks and Recreation" will be pushed to midseason to make way for the new comedy "Outsourced."
NBC will use "Sunday Night Football" to help promote its Monday lineup, which will see "Chuck" opening the night for the network's new action drama "The Event," followed by Jerry Bruckheimer's "Chase." Tuesdays, often the network's strongest night, will remain unchanged with "The Biggest Loser" and "Parenthood." Wednesdays will have J.J. Abrams' new spy drama, "Undercovers," taking advantage of weak incumbent competition in the hour, leading into two hours of "Law & Order" spinoffs: "SVU" and its recently announced companion "Los Angeles."
Thursdays will have "Community," "30 Rock," "The Office," "Outsourced" and new comedy "Love Bites." The mix will give the network an all-comedy night, though comedies have traditionally struggled to find audiences at 10 p.m.
Pushing "Parks" to midseason, NBC and Universal Media Studios primetime entertainment president Angela Bromstad said, was "one of the toughest decisions we had to make."
"Ultimately, we wanted to get a new comedy on our schedule," she said. "It seems on cable you can wait a year and actually create more anticipation for a series, so we're not losing momentum."
On Fridays, the returning unscripted show "Who Do You Think You Are?" will share the time slot with a new reality acquisition, "School Pride," which will lead into "Dateline" and the freshman Jimmy Smits legal drama "Outlaw."
On putting "Outlaw" into such a tough time period, Bromstad said, "We are certainly counting on Jimmy to bring people there."
New midseason shows include "The Cape," "Friends With Benefits," "Perfect Couples," "Harry's Law" and "Next" (now titled "The Paul Reiser Show").
"This new schedule brings NBC back to basics with its commitment to quality scripted programming," NBC Universal TV Entertainment chairman Jeff Gaspin said. "With this new schedule, we're poised to take the next step toward our long-term goals with a lineup that has stabilized and has been building solid momentum through the second half of the season."
On the surface, the schedule gives NBC a strong pitch to advertisers: mostly original high-concept shows, grown-up budgets and top-tier producers. It's a departure from recent years that saw the network embracing cost-cutting measures while chasing spinoffs, celebrity-fronted stunts and remaking familiar titles.
In terms of subject matter, the lineup still feels like an NBC slate -- in a positive sense. On the comedy side, there's the younger-skewing single-camera comedy "Outsourced," which would fit with existing shows like "The Office." Among dramas, there's a mix of Comic Con-friendly genre pieces, including "The Event," "Undercovers" and "Cape," as well as bet-hedging procedurals "Harry's Law" and "Outlaw" along with "Law & Order: L.A."
Heading into its upfront, NBC's upcoming season seemed to risk being overshadowed by headlines about its last-minute cancellations.
The network stunned insiders late last week by dumping veteran procedural "Law & Order" on the eve of the show surpassing "Gunsmoke" as TV's longest-running drama.
"We all knew the mothership was coming to an end," Bromstad said. "It was time to move forward. ... (The decision was) about the overall health of the 'Law & Order' franchise."
NBC also unexpectedly canceled "Heroes," though the network plans to talk with creator Tim Kring after the upfronts about a possible movie to wrap up the show.
NBC also axed struggling medical dramas "Trauma" and "Mercy," though both decisions were anticipated. Neither show found much traction with viewers during a season that failed to find a breakout broadcast medical series.
In terms of "L&O" and "Heroes," the cancellations could play to the network's advantage, helping reinforce a narrative it is trying to construct: We have confidence in our new material.
Advertisers have heard such pledges of rebirth from NBC several times before, and success won't be clear until the fall. Until then, expect advertisers to credit the network for at least taking aim at targets that any broadcaster would be proud to hit.