Up Front About the Upfronts, Part 1: Where Does NBC Stand?

Next week, the major TV networks will announce their 2012-2013 schedules to a crowd of advertising executives in hopes that those executives will throw down a ton of money to run ads during the networks' programs. These sessions are known as the Upfronts, and they're where we'll all find out for good (mostly) what shows are renewed, what shows are canceled, and what new shows we can look forward to next year. It's, like, a really big deal you guys! So in preparation, we'll spend this week taking a look at each one of the five major networks by reviewing what they've done in the past year and predicting what's in store for 2012-2013. First up: NBC, which holds its presentation on Monday, May 14.


Where NBC stands now: Everyone knows last-place NBC has everyone else's footprints all over it as the low man on the totem pole. But get this: NBC may finish third in the numbers this season, ahead of ABC, thanks to the huge ratings it drew for the Super Bowl. Woohoo! However, once you take the Big Game away you're looking at another stinky year for a network that's struggling. There are no moral victories in the cut-throat TV network battle, and NBC is in the worst shape no matter how many Super Bowls or Olympic Games it airs.


What worked this year: NBC has a few legitimate reasons to get excited, and they begin with The Voice. The singing competition has shown lots of fight on Monday nights, consistently finishing at or near the top of the pile in the adult demographic. While a single franchise can't carry a network, it's better than what NBC had before, which was nothing. Now NBC is thinking about bringing The Voice back this fall instead of holding it for midseason (more on that later). Musical drama Smash hasn't turned out to be the hit NBC hoped it would be, but it's probably NBC's strongest new show, thanks in part to The Voice. Also, let's give some props to Grimm for earning a second season and finding a fan base despite tough competition. The fairy tale prodcedural was a pleasant surprise for NBC.


What failed this year: Pretty much everything else. As far as new shows are concerned, The Playboy Club, The Firm, Prime Suspect, Free Agents, Are You There, Chelsea?, Bent, and Best Friends Forever are all canceled or on their way to out. For all the buzz it manages builds, NBC always seems to end up at a low hum. Ratings were down at all the networks, but NBC's looked particularly pathetic at the bottom.


What's ahead for NBC: For the last half-dozen years, we've been saying, "This is a rebuilding year for NBC." Well, guess what? This is a rebuilding year for NBC. But even with The Voice, this might be the toughest year for NBC to bounce back. Think about it: Long-running series Chuck and Friday Night Lights are gone, and The Office and 30 Rock are on their way out (next season is expected to be the last for both shows). That leaves Law & Order: SVU and Parks and Recreation as the only two scripted NBC shows that will be in their fifth seasons (or beyond) when the 2012-2013 season ends. That means NBC has to produce some scripted-show building blocks right now. This season will be the first completely built by the new Comcast regime.


What NBC should be careful with: Leave it to the Peacock to fumble an opportunity to properly grow a potential franchise. Hit shows should be patiently nurtured and fertilized, given the right amount of sunlight, and delicately watered in a temperature-controlled environment. But NBC is digging up The Voice at the sight of the first flower and ruining the soil in the process. The Voice's numbers have been falling, and I'm convinced it's because NBC is shoving it down our throats with extended and extra episodes. Will adding even more The Voice to its schedule hurt the franchise even more? Also, will the network's success in the unscripted genre convince it create more unscripted fare? If any of the big networks are going to go that route, it's NBC.


Risky proposal that could pay off: Dump The Office and any thoughts of rebooting it or spinning it off. NBC won't do this because it will want to use a "final season" blitz for easy ratings. But if the network wants to salvage its Thursday-night comedy block, it should try out as many new comedies as it can, ordering shorter 13-episode seasons and planting them around Community and Parks and Recreation, two of the most internet-friendly shows on TV right now. Bring back Community for Season 4 and leave it in the Thursday-at-8pm slot, put Parks and Rec at 9pm, and bring in newbies to occupy the half-hour slots at 8:30pm and 9:30pm, respectively. And don't stop there. Prep a pair of 13-episode midseason comedies with the same gusto as the fall entries to swap in when 2013 starts. NBC should throw everything at the wall and see what sticks, as long as it doesn't pull any horrible scheduling tricks like it did with Bent. Make Thursday nights a place for new comedy and use the strongest performers and biggest buzz-builders to lay a foundation for 2013-2014. Yes, we're already thinking about two years from now. Let the internet be your friend, NBC. Embrace the young audience that follows Community and Parks and Recreation, and use the web better than your competitors to get a head start on the future.


What scheduling changes would YOU make if you were an NBC exec?

