The Programming Insider: Upfront Week Begins

NBC to launch six new series, Fox on deck

In Today's Issue:

NBC in 2011-12: Six New Series, Changes on Four Nights

Prime-Time Ratings: Friday and Saturday Results

On the Air Tonight: Prime-Time Programming Options

TV Tidbits: Notes of Interest

TV Trivia Time: To Renew or Not to Renew

Note: It is upfront presentation week, with the five broadcast networks unveiling their prime-time programming plans for next fall.  NBC, which already announced its lineup (see next section), goes first, followed by Fox this afternoon, ABC Tuesday, CBS Wednesday, and The CW on Thursday.  The priority this week, of course, will be the schedule announcements.

NBC in 2011-12: Six Six New Series, Changes on Four Nights

NBC will introduce six new series this fall, three sitcoms and three dramas, with changes on four nights of the week (with Tuesday, Saturday and football-populated Sunday remaining intact).  The comedies are Up All Night Night, Free Agents, and Whitney; and the dramas The Playboy Club, Prime Suspect, and Grimm.

Holiday singing competition The Sing-Off has been upgraded to the fall and positioned in the Monday 8-10 p.m. block, leading into The Playboy Club.  NBC will expand to a second night of comedies with half-hours Up All Night and Free Agents in the Wednesday 8-9 p.m. hour, leading into relocated returnee Harry’s Law, headlined by Kathy Bates, and veteran Law & Order: SVU.  Thursday’s three-hour sitcom block has been pared down to two hours, with new drama Prime Suspect at 10 p.m. out of Community, relocated Parks and Recreation, The Office, and new sitcom Whitney.  And Friday will feature relocated Chuck in the 8 p.m. hour (with its final 13 episodes), leading into new drama Grimm and a one-hour edition of Dateline.

Highly anticipated musical drama Smash, headlined by Debra Messing, will debut in the Monday 10 p.m. hour in January leading out of the return of The Voice.  Also in midseason will be new drama The Firm, based on the John Grisham novel, Sundays at 10 p.m. out of Dateline and Celebrity Apprentice (from 8-10 p.m.), new drama Awake, new sitcom Are You There Vodka?  It’s Me Chelsea, and the return of critically acclaimed 30 Rock.

“We have a few priorities, including making sure The Voice is back in as strong as a format as possible, and expanding to another night of comedies,” said Bob Greenblatt, chairman, NBC Entertainment.  “If we can do both of those things that would be a real win.”

Also in contention for midseason is a newsmagazine hosted by Brian Williams.  Celebrity Apprentice, meanwhile, will live on with another person handling the boardroom should Donald Trump decide to run for president.  And there is a contingency plan in place for Sunday Night Football if it is thwarted by a pending strike.

“We are very close to what is going on and are feeling optimistic football will be there,” said Greenblatt.  “If there is a delay, we will produce high-event special reality programming to fill the evening.”

While you cannot blame NBC, of course, for attempting to combine the new with established series, the inherent problems from the get-go is only 45 percent of the schedule is original scripted programming, lack of anchor support on Thursday and Friday, the absence of protected time periods for half of its new product, a 0-for-7 return rate for its fall 2010 entries, and an overly cautious schedule.  Unfortunately, no one ever said rebuilding the lineup would be easy for NBC.