NBC Upfront: Splitting Seasons, Lots of Leno

May 19, 2009  •  Post A Comment

NBC is splitting its new series offerings between fall and winter, limiting its fourth-quarter debuts to two new dramas, one new sitcom—and a whole lot of Jay Leno.
The network also has passed on scheduling “Medium” and “My Name Is Earl,” with both shows expected to either die or jump to another network.
For TVWeek’s comprehensive coverage of the upfront presentations, visit the Upfront Navigator page.
As for scheduling strategy, NBC is following through with its announced plan to have shows share timeslots throughout the season, thus cutting back on repeats—and providing more lead-in support to Mr. Leno’s 10 p.m. comedy hour. The network will use its February coverage of the Winter Olympics as a natural division between its two seasons.
“We have the ability to be in originals all year long … and drive circulation into Jay,” Ben Silverman, co-chairman of NBC Entertainment, told TVWeek. “We’ve all seen repeats collapse.”
In terms of specific nights, NBC is moving one of its biggest scripted assets, “Heroes,” to 8 p.m. on Monday in order to launch new high-octane drama “Trauma” at 9 p.m. The network is betting Sunday football will serve as a strong promotional base for the Monday-night action block.
“It’s reinventing the night and making it fresh again,” NBC Entertainment President Angela Bromstad said of the Monday rejiggering. “‘Heroes’ has such a passionate audience, and ‘Trauma’ is one of the strongest shows we’ve had.”
NBC is keeping “The Biggest Loser” as a two-hour event on Tuesdays. The network considered splitting the show into hours, but didn’t want to give up the high-rated 9 p.m. hour of “Loser” as a lead-in for Mr. Leno.
Mr. Silverman said he hopes the “big female circulation (from ‘Loser’) will flow” into Wednesday nights, where NBC is hoping for impressive things from its new family drama “Parenthood.” The latter series will air at 8 p.m., leading into “Law & Order: SVU” at 9.
Thursdays will remain relatively stable, though 8 p.m. anchor “Earl” is gone. As previously announced, it will be replaced by “Saturday Night Live Weekend Update Thursday” at the start of the season, with “Parks and Recreation” and “The Office” remaining in their current 8:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. timeslots, respectively.
“Community” will begin the fall at 9:30 p.m. Thursdays, but soon will be challenged by a move to 8 p.m. before year’s end so that “30 Rock” can return at 9:30.
Fridays will be crime time in primetime on NBC, with “Law & Order” leading into sophomore hour “Southland.” While some are interpreting the move as aggressive—since NBC has been very public in its support of “Southland”—the scheduling suggests that NBC realized “Southland” needs to be in a lower-risk timeslot after its weak overall performance Thursdays at 10.
It also shouldn’t be hard for NBC to improve its ratings performance on Fridays with “Southland” and “L&O.”
After the Olympics, NBC will shake up several key nights.
“Chuck,” which escaped cancellation in part due to a fan campaign, will return from an extended break, staying on Mondays at 8 p.m. It will serve as a lead-in to new limited series “Day One.”
Mr. Silverman credited viewer and advertiser passion for the “Chuck” pickup.
“Both the fans of the shows that matter and the advertisers of the shows raised their hands to say, ‘We need “Chuck” on the schedule.’ We will send you Nerds. We will buy Subway $5 foot-longs. We will do whatever it takes,'” Mr. Silverman said, adding that the pressure from fans was “relentless.”
The executive took a swipe at two bubble shows that didn’t return: “Medium” and “Earl.”
“On the other side, we had an aging franchise, without a single fan letter, not one hand raised (at all of NBC’s Infront sessions with advertisers). That speaks for itself. We believe in the future. We believe in shows without ceilings.”
Tuesdays will remain the home to “Loser,” but the show will go on a New Year’s diet, shrinking to a 90-minute format so that NBC can launch new comedy “100 Questions” at 9:30 p.m.
On Wednesday, “SVU” stays at 9, but NBC plans to replace “Parenthood” with new nurses hour “Mercy.”
Thursday and Friday are expected to remain stable midseason. On Sunday, look for Jerry Seinfeld’s reality show “The Marriage Ref” at 8, with “The Celebrity Apprentice” back from 9-11 p.m.
Ms. Bromstad said NBC has chosen to put its new shows “in strategic timeslots that position them for success.”
“They join some of the highest-quality returning shows on television, which will serve as a strong foundation to the new schedule,” she added. “I think viewers are going to be happy to see this lineup of great new shows that will truly fit the NBC legacy of quality, culturally defining shows.”
Other notes on NBC’s new schedule:
—Mr. Silverman said NBC will bring back “Weekend Update” in primetime two other times during the season for “strategic” purposes. He didn’t say when or how the show would be used.
—NBC will once again expand “The Office” to an hour at least once next season.
—Mr. Silverman seemed skeptical of ABC’s plans to launch so many new shows next fall. “We don’t want to launch 10 new shows in a quarter,” he said. “We can do three or four.”
Of course, NBC is launching more new hours of programming next fall than any other network. When Mr. Leno’s show is factored in, NBC will have eight new hours of primetime programming in the quarter. ABC will have six.
(Editor: Baumann. Updated 11:45 a.m. to add executive comment throughout.)

