On the verge of winning its first seasonal ratings crown in a decade, NBC still has a lot of work to do if it’s going to repeat its title run in 2014-15. To that end, the Peacock has made sweeping changes in its prime-time lineup, most notably on Thursday nights.
Once the strongest block on the tube, NBC’s Must-See TV roster has been anything but since ER flatlined in 2009. For years, the network’s signature brand of brainy, uproarious comedies (Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock, Community, et al) failed to draw a crowd, and last season’s bid to go broad with family-oriented sitcoms (The Michael J. Fox Show, Sean Saves the World) belly flopped as well.
Rather than adhere to its longstanding two-hour comedy block, NBC is getting more focused. The network is ceding the 8 p.m. Thursday time slot to Cycle 16 of The Biggest Loser, which moves from its Tuesday night roost. At 9 p.m., NBC goes “broad” in every sense of the word with Bad Judge, an over-the-top romp starring Kate Walsh as a Van Nuys criminal court judge who parties harder than Andrew W.K. at Coachella. While the trope about Walsh’s laying down the law by day and reenacting the final hours of Keith Moon by night seems a bit much, Bad Judge’s sensibilities are passed down by executive producers Adam McKay and Will Ferrell. (The pair have two new NBC projects lined up for next season; the Krysten Ritter vehicle, Mission Control, will appear sometime in 2015.)
At 9:30 p.m., NBC goes the Dharma & Greg route with A to Z, a romantic comedy of complementary opposites starring Ben Feldman (Mad Men’s Michael Ginsberg) and Cristin Milioti (the short-lived titular character from How I Met Your Mother). Rashida Jones (Parks and Recreation) and Will McCormack (Will & Grace) serve as writers and executive producers. The very last broadcast show to be renewed for next season, Parenthood returns to the 10 p.m. slot for its sixth, and final, run of 13 episodes. Once Parenthood signs off for good, the spy drama Allegiance will slide into the final hour of Thursday night prime.
After the Super Bowl, The Blacklist will evict Bad Judge and A to Z, tearing down NBC’s Thursday night comedy foundation altogether—or at least until The Biggest Loser wraps in early February. The James Spader drama will begin the season in its established Monday 10 p.m. slot following The Voice, but as of Nov. 17, The Blacklist will go on hiatus to make room for newcomer State of Affairs. (The Blacklist is also getting the plum post-Super Bowl XLIX slot on Feb. 1.)
“The multipronged strategy behind moving The Blacklist, which has shown enormous linear ratings and record time-shifting, is to not only enliven our Thursday night lineup but also create two desirable timeslots,” NBC entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt said.
As NBC’s Thursday nights are in for a radical reconstruction, veteran sitcom Parks and Recreation is getting squeezed out of the mix. While NBC has not announced a return date for Amy Poehler’s ensemble comedy, the network confirmed that the seventh season will be its last. Parks could be paired with another new comedy in the 8-9 p.m. slot, or NBC may just as easily opt to schedule one of its alternative series (Hollywood Game Night, Celebrity Apprentice, etc.). The Peacock has four unscheduled new comedies in the wings for midseason or beyond, including Tina Fey and Robert Carlock’s (30 Rock) Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (formerly titled Tooken) and Craig Robinson’s (The Office) Mr. Robinson.
While the comedy whitewash marks the end of an era at NBC, the network insists that sitcoms will always be a key part of the brand. “Comedy is very important to this network, which is why we are launching new series on Tuesdays following The Voice, and on Thursdays in the fall as CBS frees up some of the comedy audience when it turns to NFL football,” said NBC entertainment president Jennifer Salke.
Jumping back into the earlier part of the week, Tuesday nights will look a lot like they did this season, as The Voice and Chicago Fire remain in their bookend slots. The recently renewed freshman comedy About a Boy will shift to 9:30 p.m., clearing a path for NBC’s third new fall comedy, Marry Me. SNL alum Casey Wilson returns to the fold with Ken Marino and Tim Meadows in this sweet and daffy rom-com, which is executive produced and written by David Caspe (Happy Endings). If the cut-down is any indication, Marry Me very well may be the most promising new NBC comedy since Greenblatt took the reins in January 2011.
Wednesday nights will feature another longtime NBC co-conspirator, as Debra Messing stars in the working mom/cop drama The Mysteries of Laura at 8 p.m. Dick Wolf’s two-hour thin blue line block (Law & Order: SVU and Chicago P.D.) will hold down the 9-11 p.m. slot. Lastly, Fridays are largely as-is, with Dateline and Grimm staying put, while DC Comics’ Constantine takes over for the fallen Dracula at 10 p.m.
All told, NBC has five midseason dramas ready to roll for 2015, including the Slouching Toward Bethlehem-esque David Duchovny strip, Aquarius, and revivals/refreshes of The Wizard of Oz (Emerald City) and Heroes (Heroes Reborn).
“There is unprecedented enthusiasm that our turnaround will continue in a big way,” Salke said. “As we aggressively schedule on a year-round basis, our goal remains to provide an exciting and vital lineup of unprecedented original programming.”
NBC’s fall schedule is as follows. Adweek will have further information about the roster tomorrow afternoon, following the network’s upfront presentation.
NBC FALL 2014-15 SCHEDULE (New programs in UPPER CASE)
8-10 p.m. — The Voice
10-11 p.m. — The Blacklist / STATE OF AFFAIRS (beginning Nov. 17)
8-9 p.m. — The Voice
9-9:30 p.m. — MARRY ME
9:30-10 p.m. — About a Boy
10-11 p.m. — Chicago Fire
8-9 p.m. — THE MYSTERIES OF LAURA
9-10 p.m. — Law & Order: SVU
10-11 p.m. — Chicago P.D.
8-9 p.m. — The Biggest Loser
9-9:30 p.m. — BAD JUDGE (The Blacklist, beginning Feb. 5)
9:30-10 p.m. — A TO Z
10-11 p.m. — Parenthood
8-9 p.m. — Dateline NBC
9-10 p.m. — Grimm
10-11 p.m. — CONSTANTINE
8-11 p.m. — Encore programming
7-8:20 p.m. — Football Night in America
8:20-11:30 p.m. — Sunday Night Football