2012-13 Up-Fronts: NBC (and a bunch of other ramblings)

So I finally got off my ass and decided to start writing my network TV up-front posts, and this is the first, despite the announcement of the series close to three weeks ago. Well, if you don’t like it, get your own blog! No, I’m bluffing. Seriously…don’t leave…my readership couldn’t fill a VW. Did that sound desperate? LOL. I’m kidding…sort of.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the up-front concept, the Network Up-Fronts are the presentations that each of the major over-the-air networks make to their potential advertisers in the middle of every May.

What this means to you is that, right now, in some office building in New York or Los Angeles, a bunch of overpaid network executives are trying to decide what will be on their Fall and Spring schedules, and therefore deciding whether or not to keep your favorite shows.

The up-front is the actual presentation to potential people who want to buy 30 second spots. The strength of the presentation will decide how much a 30 second spot will cost for each show.

I started following these a few years ago when I realized that most of my favorite shows had viewerships that rivaled this very blog. Very seldom can fans actually have an effect when their shows are canceled, but it does happen.

Yours truly was actually part of the successful protest in 2007 for the dearly departed Jericho (which, one of you might like to hear, could very well be coming to a Netflix near you). If you didn’t watch the show, you won’t understand, but a bunch of us sent cases of peanuts to the head of CBS to protest the cancelling of the show. It annoyed them enough that the show got a seven episode order the following spring to wrap up the story lines.

Today, I’m choosing the easy route to get myself motivated today by picking NBC as my first network to cover. Those of you who follow my blog (hi Mom!) will know that I have previously railed about NBC’s…lets call it…goofy scheduling in the past, and I doubt today’s post will be much different (have I ever mentioned these posts are basically stream of consciousness? Well, they are).

So, NBC. I can’t stand reality shows and high concept soap operas; there’s only so much crime/medical procedurals I can take and I’m over the age of 13 so The CW is completely out. That means most of the shows I watch are on NBC, that sad sack of a fourth place network who, upon attempting to pull their head out of their ass, seem to think the quickest way is through the mouth.

NBC actually has some good shows if you’re not watching (and by the ratings, you aren’t). What it actually lacks is the big hit, the big draw that brings people to the network so the net can show off its slate of shows.

Anyway, now that I’m several hundred words in and have yet to break down the shows, lets get to that:


The Biggest Loser – I don’t watch it because I don’t enjoy reality shows, but I like its message. It plays well to families. But, NBC needs to cut down its airing to just once a year versus twice, and stop sticking Parenthood in its wake (the two DO NOT attract the same audience, no matter what you numbers tell you).

Grimm – Surprisingly good numbers for a high-concept fantasy show on Friday nights. Didn’t like it much myself (as much a police procedural as anything else, and I am easily bored by those).

Smash – This is a good show that’s a bit too schizophrenic for its own good. The good: most characters, basic story, and organic song and dance sequences. The bad: Ivy’s bipolar disorder and dream sequences. This show will benefit from a 22 episode order and a new showrunner, both of which it appears to have. Settle it down, refocus on the characters and the numbers for the show. Don’t make the same mistakes that Glee did (and continues to make).

The Voice – Again, I don’t watch reality shows, but in my limited understanding, this seems to be American Idol with a good heart. Its audience is growing as Idol is fading. Want to do something ballsy, NBC? Put Voice on opposite Idol.

30 Rock – Never has done well in the ratings, but still a critical darling. Virtual lock for a renewal, but the show is wearing thin. NBC has been pushing comedy hard in its developmental slate, so look for this to be 30 Rock’s swan song. UPDATE: NBC has picked this up for a 13 episode season, which will also be its last.

Law and Order: SVU – If NBC has stronger shows, this would be on the bubble. Long past its expiration date. But as it stands, is just waiting for the rubber stamp.

The Office – NBC should have given the kill order for this one in January. But since they didn’t, it will be back: no show with its history should be just cancelled. Four major characters are on their way out: Dwight (who is getting his own show), Toby (who is going to run Dwight’s show), Robert California (who never worked out) and Kelly (Mindy Kallng got a pilot at Fox). If I were the network, I’d give it a 13 episode renewal with orders to wrap everything up. This show has overstayed its welcome.

Parenthood – Just about everyone will tell you this one is On the Bubble. However, its audience seemed to improve as the season went on, and it draws well in the female demo, which a lot of NBC shows apparently don’t. Memo to NBC: this can be much bigger than it is, but do not schedule a two-hour reality show as a lead in!!! The audiences aren’t the same, no matter how much you think families will continue to watch it!! This show is screaming out for the Thursday night timeslot at 10pm. Parenthood, at its heart, is a sophisticated comedy. So give it the benefit of lead ins from your four sophisticated comedies like Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock and such. A five year old could figure this out (okay, not really). Come on! UPDATE: NBC has picked this up for next year.

Parks and Recreation – The most solid and consistent of the Thursday night comedies. This will be back for sure.

The Celebrity Apprentice – Has an undersized but consistent audience. NBC will find a home for this, likely on Sundays in the spring after football is over.

Community – One of the best shows on television, but very difficult to market and join midstream as a new viewer. Audience will always be small, but will probably be brought back once more. Also needs just a handful more episodes to make the magic number of 80 for syndication (reruns!). Look for a 13 episode order, but will likely be its final. UPDATE: NBC has picked this up for a minimum of 13 episodes next year.

Harry’s Law – TV.com actually lists this as Likely to Be Cancelled, but I disagree. It actually has the second highest numbers for any scripted show on NBC. Putting it on Wednesday nights at nine (a prime time-slot) as disgustingly stupid, but might make a go of it on Fridays.

Up All Night – I thoroughly enjoyed this show, but it’s so light and unoffending that none of it ever sticks with you. A complimentary show that will survive if NBC has room for it, and will go quietly into the night if it doesn’t.

Are You There, Chelsea? – Never watched, and apparently neither did anyone else. Previews looked awful.

Awake – I watched for a couple of episodes, but WOW was this boring. Well done…but a real snoozeathon.

Bent – This comedy actually looked pretty good, but I never watched. Why? NBC has six episodes, showed them back-to-back and never marketed them. Didn’t bother because NBC essentially showed their hand; they wanted to cancel this before they aired it.

Best Friends Forever – Did anyone ever hear about this show? Neither did I.

Whitney – Previewed looked god awful and I avoided it like the plague. Can I ask who at NBC thought that putting on a punch-line oriented sitcom with a laugh track along with three sophisticated comedies without them was a good idea?

The Firm – Sad waste of a great idea. One of the poorest executed shows in the history of television.

Free Agents – WTF was this? Never heard of it.

The Playboy Club – Yanked and cancelled after three episodes. Another attempt at a 60’s period piece to glom on to the Mad Men crowd. Understand: Mad Men wouldn’t have made it two months on a major network, and this wasn’t nearly as good.

Prime Suspect – Here’s a good idea for a show: a police procedural with a good looking middle aged blonde in a hat with an attitude. Thus concludes NBC’s marketing for this show. I didn’t watch.

Next up in the up-front pieces: Whatever I feel like, whenever I feel like it.

(Sources: TV.com primarily, but IMDB and various others as well. Opinions are my own)