86 Comments

  1. Has NBC finally lost it or are they giving us the heads up that this will be the last season for Law & Order? Whose crazy idea was it to move the show from Wednesday night at 10 PM (EST) to Fridays at 8 PM (EST)? This simply sucks!

  2. It looks as if NBC (unofficially) cancelled Medium, I’m hoping the rumors are true that CBS will step in and save the show from extinction. It make perfect sense since CBS owns the show and will probably treat it a lot better than NBC has in the past, considering they have a stake in the show.

  3. I can’t believe that NBC is waiting until Spring for new episodes of “Chuck.” At least there will be new episodes.

  4. & where is ‘Friday Night Lights’ in all of this??
    Two Season commitment and not even listed on their schedule.
    Based on last season – it should be listed as Mid season 2010, after it’s initial airing on DirecTV.
    What is NBC planning in regards to airing ‘Lights’?

  5. Per Michael Ausiello of EW, Friday Night Lights won’t air on NBC until summer 2010 — although it’s run on DirecTV is still expected to be this fall.

  6. Sorry folks, but maybe someone can help me out here. The cable lineup that keeps showing the “Jon & Kate Plus 8″ needs to be yanked off TV ASAP. Can anyone help me with who to contact???

  7. Thanx jonk ~
    Guess with the next 2 seasons already confirmed – they really don’t care, or need, the ratings for FNL. So, instead, they can stick it on whenever they want to next year and not worry about people finding it or losing viewers.

  8. Wow. Heroes or House on Monday nights in the fall.
    Frak you NBC.

  9. Bring back Last Vegas and stop it with Chuck and their other returning crap!

  10. R.I.P. NBC-TV (1941-2009)

  11. I love networks that talk about “Tuesday’s prime flowing into Wednesday’s prime” as if there isn’t 19 hours of other stuff between them.

  12. I can’t believe NBC is bringing back “Celebrity” Apprentice and Biggest Loser. Who watches that garbage anyway? Did anyone see the episode preview where Joan Rivers was telling the poker player chick (Annie Duke or something like that) that she was beneath her and Joan was too good for the likes of her and all that rot? Joan Rivers, I hate to tell you this, but this is America and you ain’t royalty.
    I’m thrilled they’re bringing FNL back for 2 more “seasons” (13 epis is not a season, imo, but I’ll take what I can get) and Chuck. But, why in the heck are they waiting until March to bring Chuck back? It will kill the show, more than likely.

  13. Jay Leno is a wonderful person and entertainer. The best thing NBC has done in years is to take him back to the tonight show and to remove the Conan poor taste and stupidity show. Please stop Jay bashing.
    Dafna

  14. Could you get word to morning tv, Kathie Lee & Natalie to quit interrupting people. They talk at the same time as guest, you can only listen to one at a
    time, so I just shut them off !

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