Net tries laffers on Fri.; 'Revolution,' 'Fire' get plum launchpads
NBC is hoping a fall debut for “The Voice” and a comedy-heavy schedule can help turn around its primetime rating woes.
The network gave a sneak peek of its programming lineup Sunday ahead of its Monday upfront presentation in Manhattan, where advertisers will get a look at the four new comedies and two new dramas, some of which could premiere as early as August around the Summer Olympics.
“Voice,” which will run in successive cycles in the fall and midseason for the first time, will remain in its Monday-Tuesday timeslots where it will be counted on to launch new programming. “Revolution,” a new sci-fi drama from Warner Bros. TV, J.J. Abrams and Eric Kripke, will inherit the post-“Voice” period previously inhabited by “Smash” on Monday at 10 p.m. The comedy pairing of “Go On” and “The New Normal” will be slotted at 9 p.m. after the “Voice” Tuesday results show.
The sophomore year of this season’s big bet, tuner-drama “Smash,” is being held for midseason. It could air as many as 18 episodes sequentially beginning sometime in the winter, a boost from its initial 13-episode order.
Another returning series to be held for midseason is unscripted vet “The Biggest Loser.”
The Tuesday pairing is one of four comedy blocks, two of them new, on NBC’s fall sked.The Peacock is reloading the Wednesday 8 p.m. hour, where it launched “Up All Night” last year, with “Animal Practice” and “Guys With Kids.” Thursday will see the return of its traditional 8-10 p.m. block, beginning with the final season of “30 Rock,” followed by “Up All Night,” “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation.”
“Comedy is a big agenda for us,” said NBC Entertainment chief Bob Greenblatt. “We really had the goods this year, with a bumper crop of pilots.”
In addition to the post-“Voice” comedy block on Tuesday, NBC is moving the combo of “Whitney” and “Community” to the 8 p.m. hour on Friday, a night that hasn’t been home to half-hour comedies on NBC since 1991 (“Dear John” and the short-lived “Flesh ‘N Blood”). “Grimm” will remain the Fridays at 9 p.m. slot.
The other new drama NBC has set for fall is Dick Wolf’s “Chicago Fire,” which will take the Wednesday 10 p.m. timeslot once reserved for Wolf’s “Law and Order: SVU,” which is returning for its 14th season as a lead-in for “Fire” at 9 p.m.
In an unexpected move, second-year newsmag “Rock Center With Brian Williams” is shifting to Thursday at 10 p.m., a timeslot that has traditionally been devoted to some of NBC’s most ambitious scripted dramas. The network suffered in the timeslot last year, failing to launch hours “Prime Suspect” and “Awake.”
Greenblatt said “The Voice” made its widely anticipated shift to fall to give the primetime lineup its best shot at ratings growth. “I think it was inevitable that we wanted to take our biggest asset and deploy it smartly throughout the season,” he said.
Greenblatt emphasized that his strategy for building NBC’s fall lineup was predicated on driving eyeballs from the net’s NFL Sunday programming, which got a bigger audience in 2011-12 than “American Idol,” into the following weekdays.
“One of the reasons it laid out the way it did is I am determined to build momentum from night to night, which is something that has eluded us in recent years,” he said.
NBC intends to capitalize on the summer Olympics as a promotional platform for new programming launches but has yet to settle on which specific series will get the exposure or exactly how. The network is considering airing some of the pilots during the London Games and will likely launch some series in early September instead of late August.
“We’re definitely going to use that platform in an intelligent way,” Greenblatt said.
Greenblatt mentioned upcoming unscripted series “Stars Earn Stripes” from Wolf and Mark Burnett could be a good series to launch out of the Olympics.
New series being held for midseason include dramas “Do No Harm,” which has already been slotted for Sunday at 10 p.m. after football season; “Infamous”; and “Hannibal.” New comedies holding are “Next Caller,” “1600 Penn” and “Save Me.”
Ted Harbert, chairman of NBC Broadcasting, believes containing the number of new series launches in the fall to six will help make for focused promotional efforts. “We didn’t want to try to do much in terms of marketing new shows,” he said.
Other midseason series will come from the unscripted genre, including “Howie Mandel’s White Elephant” and variety show “Surprise With Jenny McCarthy.”
Greenblatt believes “Revolution” could do even better than “Smash.” “I think ‘Revolution’ is potentially broader than ‘Smash’ was and hopefully it will benefit in a big way from the big audience coming from ‘The Voice,’ ” he said.
Harbert said he plans to address from the stage of the upfront presentation the controversial new “Auto Hop” functionality being added to multiroom DVRs by satcaster Dish Network. Auto Hop allows subscribers to strip commercials from TV series aired by the Big Four networks one day after they air. He characterized the technology as “an attack on our ecosystem.”
Greenblatt suggested that “Community” exec producer Dan Harmon may take on a different role on the series going forward.
“I expect Dan’s voice to be a part of the show somehow, I’m just not sure if that means he’s running it day to day or consulting on it,” he said, dismissing the suggestion that a publicized feud between Harmon and “Community” supporting player Chevy Chase had anything to do with the decision on the Sony Pictures TV show.
NBC on Friday settled the fate of its remaining bubble series from the current season. As expected, it axed dramas “Awake” and “Harry’s Law” and frosh comedies “Are You There, Chelsea,” “Bent” and “BFF.”