Live from New York, Los Angeles, and, perhaps, several other places, it’s NBC’s fall schedule.
The Comcast-owned network said it would start to rely more heavily on live and live-to-tape programming in the fall, a reflection, perhaps, of the troubles the outlet has had in attaining hit status for much of its scripted fare in past seasons. NBC is set to run a live variety show featuring Neil Patrick Harris on Tuesday nights; run episodes of the sitcom “Undateable” on Friday nights that are performed live; and continue to lean on two of its most durable franchises, “The Voice” on Mondays and Tuesdays, and “Sunday Night Football” on Sunday nights in the first half of the season. The network will also mount the third in a series of live broadcasts of popular Broadway fare, setting a take of “The Wiz” for the holiday season.
“Live programming is one more way to make a show undeniable,” said Robert Greenblatt, chairman of NBC Entertainment, in a prepared statement.
Other big moves are afoot. The network will move comedies to Friday nights and devote Thursday night, long a bastion of popular NBC “must see” comedy, entirely to drama in the fall.
NBC unveiled its 2015-2016 schedule as U.S. media companies move into TV’s annual upfront market, when they try to sell the bulk of their ad inventory for the coming season. NBC finished the season in good shape, compared to its rivals. The network expects to lead in primetime in the audience most coveted by advertisers, people between the ages of 18 and 49. Yet it still has something to prove to Madison Avenue. The network overall is flat in total viewers and down approximately 11% in viewers between 18 and 49 for the season, not including sports, according to Nielsen. ABC and CW, meanwhile, have improved their status in those categories.
The NBC schedule has largely been propped up on “The Voice,” “Sunday Night Football” and the James Spader-led drama “The Blacklist,” which will return for next season. Adding more programming that is live or “of the moment” follows what has proven most reliable in TV in recent years. Such programming tends to draw bigger crowds, typically generates bigger social-media response and often commands a higher price from advertisers. NBC has found success in recent months in its live broadcast of the musical “Peter Pan,” as well as its recent live special celebrating the 40th anniversary of “Saturday Night Live.”
To be sure, NBC isn’t shying away from trying to break big with comedies and dramas. The network will launch a new drama, “Blindspot,” from successful producer Greg Berlanti, on Monday nights following “The Voice”; a character-driven medical drama, “Heartbreaker,” featuring actress Melissa George, on Tuesdays; “Heroes Reborn,” a sequel to the cult-favorite 2006 superhero series produced by Tim Kring, on Thursdays; and a sequel to the popular sitcom “Coach,” later in the season. NBC also announced it ordered a miniseries, “The Reaper,” based on the bestselling memoir by Sgt. Nicholas Irving, a decorated African-American sniper who was deployed in Afghanistan for 100 days.
Among the programs not returning to the schedule are “State of Affairs,” “Constantine,” “Marry Me,” “About a Boy,” “One Big Happy,” and “Allegiance.” NBC said the fates of “A.D. The Bible Continues” and “American Odyssey” would be determined at a later date, following those series’ finales. Returning scripted programming includes “The Blacklist,” “Chicago Fire,” “Chicago P.D.,” “Grimm,” “Law & Order: SVU,” “The Mysteries of Laura” and “The Night Shift.”
Monday nights will once again feature “The Voice,” followed by the new Berlanti drama, “Blindspot,” at 10 p.m. The drama centers on a mysterious tattooed woman whose markings represent crimes that need solving,
“The Voice” will also prove instrumental on Tuesdays, and will be followed by “Heartbreaker” at 9 p.m. and the Neil Patrick Harris variety program “Best Time Ever” at 10 p.m. In November, NBC will replace the variety show with the durable Dick Wolf-produced series “Chicago Fire.”
On Wednesdays, NBC will rely on returning series: “The Mysteries of Laura” at 8 p.m., “Law & Order SVU” at 9 p.m. and “Chicago P.D.” at 10 p.m.
NBC will devote Thursdays entirely to drama for the first time in years. “Heroes Reborn” will anchor the night at 8 p.m. The popular “The Blacklist” will run at 9 p.m. A new drama, “The Player,” features Wesley Snipes as a Las Vegas security expert charged with stopping big crimes from happening, will air at 10 p.m.
NBC will launch Fridays with comedies at 8 p.m. The live “Undateable” will air at 8 p.m., followed by “People Are Talking” at 8:30. The comedy focuses on two married couples who are also neighbors who feel free to obsess over and analyze everything taking place in their lives. “Grimm” will return at 9 p.m, while “Dateline” stays in the 10 p.m. slot it has held for years.
NBC will run “Dateline: Saturday Night Mystery” at 8 p.m. on Saturdays and follow it with classic episodes of “Saturday Night Live” at 10 p.m.
Sundays will, as per usual, be anchored by football through the first half of the season.
NBC also unveiled a series of new shows slated to arrive later in the season.
“Superstore,” a comedy, stars America Ferrara and Ben Feldman as members of an ersatz family of employees at a megastore. “Shades of Blue” will star Jennifer Lopez as a corrupt cop who is caught by the FBI. “Game of Silence,” from producer Carol Mendelsohn, centers on a group of old friends who regroup to right the wrongs of the past. “Crowded,” a sitcom starring Patrick Warburton and Carrie Preston, tells the story of two would-be empty nesters who must grapple with their children moving back home. Eva Longoria stars in comedy “Hot & Bothered,” about a TV superstar and the cast and crew around her all vying for attention.
Rob Lowe stars in a one-hour comedic drama called “You, Me and the End of the World,” which tells the story of a random people trying to deal with a comet heading toward Earth. “Chicago Med” is a new pillar in the growing series of Chicago-set programs from producer Dick Wolf. And NBC will also launch “Coat of Many Colors,” a movie special that tells the story of country-music superstar Dolly Parton.
The schedule for the first half of the new TV season follows below:
8-10 P.M. — “The Voice”
10-11 P.M. — “BLINDSPOT”
8-9 P.M. — “The Voice”
9-10. PM. — “HEARTBREAKER”
10-11 P.M. — “BEST TIME EVER WITH NEIL PATRICK HARRIS” (through November)
10-11 P.M. — “Chicago Fire” (premieres in November)
8-9 P.M. — “The Mysteries of Laura”
9-10 P.M. — “Law & Order: SVU”
10-11 P.M. — “Chicago P.D.”
8-9 P.M. — “HEROES REBORN”
9-10 P.M. — “The Blacklist”
10-11 P.M. — “THE PLAYER”
8-8:30 P.M. — “Undateable”
8:30-9 P.M. — “PEOPLE ARE TALKING”
9-10 P.M. — “Grimm”
10-11 P.M. — “Dateline”
8-10 P.M. — “Dateline Saturday Night Mystery”
10-11 P.M. — “Saturday Night Live” (Classic encores)
7-8:20 P.M. — “Football Night in America”
8:20-11 P.M. — “Sunday Night Football”