Comments (56)
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Are you insane? The Firm is the best show on TV. Every time I enjoy something in your line up that is not junk, but quality story line and amazing characters you pull the plug. If The Firm is cancelled, then I am cancelling NBC from my line up!!!
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DO NOT, I REPEAT, DO NOT CANCEL ONCE UPON A TIME! Both my husband and I believe it is one of the greatest presentations of "fairy tales" in at least 3 generations! It is one of our favorites!!!



And, Harry's Law is an outstanding vehicle for the talents of Kathy Bates! She is the tops!



NBC needs to heed the comments of their viewers - they really need the guidance!
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Considering Once Upon A Time is on ABC, I don't think it's in any danger of being cancelled by NBC.
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Tim should be running that place. Would also mean that shows like parks&rec and community would prosper and be treated right.
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I would move the biggest Loser to Thursdays. Comedy Night Done Right to Tuesday. That way CNDR wouldn't get squashed by TBBT and American Idol.
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Not a fan of Community. Parks and Rec is ok. The Office used to be awesome, but its time to close curtains on that. NBC is really screwed up.
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you eliminate the Superbowl and NBC had a terrible year besides you don't count sporting events !!
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They should have ket Prime Suspect even thought it didn't star Helen Mirren.

They should also keep The Firm...it has it's moments.
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There is no hope for NBC!

They keep making all the wrong moves.



Unless and until they make changes at the top it's time for the marshmallows
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Parenthood is the best show on NBC. Since the invention of tape recorders and DVRs and On Demand, there is no way a network knows what people are watching. I think the networks forget that a lot of senior citizens are watching a lot more tv than the "younger" crowd. As a senior, I am tired of reality shows and talent shows and "fantasy" based shows.
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Why aren't you running NBC tim ?
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buy incredibly successful shows like Baywatch and JAG.

Oh wait. NBC cancelled those in their first season and the 2 shows were ratings toppers for nearly a decade each...



OK, NBC. I got it this time! Pull an CBS move and buy shows from other networks (like JAG) that are getting cancelled, nurture them and make them hits!

Oh wait. You can't even nurture and make your own shows hits.

Nevermind.

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I loved Harry's Law but lost interest this year with the new cast. They had a good show about living in a rough neighborhood and running a shoe store on the side. I think they got away from what made the show good. I have 10 episodes yet to watch on my DVR but I am in no hurry to watch them since I have better shows to watch like The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Bones, Criminal Minds, and the list goes on. The only NBC show I watch other than Harry's Law is Parenthood. I think NBC made a huge mistake canceling shows like Life. I call NBC the No Body Cares network
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Dump Community. Keep The Firm and Harry's Law.
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wow. I hope that is sarcasm, otherwise you have horrible taste in tv shows!
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I liked Bent. It was disappointing that it didn't have more episodes, which leads me to believe it won't be on any more. Too bad. I'm too old to for anyone in the media biz to give a hot damn what I like.
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Keep Harry's Law. It's so smart and topical.
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Renew Community! That is all.
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the firm is a keeper as is harry's law. i know this blitz of reality shows are easy to finance with no writers or stars, but i won't spend one minute watching them.
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Awake deserves a second season. It is a wonderful show, and it's unique. There are enough CSI like shows and reality shows already!
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Keep Harry's Law. but move it from Sunday. By moving it to Sunday you gave it the kiss of death. Also while you cater to people in the 18 to 49 range please remember that there are other people that watch TV that are not in that range.
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"The Firm" is a keeper. It just got off to a slow start but NBC should give it another season. Good actors; good storyline.
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Renew Awake. That and Smash are the only NBC shows I watch. No re reality shows.
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bs'd

BRING BACK LIFE!!!!
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What about "Awake" ??????????? The best show on the NBC !

Period.
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If I were an NBC exec, I would reboot Heroes with new characters, or produce a Brave New World movie.



Until this happens I don't really care what NBCUniversal does. When Chuck aired it's finale..I was done with the channel.
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what about "awake" the should make a second season and move to different day
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What I would do if I was an NBC exec. I would first question my mental state and intelligence. Then I would fire everybody.



The Office would go. I would maybe option something similar but that appealed to the younger demographic. And I know that it is Hulu, but I would option Battleground. The political comedy on that, it is a show which is Office like. But is a young cast and deals with politics which is going to be bigger I think with the mild success of Veep.



I would cancel anything that has to do with Chelsea Handler and Whitney Cummings. They are unfunny and below average sitcoms and NBC is relying on name recognition and that isn't going to work for them. I would go old school and go after unnamed actors and actresses. I would pilfer the internet for the funniest people that it has. And start developing shows around their ideas. If any of my new staff came up with canned ideas they would be fired immediately. NBC would be a network that takes chances. There would be more failures than successes but the successes would be cultivated and become big.



