It's crunch time for NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt and the rest of the troops at the Peacock. 2011-12 was as rough as expected save the return of "The Voice," which is pretty much the only building block the Peacock has moving into next season. But rebuild they must, so with an eye on the new series pickups they've made to date, here's some recommendations regarding what to put where (see schedule listing below).
With all due respect to Variety ratings guru Rick Kissell, who recommended moving "The Voice" to Tuesday-Wednesday, NBC needs to keep its hit franchise where it is for its expected shift to the fall (in fact that's a core strategic principle guiding this schedule: If something is working, do not move it).
Not only does NBC need to maintain the momentum it has built on Mondays--a night when everyone but CBS is suffering--the network needs to get more aggressive on Tuesday as well, when no network is putting its best foot forward. NBC needs to attack ABC's "Dancing With the Stars," which is never going to be what it once was no matter how well it recasts.
That leaves the thorny question of what to put on after "Voice" at 10 p.m., the most coveted slot on NBC's sked. This much is clear: "Smash" has got to go. There's nothing more that "Voice" can do to prop up this drama (more on that later).
While the most promising hour of development needs to get this time slot for the best chance at survival, it also needs to be a series with some tonal similarities to "Voice," so let's go with Universal TV soap "Infamous." Fresh faces, broad appeal--that's what can work in that hour.
With "Voice" results back at 9 p.m. Tuesday, NBC needs to get more aggressive. First, it's high time to ship out "The Biggest Loser" to Friday, where it can live out its twilight years instead of taking up space in an hour where neither ABC or Fox has truly found its footing. Try moving the comedy hour NBC failed to launch Wednesday here for no other reason than launching comedy on Thursday is only going to get tougher once CBS converts to a four-comedy attack on that night.
With NBC feeling confident enough to give "Parks & Recreation" 22 episodes, it's time to use it to build a block beyond Thursday and pair it with a new comedy that should also have memorable female lead actress in Anne Heche of "Save Me." Then there's 10 p.m., where another series with femme appeal, "Smash," can move and don't wait for the midseason to bring it back; reload for fall while the series is fresh in the minds of the small following which it built up.
If there's one night to play conservative, make it Wednesday given the double threat of Fox's "X Factor/American Idol" and ABC's comedy lineup. Lie down and play dead between 8-10 p.m. with "Rock Center and "Law & Order: SVU." But there's room for some risk at 10 p.m., where we'll hope there's enough Dick Wolf DNA in his latest production, "Chicago Fire," to keep the "SVU" crowd sticking around.
Thursday has been brutal and it's only going to get worse once CBS gets more aggressive on the night. With 13 episodes slotted for "30 Rock," "Community," "Up All Night" and "Whitney" stocked up, why not stagger their premieres across the season at 8 p.m. for solid footing, and keep "Office" at 9 p.m. Then it's time for classic NBC scheduling, sandwiching new shows in between: I like the idea of Matthew Perry returning to the night "Friends" once dominated with "Go On" at 8:30 and putting "Animal Practice" at 9:30 p.m. The new shows can alternate--or be replaced--by the quarter in the 8 p.m. rotation as well.
Thursday at 10 p.m is a tough call because NBC couldn't launch pretty strong new material like "Awake" and "Prime Suspect" this past season. But the net should resist the temptation to play conservative and find a strong hour to try again. "Do No Harm" sounds like a juicy premise, and its neurosurgeon protagonist gives it a medical setting that makes moving it to the time slot once inhabited by "ER" seem natural.
One more twist to mention on Thursday: This is the night NBC should launch in August out of the Olympics. Let "Voice' do its own heavy lifting in September.
It's tempting to move "Grimm" to Thursday at 10 p.m. in hopes increased visibility there could help take this series to the next level, but in keeping with our strategic take on "The Voice," if something is working, don't move it. Let's use it as a launch pad for another sci-fi-ish series at 10 p.m., "Revolution," which may be able to borrow viewers from another J.J. Abrams series on at 9 p.m. on Fox, "Fringe." "The Biggest Loser" can park Friday at 8 p.m, too.
Sunday is brutally competitive so NBC should play conservative coming out of football season: launch the most male-skewing hour it has, actioner "Hannibal," and lump it together with returnees like "Celebrity "Apprentice" and "Parenthood."
Note that some of the most buzzed-about pieces of development are not on this schedule: "The New Normal," "1600 Penn," etc. That's by design; staying out of the fall fray may be the best thing that could ever happen to them.
Yes, there's a lot of moving pieces in the NBC schedule during a week when one of the favorite buzzwords to use is "stability." But frankly, holding steady anywhere outside where its most valuable assets lie--"Voice," "Office," "Grimm"--is a luxury the Peacock can't afford.
8 p.m. : "The Voice"
10 p.m.: "Infamous" (new)
8 p.m.: "Parks & Recreation"
8:30 p.m.: "Save Me" (new)
9 p.m.: "The Voice" results
10 p.m.: "Smash"
8 p.m.: "Rock Center with Brian Williams"
9 p.m.: "Law & Order: SVU"
10 p.m.: "Chicago Fire" (new)
8 p.m.: "Community/30 Rock/Whitney/Up All Night"
8:30 p.m. "Go On" (new)
9 p.m.: "The Office"
9:30 p.m.: "Animal Practice" (new)
10 p.m.: "Do No Harm" (new)
8 p.m.: "The Biggest Loser"
9 p.m.: "Grimm"
10 p.m.: "Revolution" (new)
SUNDAY (post football)
7 p.m.: "Dateline"
8 p.m.: "Celebrity Apprentice"
9 p.m.: "Parenthood"
10 p.m.: "Hannibal" (new)