I’ve had a lot of fun at the expense of NBC the last year or so when reporting network events at the upfronts and TCAs. I mean, come on, their incompetence made it so damned easy! Yet this time, I get to eat crow. It tastes a lot like chicken.
I bow to you NBC and president Bob Greenblatt, who was able to take the stage at the TCAs today and basically tell a room full of critics to “suck it.” He’s earned this day, now that his network scored a massive boost in ratings and took the fall title of #1 network in the much craved 18-49 demo.
NBC ended up having big fall hits with new shows Revolution and Go On, while The Voice took The X-Factor to school and beat it up for it’s lunch money. Chicago Fire is gaining more momentum too after critics all but dismissed it as a bland version of Law and Order with fire fighters and The New Normal has maintained a stable audience as well. Even some returning shows have done great, with Grimm, Parenthood, and Law & Order: SVU performing very well in their time slots.
The question that was addressed today, will NBC be able to keep up the momentum for the second half of the season, especially when networks like Fox are coming with their big guns in American Idol?
Speaking of Fox, Greenblatt has one damn good memory. Obviously Fox President Kevin Reilly’s comment back in November about the TV industry, “We have our head up our ass,” is still stinging. Greenblatt made it clear his network doesn’t. I don’t know, wasn’t Animal Practice one of his fall shows?
There’s a big potential that NBC could get off to a really slow start in the second half, especially since The Voice, Revolution, and the in the stratosphere high Sunday Night Football aren’t on the schedule. Sure The Voice and Revolution will at least be back in March, but will the momentum be gone by then? Greenblatt said today that Revolution would only have ten more episodes this season, which is a reduction to 20 from a standard 22 episode season. Will that reduction affect the quality of the rest of the story or improve it? Cable has proven that less episodes makes a series stronger, so perhaps this reduction is following that pattern. Money likely has something to do with it too, as Revolution does have some real budget busting scenes.
NBC is betting on new shows to carry the momentum. Deception, 1600 Penn, and Do No Harm premiere soon and they’re all praises for the “new and improved” Smash. There’s also enough people who will watch The Celebrity Apprentice (I am not one of those people) and the problem with Rock Center has been solved by sending it to Fridays. The Biggest Loser is also a good, reliable draw, even if it doesn’t pull the big numbers it once did.
Smash isn’t the only show getting a big makeover either. Up All Night goes from single camera comedy to a multi-camera one. That has come with a cost though, as creator Emily Spivey has left (among others). The odds are still against this low rated comedy, but you do have to give credit to the network for trying something different. I like the idea just because Christina Applegate, Will Arnett, and Maya Rudolph are great comedic actors. If this gives them the right material, then that’s all that could be needed to make the show a success.
Community will be back too, and it was nice to hear Greenblatt’s praise for that show in today’s session. He did admit to not being an expert on the show either, but promises there are no big changes. I do hope that’s not execuspeak for, “It all looks the same to me.” We’ll know soon enough, for February 7th is just around the corner. At least Community gets it’s old Thursday time slot back. No Friday death slot is good news for a ratings challenged show. Now all that has to happen is all those fans making noise about the mistreatment of Community should watch live.
It was mentioned that while their Thursday night shows are critically acclaimed, NBC comedies haven’t been drawing a lot of viewers. The network wants to go broader. I found this comment interesting, since Go On and The New Normal, both new comedies doing very well on Tuesdays, do have a slightly broader appeal, but nothing NBC has comes close to the audience territory struck with shows like The Big Bang Theory. Go On and The New Normal still are hits by NBC standards, and I see no choice but moving both those shows to Thursdays next season to fill in slots left by 30 Rock andThe Office. Current comedies Parks and Recreation and Whitney are at best marginal performers, and I get a sense that1600 Penn isn’t going to live up either. NBC needs stronger shows for their big comedy night. I’m sure if that topic had come up today, Greenblatt would have fallen with the “It’s too early to tell line,” like he did with questions about Parks and Recreation’s future.
Late Night Blues
One subject that came up was Jay Leno. For those not brushing up on their TV press releases (*cough* my hubby *cough*), Jimmy Kimmel after ten years on ABC is finally getting his show moved to 11:35. I love Jimmy Kimmel and I see this as a huge threat to both Jay Leno and David Letterman. I even think it’s going to affect Conan O’Brien a little.
NBC executives are mixed on what they think the impact will be, but I do wonder if The Tonight Show should end with Leno. He may get the viewers, but they are much older. The show has always skewed older. If we’ve learned anything from the Conan O’Brien fiasco, you can’t take an older show and turn it young.
Jimmy Fallon would be a stronger personality to take on Jimmy Kimmel, and he has an appeal that draws both younger and older viewers (my elderly parents love him, and that speaks volumes since they are in CBS’ wheelhouse). Another thing we’ve learned from Conan O’Brien, taking a successful New York based late night show, moving it to California and turning it into any The Tonight Show variety is not a wise move. Should Leno ever step down, or be forced out again, Jimmy Fallon’s existing show should just move up an hour. New York based shows lose a lot of personality when they go west, and I’d hate to see that happen to Fallon. He really does have something special with Late Night.
NBC claims they aren’t considering a succession plan yet for Jay Leno, but they should be. It was different when David Letterman was the competition but Jimmy Kimmel, this does change things.
All in all NBC does have a lot to boast about, and it’s good they could finally have their day to talk about triumphs. While they’re on the right track, there’s still plenty of room for improvement and they still need stronger shows. NBC does have the advantage of offering a very strong summer lineup, so if they can keep audiences year round, then that #1 in 18-49 will be theirs to keep. In the meantime, cross any shows involving animals off the board.