Sunday, May 15, 2011

NBC's Fall 2011 Schedule

As has been the norm for NBC the last few years, the new schedule for the Fall is released one day before the upfront presentations on Monday. Said schedule has just been released, and the network is also kind enough to provide interviews and nuggets of information to go with it, as if a sneak preview of the upfronts themselves.

Of course, NBC has consistently performed anemically in the ratings this season, and has for several years now. They're always struggling just to get a break and with diminishing numbers in broadcast ratings overall, relief should only come sooner rather than later. Now, only recently did a new singing competition, The Voice open to spectacular numbers. So good did the premiere perform, as did each subsequent installment that it comes off as the break NBC needed.

I was personally surprised by this success, since it seemed like such a cash-in on FOX's American Idol. On the other hand, I can understand it better with consideration. Given how long Idol has been on, any major series to compete with it only seems overdue.

Mind you though, The Voice is naturally only going to wait until midseason to make its debut. Other midseason entries include sitcoms Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea (Based on the book by E! talk show host Chelsea Handler), Bent, and Best Friends Forever, along with dramas Awake, The Firm (Based on John Grisham's novel), and the musical Smash (giving the impression of going hand-in-hand with The Voice). Returning shows waiting as well include The Celebrity Apprentice, and the revered comedy 30 Rock, which frees up the Thursday night schedule by one slot.

Now on to the Fall Schedule, with commentary on each night including first impressions of new shows. Naturally, it all comes from the perspective of the average viewer, even with the occasional heightened sense of programming know-how.


8/7c - The Sing-Off (Reality Competition; 3rd Season)
10/9c - THE PLAYBOY CLUB (New Drama; A 1960's period piece set at the titular club in Chicago. Such a name kind of speaks for itself.)

For those of you who've never heard of it, The Sing-Off is a reality show comprised of a capella groups competing with each other. It is also worth noting that the past two seasons of the show were special runs that came at Christmastime, airing over the course of one week it's first season and two it's second. The second season performed fairly nicely in the ratings, especially for the month of December and it's low-traffic viewership for programming outside of holiday specials. As an instance where the network considers this a worthy gamble, it makes perfect sense, and we'll see how it does. The Playboy Club has a potentially provocative premise to go with it's period piece setting. We get a slick, stylistic look to go with an opening (I assume) narration from Hugh Heffner himself, adding so far to a sense of atmosphere above most network dramas.


8/7c - The Biggest Loser (Reaity Competition; 8th Season)
10/9c - Parenthood (Drama; 3rd Season)

This is simply a case of "If it ain't broke, Don't fix it". Even with the weaker numbers, NBC's Tuesday schedule has performed consistently with the popular drama from the Ron Howard movie of the same name following the relevant weight-loss competition. It did so up until one month shy of the season's end (Accommodating only The Voice). At the same time, Parenthood is one of NBC's better dramatic performers, and with any luck it should only rebound next season whilst staying put. Same goes for The Biggest Loser, although that's a better performer.


8/7c - UP ALL NIGHT (New Comedy; Christina Applegate and Will Arnett play fairly new parents)
8:30/7:30c - FREE AGENTS (New Comedy; Workplace comedy with two rising executives coming off romantic stress)
9/8c - Harry's Law (Drama; 2nd Season; New Night & Time)
10/9c - Law & Order: SUV (Drama; 13th Season)

NBC's attempt at a second night of comedy seems most destined to face the most conflict with ABC's Wednesday block. Bearing any adjust on their part, it will compete with the moderately-performing, but consistent and popular The Middle. Whatever new comedy ABC picks will certainly matter, as will any decision to shift The Middle, if competing with the parenthood-themed Up All Night seems too risky. I can't imagine it would much, though. The clip I've seen of it is mildly amusing, but doesn't come off as anything special. Still, the leads are of course inspired and the decision to lead off with the one starring veterans from Arrested Development and Married...With Children only makes perfect sense. Free Agents doesn't look as engrossing, or at least the clip given isn't particularly funny. But at the very least, a workplace comedy seems like a change of pace among sitcoms. Much more interesting is the pairing of the two returning dramas, with the David E. Kelly/Kathy Bates legal drama (which had a decent initial run) leading into of SUV, the sole survivor of Dick Wolf's once booming procedural franchise. And even the latter has changes in store, with Mariska Hargitay planning to nurse her successor from the middle of the season out.