Dramas, Me personally I would buy the rights from AMC for Rubicon and turn it into a complex spy thriller which is woefully absent on TV right now. Grimm would be moved to the front of the lineup. Revolution would be seconded. Next season would be the last for Law and Order. I would also get a great writer for an Action military style drama. Similar to The Unit but without the hand holding of the family side of things and their ridiculous stories. Smash would also be gone.



Also, Donald Trump would be a memory. The Voice and biggest loser would be the only reality shows they would have. And would be put on friday night. There is no damn reason why they should be given prominent positions. Also I would restructure the judges.



Community would be the premier comedy. Followed by Parks and Rec. Jay Leno would be bye bye and Fallon would be given the spot. His show would be given to a young female comic that has great ideas and could be a good late night host.



And the internet would be my friend. Everything would be able to be accessed from the second it aired on TV. And you would be able to access all seasons of all shows. Their would be exclusive online shows that are actually good. Both half hour sitcoms and hour dramas. And that would be like the minor leagues. You do well there, you gain a following and you get a shot at primetime. Since the viewership is changing everyday and becoming younger and those who get their entertainment not just from TV prime time, we would access and show appreciation for those and cater to them.



But everything would be utilized to in order to bring quality shows to the viewer. No more lame shows. Cheap grabs for ratings by bringing in named talent. And the knowledge that not every one is going to like the best comedies and that there isn't going to be a play to get everyone to like everything. For those people there is always CBS.
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Is NBC bringing back Parenthood? That and Grimm are the only shows I care to watch on NBC. The Office was a must see for me about 3 years ago but it is pretty unbearable to watch so I deleted that from my DVR series.
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If I were an NBC exec I would order a huge bunch of new comedies (multi camera, single camera, mockumentary etc) then I would order a couple of simple plot drama's (aka the police procedural) with fantastic writers then throw in a few "quirky" shows doesn't matter what genre. Finish off with a few really out there supernatural/sci-fi shows and hope they find an audience and then make over the logo and all that because it's too big and colourful... (I'm talking about when you are watching a show and that big banner thing at the bottom pops up and takes over half the screen).



And finally, use the interent to my advantage:

1. Offer as much behind the scenes stuff, bloopers, deleted scenes, interviews with cast as I can.

2. Put full episodes up immediately after they air for people to catch up on.

3. When the season ends put the entire season up online for people to watch uninterrupted for a month or two.

4. Get cast members live tweeting.

5. Do competitions for the best gif of your fave show and the winner gets a signed script or something.

6. USE AND EMBRACE THE INTERNET.



But that's just me. Sorry if this is a mess, I got really invested the more I thought about it.
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They should dump The Office now, letting it quietly die. It was once great, but it's nearly unwatchable at this point.

They should dump Community now; it's never been very funny to begin with, so no loss there.

Then promote Parks and Rec to get people to tune in, at it's possibly the most consistenly funny show on TV (and certainly that at NBC) and try to give 30 Rock the great season it deserves.
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you must be too old to get Communty's humor, just keep watching your boxset of Murder She Wrote!
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1. NBC and all the other networks, need to realize that watching live tv is a dying breed. People have so many other ways to watch shows at their convenience. Watching shows on PVR or online is just easier for people with busy schedules. Why not have 3 commercial opportunities to appease the advertisers - one at the beginning, one in the middle and one near the end.



2. Many serialized shows, unless there is the watercooler - have to talk about it the next day factor, are better watched in sequence without interruption. People often wait until the DVD is out so they don't have to wait a whole week to find out what's happened. What if you released the series on DVD or Netflix right away instead of waiting a week before the new season starts to release it?



3. Many shows would be best served to run on an uninterrupted schedule (like 24 where the season starts in January and goes right through - no breaks or repeats). This also works really well for shows in the summer (see most cable shows). You'll notice that reality shows follow this kind of model and it's successful. People like to know when their show is on and not have to wait for new episodes or shifting schedules. You could run 13 episodes for shows you want to try out (as suggested in this article) and after they have proved themselves, renew it for more episodes for the next season if it's a runaway hit. Think Grey's Anatomy.
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I really don't get NBC. Looking at your list of shows it cancelled this year made me relize there where some gems just throwm out the window. Free Agents was great, Bent was reasonabliy funny and Prime Suspect, although it wasn't great yet, was still better then most other cop proceduals. Now I know it isn't NBCs fault alone because these shows had terrible ratings. But why? They where good shows. On the other hand they have two of the best comedies on tv right now and instead of going all in with Parks and Rec and Community, hyping it and advertising it and really stand behind it they treat them like stepchilderen they don't really want around. I just don't get it.
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Move Grimm off Fridays. They had a hit show and stupidly buried it where it would get the worst ratings. Unfortunately, it may be too late.



