After several years getting sand kicked in its face, it was understandable that NBC would exult in its 2013-14 results during the network’s upfront presentation Monday, where the atmosphere was buoyed by parent Comcast’s staggering commitment to the Olympics through 2032.
Exulting for nearly an hour before anybody saw one of its new shows might be another matter, but hey, when you’ve waited this long, a little overkill is to be expected.
The overall takeaway: Not only do we have a deep-pocketed parent willing to invest in our business, but if you thought we received a significant Olympic boost in this year’s ratings, well, get used to a whole lot more of that — including the 2015 Super Bowl — in the years ahead.
The network’s other big infusion this season came from “The Blacklist,” a series NBC Entertainment chief Bob Greenblatt called “the real deal” — and it had better be, based on the network’s decision to shift the show to Thursday nights, seeking to put a little “Must-See” back in its long-suffering lineup. That will require the James Spader vehicle thriving without “The Voice” as a lead-in, but NBC will shrewdly use the Super Bowl to showcase it before the scheduling move occurs in February.
Based on its cutdown clips, NBC’s development exhibited some promise, although it was hard to see anything in the comedy bunch that would shake the general malaise that ultimately compelled the network to back away from sitcoms on Thursday night, a break that worked only temporarily when then-NBC chief Jeff Zucker moved “The Apprentice” there.
NBC’s faith in “The Blacklist,” meanwhile, was evident in its drama development, where practically every show looked tailored to tap into the series’ vibe. The principal exception would be “Constantine,” an adaptation of the DC comic that feels like a logical companion to “Grimm” on Friday nights.
Of all those shows, the most will be riding on “State of Affairs” (pictured), a drama starring Katherine Heigl that will inherit “The Blacklist’s” post-“The Voice” slot, which has a strain of “Zero Dark Thirty” running through it.
Viewed in this format, the dramas had a certain numbing sameness to them. But they’ll have a better chance spread out and deployed across the season.
All told, NBC’s schedule appears to fortify some of its gains, with the disclaimer that the network’s reliance on “The Voice” — as Fox can attest — is one of those hourglasses where you can never be entirely sure when the sand will start leaking out faster than anticipated.
Latenight host Seth Meyers had the unenviable task of warming up the crowd, delivering TV-centric jokes on the order of what Jimmy Kimmel regularly does for ABC. Actually, the really amazing thing was the reminder that the network’s “Ironside” revival — an ordeal that seems to have passed years ago — was really just this past season. (Bringing Jimmy Fallon out too felt unnecessary, but NBC is so proud of its latenight baton pass one can cut the network a little slack on that.)
Of course, NBC hasn’t been the sole author of its competitive gains. The network owes a rather sizable debt to Fox’s quick fade with its music-competition shows, and CBS’ fumbled attempt to successfully spread its comedy wealth on Mondays and Thursdays.
Then again, in TV, as most other endeavors, it’s generally wise not to look a gift horse in the mouth.
Preliminary grade, subject to revision — grading is on a curve — once all the presentations are done: B