NBC Brass Tout Stability, Broad Comedy Push and Flexibility With New Fall Schedule

A few surgical tweaks for the No. 1 network, which is investing in its modest comedy brand.
Colleen Hayes/NBC

NBC revealed its new schedule early Sunday — and, as it rounds out its sixth season as TV’s top-rated network, it should come as little surprise that the Peacock is largely staying the course.

Plugging the lineup on a call with press, NBC Entertainment co-chairmen George Cheeks and Paul Telegdy emphasized that they are heading into their first upfront market in the top exec post with plans to keep what’s working on course (alternative and many returning dramas) and a focus on energizing the comedy brand.

While The Good Place has earned acclaim, and Superstore and the revival of Will & Grace have been consistent performers, the fact remains that NBC is still without a “hit” comedy like the ones in its storied past or those of rivals CBS and ABC.

“We are looking for broad, four-quadrant comedies that can appeal to everybody,” said Cheeks, who noted the multiplatform success of The Good Place earlier in the call. “The stuff we produce, we produce for a broader audience. People find it on whatever platform.”

If there’s a surprise on the new lineup, it’s the decision to hold freshman breakout Manifest. The drama won’t appear until later in the season, ceding the prime Monday 10 p.m. hour for Jimmy Smits’ newcomer Bluff City Law. That night’s lead-in from The Voice doesn’t work nearly as well as it did at the height of the singing competition’s success, but things seemed to gel for Manifest.

Telegdy and Cheeks noted that the serialized nature of Manifest, and its digital tail, mean that they can be more flexible with when and how they air it. The pair also said that the delay until midseason means the series will air without interruptions during its 16-episode run. Episode length, across the board, is getting much more playful at NBC — with series like Manifest, Brooklyn Nine-Nine (13 episodes), Will & Grace and This Is Us (18 episodes) all running for varying durations less than the typical 22-episode orders. That means that for some fall launches, even successful ones, the “back-nine” may be a thing of the past.

“There are certain shows that run perfectly for 22 weeks and others that could be different,” said Telegdy. “We’re just remaining incredibly flexible how we look at every project.”

Other adjustments to the schedule are minor. Thursday nights will see a peppering of new comedies with Bradley Whitford's Perfect Harmony and Mike Schur's Sunnyside. They will join Superstore and The Good Place before Law & Order: SVU again airs at 10 p.m. On Fridays, The Blacklist will be paired with a two-hour outing of Dateline.

On top of the fixed statuses of Saturday (a broadcast afterthought) and Sunday (Sunday Night Football through the holidays), another two nights saw zero movement: Tuesday’s functioning marriage of The Voice and New Amsterdam and Wednesday's Dick Wolf block of Chicago series Med, Fire and P.D. The latter proved to be an exceptionally smart move when NBC made that call a year ago. The Chicago series all performed more consistently throughout the season while airing in succession each Wednesday.

Plenty of series are being saved for midseason and points further, including returning series Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Will & Grace, freshman hit Manifest, Good Girls, Blindspot, America’s Got Talent: The Champions, Ellen’s Game of Games, Little Big Shots and World of Dance — as well as new orders Indebted, The Kenan Show, Council of Dads, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist and Lincoln. Those series’ spot on the bench, per NBC executives, is merely the result of the network’s increasingly aggressive play for a year-round schedule.

NBC's 2019 Fall Schedule

8-10 p.m. ET/PT — The Voice
10-11 p.m. — Bluff City Law

8-9 p.m. — The Voice
9-10 p.m. — This Is Us
10-11 p.m. — New Amsterdam

8-9 p.m. — Chicago Med
9-10 p.m. — Chicago Fire
10-11 p.m. — Chicago P.D.

8-8:30 p.m. — Superstore
8:30-9 p.m. — Perfect Harmony
9-9:30 p.m. — The Good Place
9:30-10 p.m. — Sunnyside
10-11 p.m. — Law & Order: SVU

8-9 p.m. — The Blacklist
9-11 p.m — Dateline NBC

8-10 p.m. — Dateline Saturday Night Mystery
10-11 p.m. – Saturday Night Live (encores)

7-8:20 p.m. — Football Night in America
8:20-11 p.m. — Sunday Night Football

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