May 3, 2013

THE SKED’S Pre-Upfront Projected NBC Fall 2013 Schedule


As we traditionally do this time of year at SHOWBUZZDAILY, over the next few days we’re going to be bringing you our versions of the Fall 2013 network schedules.  These may or may not reflect what the networks will actually announce at their Upfront presentations the week of May 13, but we like to think these are well-considered line-ups that address the networks’ strengths and needs.  These schedules, as usual, were put together by Mitch Metcalf and myself, along with  former NBC Head of Current Programming Ted Frank.

A couple of notes about pilots.  First, we haven’t seen any of them and we don’t know anything (by the way:  neither does anybody else).  Where we have a particular pilot scheduled, it’s based on the show’s auspices (creator, producers, cast) and premise, and our sense of its potential match with the shows around it and its competition.  Some of these predictions will inevitably prove to be misguided.  (Although that won’t mean we were wrong.)  Also, now that it’s routine for the networks to order their midseason shows in time for the Upfronts, many more pilots will be picked up than we have listed in these charts, and the remainder will debut throughout the course of the season.  We’ve only addressed Fall 2013 here, since the results of the fall will of course affect midseason plans.

All that being said, let’s start with NBC:

Upfront 2013 Predicted NBC Grid

As we’ve noted before, with all the deep trouble NBC is in, its numbers manage to be misleadingly not-terrible (Mitch Metcalf has it projected at a third-place 2.05 for the season), because of Sunday Night Football, which swells the network’s average every weekend of the fall, but because of the massive license fee paid to the NFL, results in little if any network profit.  Nevertheless, football and The Voice–which is now without question the dominant unscripted show on network television, and provides 3 strong hours of programming per week–along with moderately successful numbers for Chicago Fire and Grimm, give NBC a schedule that’s more stable than you might expect.  The problem for NBC is that where it isn’t doing OK, it’s a flat-out disaster, and that covers parts of Tuesday and Wednesday and the entirety of Thursday.  Here’s what we’d do:

MONDAY:  THE VOICE from 8-10PM is a no-brainer.  10PM, though, requires a difficult decision.  REVOLUTION has dwindled badly over the course of the season, falling from a 4.1 in its series premiere to last week’s 1.8.  There’s every chance that it will drop off a cliff if it’s moved away from its Voice lead-in, potentially to the point where it won’t even be a success anymore–but that lead-in can no longer be wasted on a series with such a seriously limited upside.  NBC needs to put something new in the slot, and the current conventional wisdom is that the network’s hottest drama pilot is BLACKLIST, a procedural with a serialized mystery spin.  We’re a bit dubious about the appeal of star James Spader (he sucked more than his share of oxygen out of The Office), but we’ll accept the buzz and put it here.  Another possibility for the slot would be BELIEVE, an action-fantasy that seems more in the Revolution mode, with JJ Abrams and Alfonso Cuaron among its auspices.

TUESDAY:  It’s The Voice again at 8PM.  After that, we’re slotting the network’s highest-profile new series, the MICHAEL J. FOX COMEDY, for which NBC made an unprecedented 22-episode commitment before a pilot had even been shot.  The other obvious place to put this would be on Thursday, but we think that with the investment the network is making in the project (which doubtless also includes a major marketing spend), it’s entitled to the best possible-lead-in.  (If it succeeds, the show could well move to Thursday at midseason or in Fall 2014.)  GO ON did well when it had  a Voice lead-in last fall, but it cratered when Voice went on hiatus.  A Michael J. Fox/Matthew Perry pairing provides a solidly marketable hour, and Go On may reacquire part of its strength behind Fox’s show.  PARENTHOOD was the season’s most quiet success, winning its timeslot more often than not last fall and getting little appreciation until Smash replaced it and flopped.  There’s no reason not to return it to its regular place on the schedule.

WEDNESDAY:  The hour of sitcoms NBC launched at 8PM last fall was a resounding failure, but the older-skewing dramas SVU and its companion CHICAGO FIRE gave the network a bit of traction.  Adding the rebooted IRONSIDE with Blair Underwood at 8PM would go all-in on what could easily be the oldest-skewing night anywhere on broadcast television (take that, CBS!), but it would also be the only drama in the hour, and could attract a fanbase that would enjoy ads for pharmaceuticals.

THURSDAY:  What was once the jewel in NBC’s crown is now its most pressing problem, as the departure of The Office leaves nothing on hand likely to score higher than PARKS & RECREATION, which had a 1.6 in last night’s season finale.  There’s a limit to the number of comedies a network can successfully launch in a given fall, so NBC probably needs to bring another sitcom back, and crazy as it might sound, we’re going with COMMUNITY, which gives NBC limited financial risk through its in-house studio (the show’s post-network rights have already been sold) and has a loyal, if tiny, core audience.  (Before you scoff, remember–the alternatives would be Whitney, Guys With Kids, 1600 Penn, Up All Night or The New Normal.)   For a bit of Office continuity, we’re putting the CRAIG ROBINSON COMEDY at 8:30, although an alternative might be BRENDA FOREVER, with fellow Office survivor Ellie Kemper.  Parks gets the 9PM anchor slot by default, and at 9:30PM we’re choosing the sitcom ABOUT A BOY, which has first-rate auspices, being based on the excellent Hugh Grant movie (David Walton stars here) and written/produced by Parenthood/Friday Night Lights honcho Jason Katims.  For what may be a very limited time, we’re ending the night with REVOLUTION at 10PM–it’s already been renewed and has to go somewhere, and even a 1.5 in that slot would be a step up from this season’s awful results in that hour.

FRIDAY:  The network hasn’t been doing badly with 2 hours of news at 8PM and 10PM, but we think they’ll want to try something new in one of those hours, and THE SIXTH GUN, another fantasy-adventure (guns with magical powers) from former Lost co-showrunner Carlton Cuse could fit well with GRIMM, and then either DATELINE or ROCK CENTER at 10PM.

SUNDAY:  NBC, believe us, is ready for some SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL.

What do you think?  Weigh in below with your reactions and alternatives to our plan for the Peacock!





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."