Sadly, no one would take my bet that Megan Hilty and Katharine McPhee would sing at NBC's upfront presentation on Monday, which was about as sure a thing as one could imagine going into this week-long carnival, other than perhaps that CBS would say "No. 1" a lot.
Still, the "Smash" stars were left on the bench till midseason, while NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt did all he could to tout momentum -- that most elusive of qualities, especially at NBC in recent years -- on the strength of one show, "The Voice." (Even Greenblatt acknowledged, to his credit, airing the Super Bowl had a lot to do with narrowing the network's fourth-place gap.)
Having discarded initial concerns about strangling its golden goose, NBC will offer three hours of "The Voice" in the fall, which creates the prospect of a stronger lead-in for new shows on Monday and Tuesday nights. That said, NBC's decision to leave Thursday unchanged -- other than sliding the low-rated newsmag "Rock Center" into the 10 p.m. hour -- feels like an act of capitulation of the highest order, especiall with "The Office" having withered as its 9 p.m. anchor.
Greenblatt spoke of a "cohesive schedule with flow," but other than CBS, that concept has become difficult for broadcasters to achieve in this day and age. And while some of the new shows appeared promising -- among them "Revolution," which looks like the bastard child of "Jericho" and "FlashForward;" and the midseason hour "Do No Harm," a Jekyll & Hide medical show -- the network didn't do much to emphasize the benefits of its Comcast/NBC Universal parentage, which might be the best overall asset in its corner.
NBC will again have the Olympics this summer as a promotional platform, though as we've seen in the past ("Father of the Pride" and "Hawaii," anyone?), that's hardly a sure-fire way of launching programs. Moreover, the network's emphasis on new comedies makes the dearth of established, compatible lead-ins more of a problem, since few half-hour concepts are so marketable as to take off without a push, though clearly broad ideas like "Animal Practice" and "Guys With Kids" seem determined to give it a try.
Based on Monday's presentation, NBC doesn't look like it has done itself any serious harm. But I'm not clear that the new lineup -- when you balance the gains, mostly from "The Voice," with the deficiencies -- will do the Peacock a whole lot of good, either.
Preliminary grade (subject to revision after seeing the other presentations, since these things have to be evaluated on a curve): C+