8/7c - Community (Comedy; 3rd Season)
8:30/8:30c - Parks & Recreation (Comedy; 4th Season)
9/8c - The Office (Comedy; 8th Season)
9:30/8:30c - WHITNEY (New Comedy; Vehicle for comic Whitney Cummings, wherein she goes through the quirks of a relationship)
10/9c - PRIME SUSPECT (New Drama; Remake of the popular British procedural, with Maria Bello taking the reins)

Aw, yeah! Thursdays on NBC just might be the best night for comedy! After all, with the ingeniously inspired and aggressively creative Community and Parks & Recreation, ever so relatable if you ever seen the interior working of bureaucracy, you can't go wrong. With Steve Carell's recent departure from The Office, it almost feels like the finale will be a scripted contest for the new lead, and certainly is much prettier than CBS' PR nightmare surrounding Charlie Sheen. Perhaps the biggest standout is the new comedy on the block, Whitney for sheer virtue of being a multi-camera sitcom. Not that it's a bad thing necessarily, I still love a few of CBS' sitcoms which largely avoid the single-camera approach. I'm just a touch surprised, given that I expected NBC (as well as ABC, though to a lesser extent) to view the soundstage and laugh-track approach as outdated and obsolete, preferring the more streamlined sophistication of a sitcom shot more like a feature film. I can write a whole separate piece on this subject, but let's just focus on the show itself. In another detail of a throwback approach, we have the choice of a comedian as the lead akin to many a sitcom that ran on ABC in the 1990's. (Sure, Seinfeld also. But the writing had a special approach.) The clip doesn't inspire much confidence, and isn't quite as funny as the pilot of ABC's Better With You was last fall. But with hope, the rest of the pilot will fare better when I see it. And the choice of 10 PM drama takes perhaps the most popular procedural in the UK and makes it our own. My mother is something of an Anglophile so I've certainly heard of Prime Suspect, but the dark tone is not very much her style. More power to NBC for trying an edgier approach on a cop show, but I can't say I'm much interested in procedurals to begin with and this one doesn't have an extra appeal for me.


8/7c - Chuck (Drama; 5th Season; New Night)
9/8c - GRIMM (New Drama; Reimagining of Grimm's Fairy Tales
10/9c - Dateline (Newsmagazine)

Certainly, I may write up about Chuck's most recent season in another entry, because storywise what went down goes hand-in-hand with it's latest escape-act of a last-minute renewal. You see, it's coming back in the fall for one last go-around, running only 13 episodes. It's odd enough that this season is the big chance to provide absolute closure, but the choice to air it on Fridays is intriguing to say the least. After all, this isn't a night where many people gather around the boob tube and wasn't really back in the day, either. Still, I look forward to this final run when it comes. I'll be ready. What follows it is perhaps the show with the weakest chance at survival, Grimm. It's a real shame that it's going to air between a drama whose fate is already set in stone and a newsmagazine whose low cost renders it suitable filler for Friday nights. NBC's apparent low confidence in this unique revamping of Grimm's fairy tales is compounded by a simple clip of one detective taking to a woman on her deathbed, as we've seen plenty of times before. Still, the concept evokes memories of ABC's absolutely marvelous, albeit short-lived Pushing Daisies, which seamlessly worked the idea of a man who can raise the dead with the conventions of a murder-of-the-week concept.


All Night - "Encores"

Even less people watch TV on Saturdays than on Fridays. Moving on.


7/6c - Football Night in America
8:15e - Sunday Night Football

Baseball may be America's past time, but football remains the favorite child among sports. If anything, that just makes the threat of a cancelled NFL season by way of lockout more threatening for NBC than for any other network.

Among cancelled shows, Chase, The Cape, The Event, Law & Order: LA, Outlaw, Outsourced, The Paul Reiser Show, Perfect Couples, and Undercovers are all out.

Look for more updates to go with each network's upfronts as the week progresses. Further, make sure to keep watching this space for more essays looking back on the season and even for some updates that come along need the case be.

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