Of all the new midseason broadcast series this year, few are getting the network support needed to thrive like NBC’s Rise.
The network gave the drama—about a high school teacher (How I Met Your Mother’s Josh Radnor) who takes over the theater department and attempts to bring his struggling Pennsylvania steel town together—a big promo spot in the Super Bowl and promoted the show heavily during last month’s Winter Olympics.
Some buyers have been eagerly anticipating this show since last year’s upfront, and NBC has equally high hopes. It will be slotting the series from Jason Katims (the man behind Friday Night Lights and Parenthood) on Tuesdays at 9 p.m., taking over next week for This Is Us. The network is using the season finale of its biggest hit tonight to launch Rise, debuting the new show immediately afterwards, at 10 p.m.
But while the network is giving the premiere the biggest possible launching pad, execs are being realistic about how Rise will fare in the time slot compared to This Is Us, which is averaging a 5.4 rating in the 18-49 demo in Nielsen’s most current ratings.
“There’s a danger to inheriting a time slot that’s so enormous. I’m sure the ratings will not be [as high as] This Is Us, and it will feel like a disappointment to people to some degree,” said NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt. “Which is no slight to Rise, but I don’t think anything will be again for awhile.”
Greenblatt added that he is “enormously proud of it, and we thought, let’s give it a shot in the arm for the first week, since we have the ability to use This Is Us as a launch pad. Lead-ins still matter,” he said. “Expectations are measured, because I don’t think it will be This Is Us’ replacement, but it deserves to be in that universe.”
Meanwhile, Katims said he’s going to stay focused on finishing up Rise’s first season, not worrying about how the show is measuring up to its time slot predecessor.
“I know I can’t control the numbers, so I try not to get too caught up in that. But I feel very excited that I know the show will be sampled by people, because the last time I was on NBC, with Friday Night Lights and with Parenthood, there wasn’t the same kind of launching pad,” said Katims. “ I look at it as a vote of confidence from Bob [Greenblatt] and the network.”
Greenblatt said Rise has “the same feel and pedigree” as This Is Us, and both shows are “complex, relatable and beautifully done.” Given the similarities, “it seemed like the right time period to put it in, since This Is Us isn’t going to span the entire season.”
NBC has given Rise one of its biggest midseason marketing campaigns. The network created a Rise promo for the Super Bowl that featured a new arrangement of Macklemore’s “Glorious,” and featured promos in heavy rotation during the Winter Olympics.
The show’s campaign has been leaning heavily into the parallels between Rise and two other beloved dramas: Glee, which also featured high schoolers and the performing arts, and Katims’ Friday Night Lights, which also was set in a working-class town and focused on high school football.
But Rise stands apart from both of those series, said Katims. “When you watch it, you see that it’s not Glee. As wonderful as Glee is, it’s a different type of storytelling.”
Katims allowed that there is “connective issue” between Rise and his own Friday Night Lights. “One of the things that appealed to me about telling this story was I liked the idea of going back into a small, working-class town town and shooting it in such a way where we feel like we’re dropped down into this town with these people, and I think that really does feel similar,” he said. “But it’s a very different animal from Friday Night Lights.”