They should also approach the season as if they were a network just starting out and not an established network. They should also forget the mainstream appeal and go for the fringe shows. Try and meet a market not met. Forget the typical Hollywood/New York structured shows and show more mid-America or mid-Martian settings. And let's seem some mysteries that don't try and gross people out.

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As long as they keep Community and Parks and Rec. I really dont give a [insert something nasty here] about the rest.



It would be cool if they decided to keep Awake as well, but I wouldn't be devestated if they didn't.
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I know it hasn't been as up to par as the past, but I['m not ready to let go of 30 Rock. The one-liners still continue to surprise and amaze me. Dialogue that good and intelligent, the kind you have to really put your BRAIN TO to write, is extremely rare in TV.
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Have The Office wrap up in the fall, then replace it with the final season of 30 Rock. Duh. Two birds, one stone.
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Six seasons and a movie!!!!!!!!!!!

-That's right, I'm Streets Ahead ;)
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We need to save Community, hopefully the new shows will flop giving more episodes to P&R and Community.

30 Rock and The Office needs to go.
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What I want NBC to do: First, renew Community. Then renew Parks and Recreation. And do it in that order. That is all.
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Add a comment..1- Focus on the new shows with a lot publicity ( they could learn from ABC and all the publicity they used on Revenge and OUAT) and try to nurture you're "hits": Smash ( the show is great but it could be even better if you would fix some of the flaws. Just focus on the making of Bombshell and the drama it unleashes), The Voice and Grimm.

2- Cancel crap like:

+ Whitney, Chelsea.

3- Cancel aging shows that are not good anymore:

+ The Office, LW SVU, 30 rock.

4- Cancel shows that are not bad but do badly:

+ Up all night and Awake.

5- Cancel the "everybody loves them but no one actually watches them" comedies:

+ PAR and Community. I know I'm sorry for this, but the fact that they have managed to stay on air as much as they have considering the terrible ratings..... enough is enough. They just don't do well and if everyone seems to like to them so much.... Where are the viewers?
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On the internet. That's where we are. I haven't turned on an actual television to watch television since football season*

(*Exaggeration)
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Relaunch Freaks and Geeks. I have had it out for NBC ever since it was undeserving cancelled after one season and eighteen episodes.
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Community!



That is all.
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The Deadline.com report is saying that most NBC comedies that are picked up will be receiving short orders for next season, and this would also apply to Community & Parks and Rec. WHY, NBC, WHY?!



http://www.deadline.com/2012/05/nbcs-30-rock-nears-final-season-renewal/
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I agree with this article except for one point. I would let the Office have it's final season, and I would put it in Community's time slot. Community is annoying and highly overrated in my two-bit opinion. Then let 2013-2014 have three new shows along with Parks.
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As long as Parks and Community remain on the schedule (full seasons not half seasons) I will be happy.
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I think Voice numbers are down because it has to go head-to-head with Dancing with the Stars. But there is a limited talent pool and too much of a good thing is not such a good thing.
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I like pretty much everything you said. "The Office" needs to go, and unless they want to create an absolutely brand new slate from scratch, they need to keep "Community" and promote the heck out of it and "Parks and Rec". I say pair "Law & Order: SVU" with "Awake", which should help the show numbers-wise and keep the critics happy, which should (well, hopefully) assist NBC in drawing some buzz from that end of things, and find another procedural-type show to work in with that audience for the 8 PM slot. Get something going NOW to pair with "Grimm", move it out of Fridays (unless you think it would be better to put that in the 8 PM slot with the aforementioned procedurals). They're out one too many medical shows since "ER"s finale, get one of those in there, and unless "Harry's Law" (an actually decent show) can somehow start generating big ratings, they need something big to bite down on Sundays. Renew "Parenthood" as well, again to keep the critics happily buzzing and find another good solid family style story to pair with that.



Your idea for comedies is a good one. Get a lot of stuff, and don't be afraid to try stuff where all the characters are likable and not completely idiotic. And, as I said before, move "Awake" and put something a little less HEAVY at the end of your comedy block.



That's what I'd do.
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And they could market Awake to the SVU fans by using the B.D. Wong connection. Good idea.
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I would have Jay Leno host a prime time version of his Tonight show at the 10 p.m. slot Monday through Friday.
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They have already tried Leno @ 10PM...Remember when Conan took over the Tonight Show and NBC didn't want to let Leno go? Let me see....Conan is now with TBS and Leno is back @ 11:30. Sorry to burst your bubble.
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Wow! You really don't get sarcasm, do you!
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Ah. Just put them out of their misery, then? If that's the goal, why not schedule it at 8, so the old folks can be in bed by 9?
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Hilarious.
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