May 15, 2011

THE SKED: Thoughts on NBC’s Schedule (and on Our Predictions)

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Written by: Mitch Salem


NEW SHOWS in CAPS.  New Time Periods in Italics.
WHAT WE LIKE.  As stated in the network press release about the new 2011/12 schedule, NBC is attempting a nice blend of stability (Tuesday, Sunday, and parts of Wednesday and Thursday) and aggressive risk-taking (Monday, early Wednesday, and Friday).  NBC does not have a lot that is working (Biggest Loser, The Office, SVU to some extent, and of course the self-scheduling Sunday Night Football franchise), and it is probably wise to keep all of that in place.  We strongly endorse trying comedy on another night, and given the high number of half-hours picked up for fall and mid-season, NBC must like what they see from their comedy development. 

WHAT WE DON’T LIKE.  The Sing-Off is no Voice.  Clearly The Voice will not be logistically available in the fall or they would have put it on; this is understandable given the quick turnaround that would have been required.  Sing-Off has done fairly well in the relative quiet of December, with many repeats on the other networks as competition, and it’s a nice fit around the holidays.  We shall see how it fares in the meat-grinder of original competition on Monday nights in the early fall, but we remain skeptical.  As a period piece, Playboy Club already has a high degree of difficulty (although it does look well executed based on the short clips on The female-skewing comedies on Wednesday seem to need a young lead-in or at the very least a young lead-out, which cannot describe Harry’s Law.  Instead, there is jarring demographic whiplash at 9 pm Wednesday (believe me, I sympathize, having scheduled my share of adjacent head-spinners).  That said, even if Wednesday at 8 crashes, NBC has a good self-starting block from 9-11, and Harry’s Law will support SVU nicely in viewers 35+ and especially 50+.  Friday is also very risky — two scripted shows will be tough to monetize with ad sales.  While it seems smart to put two genre shows together, the bad news is that the shows (which by definition have limited upside) are in two of the least viewed hours of the week.  But as with Wednesday, NBC does have a backstop with Dateline at 10 pm. 
WHERE WE GOT IT RIGHT AND WRONG.  Where did we get it right?  Pretty much nowhere with NBC.  Our schedule assumed The Voice could be ready for the fall and that NBC would feel a lot of pressure from the new ownership to keep its new hit on the air as soon and as much as possible.  Again, however, we understand why it can’t physically be on until mid-season. So when The Voice was taken out of the equation, our version of the schedule pretty much fell apart, particularly the opportunity to use The Voice as a solid, young lead-in for female comedy (a pairing very similar to what NBC is going with on Wednesday at 8).  We also used The Voice to launch Smash, something that NBC will do in mid-season.  We went with Awake on Thursday at 10, but that show will also be saved for mid-season.  NBC’s decision to go with Prime Suspect (which we put Tuesday at 10 to get Parenthood away from The Good Wife) indicates a lot of confidence in the Maria Bello project.  They must think it’s quite good, and we look forward to seeing it.





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."