Upfronts Analysis: NBC 2009-2010 Fall Schedule

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NBC 2009-2010 Schedule

May 19th, 2009

NBC is not a network of surprises: it announced its new shows at its Infront presentation, we’ve known about Jay Leno moving to 10pm for ages, and even Chuck’s renewal was something that was pretty well guaranteed before today’s upfronts presentation. At the same time, the network’s schedule is perhaps the most interesting of the major networks since, with less primetime real estate than CBS or ABC, they are working on a whole new schedule and forced to make some important decisions.

It’s a better schedule than I expected, to be honest: yes, the network has been forced to make some tough decisions (My Name is Earl and Medium cut, but potentially returning on another network – FOX and ABC interested in Earl, CBS likely to pick up Medium), but they’ve been pretty smart in how they’ve scheduled everything else. With smart strategies for launching their new comedies, and one last attempt at seeing whether Heroes’ audience is capable of serving as a lead-in, NBC has at least leveraged what momentum they have going into this year (not much) to try to create a schedule that could keep them out of last place.

Even with all that work, though, ten to one Leno ends up keeping them there.

Let’s get right into the highlights here.

The Comedy Block

Comedy Night Done Right, as NBC once called it, suffered a major setback when My Name is Earl started fading and Kath & Kim…well, let us never speak of it again. It meant that, essentially, The Office and 30 Rock were carrying the weight on their own, and that’s a problem when NBC wants to keep its 8pm real estate intact. Their solution is potentially problematic but hopeful: taking advantage of the growing success of Saturday Night Live this season, the network will bring Weekend Update back to primetime with a half-hour edition airing for a number of weeks in the Fall, leading into returning Parks and Recreation at 8:30.

Now, this could backfire: no one knows if SNL can keep its momentum without an election to keep it relevant, and without Tina Fey’s Palin impression I’m not sure it would have broken out based on its relative quality. So, when you have SNL without those elements, they better hire a better Obama and hope that there’s something relevant to parody. However, it should be a help to Parks and Recreation, as former appreciators of Amy Poehler can check out the sitcom, and chances are Poehler might stop by Weekend Update on occasion to help try to draw viewers to the solid but not spectacular Parks.

They’re also using this as a chance to rest 30 Rock, which premieres late every season it seems, and let Community (starring Joel McHale and Chevy Chase) grab the post-Office slot for a while. Its numbers will drop when it eventually moves to 8pm and lets 30 Rock keep its time slot (another smart move, protecting their Emmy breadwinner), but it’s a good preview for the show, and since it looks quite funny I’m very happy to see the show grabbing a chance to fit into the block.

The New Dramas

Parenthood, which Silverman is trying to connect with the West Wing even when it’s essentially Brothers & Sisters & Cousins, grabs a slot at 8pm on Wednesdays, which for NBC is helpful since it is lined up to be the only drama in the time period, and if NBC is only worried about pulling in its older, wealthier viewers they don’t really have another option in the period. We’ve yet to see what CBS is putting there, but if it’s more comedies it’s in a solid position, and the cast is impressive if not quite as superlative as Silverman makes it out to be.

It makes way at midseason, though, for the new medical drama Mercy, which from its previews felt pretty much like Grey’s Anatomy with nurses, lacking anything close to originality or a real reason for watching. That show will have the tougher sell, facing off directly with American Idol, so Parenthood definitely got the better draw between the two series.

Trauma, a new drama about emergency medical servicepeople slotting into Fall at 9pm Mondays is exciting for Kevin Rankin, who NBC shows love to cast (he was on Friday Night Lights and Bionic Woman), but feels like it’s explosive or the sake of being explosive. It’s lucky enough, thought, to have a Heroes lead-in, which makes little sense when you consider their total lack of thematic connection, and that Heroes has never had success with leading into other series. Still, I applaud them for trying, if nothing else, as NBC needs to leverage their hits as best they can.

As far as I can tell, the plan is to have Day One, the post-apocalyptic short order series from one of Heroes’ ex-executive producers, air in 9pm Mondays timeslot after the Olympics, which will keep it away from Heroes. This doesn’t make sense on some levels, but since NBC will be tied up throughout February sweeps, it makes sense to delay it until March anyways. This show has some strange expectations being just a miniseries-type setup, so I will be curious to see how it performs.

The Returning Moves

For Southland and Law & Order, it’s the dead zone of Fridays: expectations will be low for the series, but they’re smart in letting Law & Order lead into Southland, and not the other way around.

