May 11, 2014

NIELSENWAR 2014-15: The NBC Schedule – Grid and Instant Analysis


NBC has kept a lot of is pieces in place, but also made some significant changes for next season, especially on its once-signature Thursday night.  Let’s dig in.

NBC Fall Schedule 2014 with Thu midseason

MONDAY:  No surprise that THE VOICE is staying where it is, but 10PM is a risk.  NBC will keep THE BLACKLIST there only until November 10, and then debut the Katherine Heigl drama STATE OF AFFAIRS in the slot.  Heigl is a polarizing performer, and if CBS can do more in that hour it did last season (and it could hardly help but do so), this could jeopardize a critical timeslot for NBC.  It’s certainly a vote of confidence in Heigl and her show, but Revolution and Smash have proven that a post-Voice launch is no guarantee of continued success–and now that The Voice isn’t what it was just a season ago, that’s even more true.

TUESDAY:  THE VOICE stays at 8PM, then the network launches what is presumably the half-hour it likes best:  MARRY ME is hammocked between The Voice and reasonably successful returnee About A BoyMarry Me will definitely get a sampling, and it has a terrific pedigree, coming from the creator and one of the stars of the beloved Happy Endings, so now it needs to justify its prime placement.  (Happy Endings may have been acclaimed, but it didn’t last long.)  CHICAGO FIRE returns at 10PM, where it’s done unexciting but OK business.

WEDNESDAY:  In the new world of network TV, the mid-1 ratings for SVU and CHICAGO PD are considered a win.  So the only move NBC is making is the addition of THE MYSTERIES OF LAURA, its Debra Messing procedural, to the 8PM hour.  The network clearly considers expects something from Messing’s name value, and the fact that Laura will likely skew old makes it a fit with the darker procedurals that follow, but this move isn’t likely to move the needle very much.

THURSDAY:  A TV tradition that had lasted for decades–the 2-hour Thursday NBC comedy block–is no more.  The network is essentially giving up on 8PM, slotting the elderly THE BIGGEST LOSER in the hour with low expectations (but also low costs), then launching 2 new sitcoms at 9PM.  BAD JUDGE stars Kate Walsh as the title character, and it doesn’t sound all that much unlike Bad Teacher, which just finished flopping on Thursday nights for CBS.  It’s followed by the rom-com A TO Z, which has an appealing cast (Cristin Milioti, Ben Feldman) but not a particularly promotable one.  This is, in other words, a big gamble.  It’s also not clear what happens to these comedies in February, when in another gamble, NBC moves The Blacklist to a new night and hour after having kept it off the air since November 10.  Blacklist could change the balance of power on the night (after the new THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL is done for CBS in the fall)–or, returning from a long hiatus without the strong lead-in of The Voice, it could run out of steam much more quickly than it might have in a less aggressively scheduled spot.  The final 13 episodes of PARENTHOOD stay put at 10PM in the fall, then the spy drama ALLEGIENCE gets the Blacklist lead-in at midseason.

FRIDAY:  The new DC Comics-based CONSTANTINE is an obvious fit for the post-GRIMM slot at 10PM, the only caveat being that it’s a much more expensive show than the international co-productions Dracula and HANNIBAL that held that hour last season, so while Hannibal has survived with microscopic ratings, Constantine will need to do better.

SUNDAY:  SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL all fall, of course.  The network has announced that AD, the religious-themed miniseries from the producers of The Bible, will start airing on Easter Sunday, but otherwise post-football plans are unclear.

One oddity of the NBC midseason schedule is that the network is holding the bulk of its sitcoms for spring.  Those include the final season of PARKS & RECREATION, as well as newcomers UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT, ONE BIG HAPPY, MISSION CONTROL and MR. ROBINSON.  That gives NBC plenty of pieces to play with, but with The Blacklist now set for Thursday 9PM and Bad Judge/A To Z also potentially looking for new spring homes, it’s not clear what the network plans to do with all of them.  Also on NBC’s shelf:  the thriller ODYSSEY, a Jennifer Lopez drama, and several miniseries, including a reboot of HEROES.

About the Author

Mitch Metcalf
MITCH METCALF has been tracking every US film release of over 500 screens (over 2300 movies and counting) since the storied weekend of May 20, 1994, when Maverick and Beverly Hills Cop 3 inspired countless aficionados to devote their lives to the art of cinema. Prior to that, he studied Politics and Economics at Princeton in order to prepare for his dream of working in television. He has been Head of West Coast Research at ABC, then moved to NBC in 2000 and became Head of Scheduling for 11 years.