May 13, 2018

NIELSENWAR: NBC Fall Schedule & Analysis [5-Network Program Grid Added]


Welcome to Upfronts week, when the broadcast networks (or what’s left of them) announce their Fall schedules and attempt to generate billions of dollars worth of excitement from advertisers.  It’s harder than ever to authoritatively analyze the thought process that goes into a broadcaster’s cancellation, renewal and pick-up decisions, because network ad revenues directly tied to 18-49 ratings are now just a piece of the puzzle.  Other projected and actual revenue streams, especially international and SVOD deals (all of which require some level of ownership by the network’s affiliated studio), are now at least as important, as is delayed viewing on multiple platforms–when that viewing includes commercials.  Much of that information is kept away from the public, requiring guesswork on the part of observers.

[UPDATED: Fall 2018 Primetime Broadcast Grid added below.]

NBC comes into the Upfronts in a strong position, thanks to the double-whammy of airing both the Super Bowl and the Olympics in a single season, as well as continued successes (however diminished) The Voice, This Is Us and of course Sunday Night Football.  What the network didn’t have in 2017-18 was a new hit, with the only scripted renewals from the current season being the marginal Good Girls and AP Bio.  Nevertheless, NBC is keeping things stable next season, with only a few moves and additions.  Here’s a quick look:


8PM:  The Voice


The Voice isn’t the powerhouse it was a few seasons ago, but it’s still a cornerstone of the NBC line-up, contributing 3 hours (at least) per week of solid ratings.  MANIFEST (the trailer is here) is the latest of many, many shows following in the footsteps of Lost, and this one is even closer than most to the model, involving passengers on an airliner who land to discover that they’d been missing for more than 5 years.  There are hints of conspiracies, and perhaps something spiritual behind it all.  The show looks unfortunately reminiscent of ABC’s flop The Crossing, which is airing in exactly the same timeslot right now, plus there’s no one of note in the cast, and the series creator is Jeff Rake, whose previous body of work includes the unpromising The Mysteries of Laura and The Tomorrow People.  In short, this may not be a flight worth boarding.


8PM:  The Voice

9PM:  This Is Us


The first two hours of the night remain in place, of course, and This Is Us will give a strong lead-in to the newbie, which based on its trailer will need all the help it can get.  NEW AMSTERDAM appears to be an utterly conventional medical procedural, featuring a charismatic, idealistic doctor (with a secret!) who wants to overturn the system for, you know, the sake of the patients.  The hero is played by recent Blacklist co-star Ryan Eggold, and Janet Montgomery and Tyler Labine are among the familiar TV faces in the cast.  The show’s creator is David Schulner, whose recent work include stints on Emerald City, Dracula and Do No Harm (the latter of which he created).  The show looks extremely dim, but Chicago Med has been doing well in this timeslot, and New Amsterdam is seeking exactly the same audience.


8PM:  Chicago Med

9PM:  Chicago Fire

10PM:  Chicago PD

It’s both a daring and extremely sensible move to cram all Dick Wolf’s Chicago shows onto a single night.  The trio are steadily successful, especially when they cross over into each other, which they do with some frequency (unlike the very rare crossovers in the Shonda Rhimes universe) and which will be even easier when they air back-to-back-to-back.  Other than those weeks, there won’t be any ratings fireworks here, but NBC is aiming for stability rather than revolution.


8PM:  Superstore

8:30PM:  The Good Place

9PM:  Will & Grace


10PM:  SVU

Superstore and The Good Place are among the best-regarded sitcoms on network TV, even if their numbers are merely OK.  Will & Grace was given a 2-season renewal just before its numbers began to trend toward the mediocre, and since it’s an expensive, top-heavy show to produce, that could become a dangerous decision if things don’t soon reach a bottom.  NBC’s only new sitcom of the fall is I FEEL BAD (trailer here), about the funny stresses of being a mom.  From the look of it, it’s very generic stuff in the ABC family comedy vein, but it does have a diverse angle thanks to creator Aseem Batra (previously a writer/producer on AP Bio and Marlon, among others) and star Sarayu Blue.  As with the network’s other new shows, it’s TV comfort food.


8PM:  Blindspot

9PM:  Midnight, Texas

10PM:  Dateline

Blindspot has been on the most marginal end of “success,” and its renewal may have been part of the network’s Manifest deal with Warner Bros TV.  Fridays have become the dumping ground for low-rated genre fare in recent seasons (The Exorcist, Inhumans, Taken) and the decision to put summer show Midnight, Texas in a fall slot there suggests that it’s costing NBC very little and the network had no better ideas for the hour.


8PM:  Sunday Night Football

As we usually say at this point:  Duh.  Although the NFL saw some erosion in its network ratings this season, it’s still a monster (and has a monstrous pricetag).

NBC has a full stable of additional shows to air where needed throughout the season, including the rescued BROOKLYN NINE-NINE, supernatural procedural THE INBETWEEN, spy thriller THE ENEMY WITHIN, and the more character-based THE VILLAGE, as well as the sitcom ABBY’S.


Fall 2018 Broadcast Primetime Schedule NBC


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."