Law & Order: SVU, which we always knew was moving, jumps from Tuesdays to Wednesdays at 9pm, while the Biggest Loser remains in its Tuesday spot (where it’s done big numbers) for two-hour editions in the Fall and then 90 minutes in the Spring so that comedy “100 Questions,” (an attempt to recapture the magic of Friends, which really doesn’t fit into the Thursday comedy clock) slots in post-Olympics.

Chuck and Heroes, meanwhile, will share the Monday at 8pm timeslot, with Heroes running its course leading up to the Olympics and Chuck taking over afterwards: Heroes will be limited to roughly 18 episodes, while Chuck’s 13-episode order could potentially be extended into the summer and paired with Friday Night Lights, which despite airing this fall on DirecTV will be held until summer on its parent network.

As for Sundays, no surprise with the return of Celebrity Apprentice after the Olympics, although its lead-in will be new reality series The Marriage Ref, which I won’t even bother getting any details on before writing off.

So with Jay Leno every weekday at 10pm, that’s NBC’s schedule: here’s the full details.

NBC FALL 2009 SCHEDULE
(New shows in UPPER CASE)

MONDAY
8-9 p.m. – “Heroes”
9-10 p.m.—“TRAUMA”
10-11 p.m. – “THE JAY LENO SHOW”

TUESDAY
8-10 p.m. – “The Biggest Loser” (two-hour edition)
10-11 p.m. – “THE JAY LENO SHOW”

WEDNESDAY
8-9 p.m. – “PARENTHOOD”
9-10 p.m. – “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”
10-11 p.m. – “THE JAY LENO SHOW”

THURSDAY
8- 8:30 p.m. – “SNL WEEKEND UPDATE THURSDAY” (multi-episode run)
8:30-9 p.m. – “Parks and Recreation”
9- 9:30 p.m. – “The Office”
9:30-10 p.m. – “COMMUNITY” (moves to Thursdays 8-8:30 p.m. after multi-episode run; “30 Rock” returns)
10-11 p.m. – “THE JAY LENO SHOW”

FRIDAY
8-9 p.m. – “Law & Order”
9-10 p.m. – “Southland”
10-11 p.m. – “THE JAY LENO SHOW”

SATURDAY
8-9 p.m. – “Dateline NBC”
9-10 p.m. – “TRAUMA” (encore broadcast)
10-11 p.m. – “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (encore broadcast)

SUNDAY
7- 8:20 p.m. “Football Night in America”
8:20-11 p.m. “NBC Sunday Night Football”

NBC MIDSEASON 2010 SCHEDULE
(2010 WINTER OLYMPICS preempt regularly scheduled programming from February 12-28, 2010)
(New shows in UPPER CASE)

MONDAY
8-9 p.m. – “Chuck”
9-10 p.m.—“DAY ONE”
10-11 p.m. – “THE JAY LENO SHOW”

TUESDAY
8-9:30 p.m. – “The Biggest Loser” (90-minute edition)
9:30-10 p.m. – “100 QUESTIONS”
10-11 p.m. – “THE JAY LENO SHOW”

WEDNESDAY
8-9 p.m. – “MERCY”
9-10 p.m. – “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”
10-11 p.m. – “THE JAY LENO SHOW”

THURSDAY
8- 8:30 p.m. – “COMMUNITY”
8:30-9 p.m. – “Parks and Recreation”
9- 9:30 p.m. – “The Office”
9:30-10 p.m. – “30 Rock”
10-11 p.m. – “THE JAY LENO SHOW”

FRIDAY
8-9 p.m. – “Law & Order”
9-10 p.m. – “Southland”
10-11 p.m. – “THE JAY LENO SHOW”

SATURDAY
8-9 p.m. – “Dateline NBC”
9-10 p.m. – “Southland” (encore broadcast)
10-11 p.m. – “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (encore broadcast)

SUNDAY
7-8 p.m. – “Dateline NBC”
8-9 p.m. – THE MARRIAGE REF
9-11 p.m. – “The Celebrity Apprentice” (two-hour edition)

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1 Comment

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One response to “Upfronts Analysis: NBC 2009-2010 Fall Schedule

  1. So 30 Rock will have pretty much the same schedule it had this year, right? It came back in about November. That was a great schedule, it was almost an episode a week for the whole season. Some of my friends are less than regular in their TV habits so when there are big breaks in schedule, like they were doing to the Office for a while, they tend to lose interest.

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