Upfronts 2011: NBC Opens Up New Hour of Comedy on Wednesdays; 'Sing-Off' and 'Voice' to Anchor Mondays
Network unveils 12 new series for 2011-12 TV season
By Andrea Morabito -- Broadcasting & Cable, 5/15/2011 1:45:00 PMUpfront Central: Complete Coverage from B&C
Click here to watch preview clips and trailers from NBC's new shows
NBC ordered 12 new series, six drams and six comedies, for the 2011-12 TV season and slated a new hour of comedy on Wednesdays this fall, according to the schedule network executives announced May 15.
Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt, who is helming his first development slate at NBC, says his biggest priority for next season is nurturing the early success of The Voice so that it becomes a huge asset for the network that can last for the next several years. Once NBC decided The Voice would return in midseason as part of what Greenblatt calls "a full-season view of the schedule," giving December reality hit The Sing-Off a weekly format in the fall seemed the perfect way to establish Mondays as a night for musical competition shows on the network.
"We love The Sing-Off, we think it's the little gem from the past two years that did an incredible job getting a sizable audience with no promotion and no marketing," Greenblatt told B&C. The Sing-Off will lead in to new period drama The Playboy Club at 10 p.m.
Priority number two for NBC is buildings its comedy assets outside of its returning Thursday laffers. It's scheduling what it sees as its strongest pilots, Up All Night, starring Christina Applegate, Will Arnett and Maya Rudolph, and Free Agents, starring Hank Azaria, to anchor a new hour of comedy on Wednesdays this fall.
"We're not fooling ourselves, it isn't going to be easy, we're going to have to be patient and spend a fair amount of money trying to get an audience to that time period in comedy," Greenblatt told B&C. "But to do that we figured let's take our strongest stars and our strongest pilots and put these two back together. It just seemed like the best way for us to try to get a foothold there."
Musical drama Smash, which has been viewed as a hot pilot since Greenblatt brought it over from his tenure at Showtime, will get the plum post-Voice timeslot on Mondays in midseason. The decision to hold the Steve Spielberg-produced series was made because of the compatibility of the two shows. "We just thought the compatibility of Smash was so good with The Voice, and it's such a terrific show that it deserved to have the best possible send-off that we could give it," Greenblatt told reporters on a conference call Sunday.
Following in the footsteps of Fox and CBS, NBC will schedule scripted programming on Fridays this fall, shifting Chuck from Mondays to Fridays for the series' 13-episode final season. That will lead in to the new fantasy drama Grimm, inspired by the classic Grimm's Fairy Tales.
Thursdays are returning to two hours of comedy, with Community, Parks & Recreation, The Office and new entry Whitney, in the fall followed by rookie drama Prime Suspect. 30 Rock will return in midseason for an uninterrupted run.
New drama The Firm will join Sunday lineup in midseason after the conclusion of Sunday Night Football. Other new series slated for midseason, but are not yet scheduled, are drama Awake and comedies Are You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea, Best Friends Forever and Bent.
Several question marks remain in parts of NBC's schedule, including the pending NFL labor deal's affect on Sunday Night Football. Greenblatt said the network is "optimistic" that football will return in the fall, but has a contingency plan to produce "high-quality, live event reality shows" to fill out the Sunday lineup should the return of the season be delayed. If the net doesn't end up needing the shows for Sundays, Greenblatt said there are other places they could go on the schedule.
And while Celebrity Apprentice will return to Sundays in midseason, it is not certain that the show's star, Donald Trump, who has been flirting with a 2012 presidential run, will return with it. Greenblatt said, "we're hoping he's back with us," though said Apprentice would go on with or without him.
Among the series not returning next year are The Event, Outsourced, and Law & Order: Los Angeles. The cancellation of LOLA leaves NBC with only one remaining L&O franchise, SVU, which will return for its 13th season in the fall (with a new detective joining the cast in midseason). "We just didn't get it off the ground right," Greenblatt says of LOLA, which premiered last fall but took a long midseason hiatus to retool its cast and format. "In a different scenario that might have worked better, but it wasn't a strong enough player to continue into next season."
Greenblatt also addressed the reports of a new primetime newsmagazine to be hosted by Brian Williams saying "we are absolutely developing it" and that it would be put on the air as soon as it's ready, though the program is still without a title or potential time slot.
NBC FALL 2011-12 SCHEDULE
*New programs in UPPER CASE; all times ET)
8-10 p.m. -- The Sing-Off
10-11 p.m. -- THE PLAYBOY CLUB
8-10 p.m. -- The Biggest Loser
10-11 p.m. -- Parenthood
8-8:30 p.m. -- UP ALL NIGHT
8:30-9 p.m. -- FREE AGENTS
9-10 p.m. -- Harry's Law
10-11 p.m. -- Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
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. -- WHITNEY
10-11 p.m. -- PRIME SUSPECT
8-9 p.m. -- Chuck
9-10 p.m. -- GRIMM
10-11 p.m. -- Dateline NBC
7- 8:15 p.m. -- Football Night in America
8:15-11:30 p.m. -- NBC Sunday Night Football
NBC 2012 MID-SEASON HIGHLIGHTS
*New programs in UPPER CASE; all times ET)
7-8 p.m. -- Dateline NBC
8-10 p.m. -- The Celebrity Apprentice
10-11 p.m. -- THE FIRM
8-10 p.m. -- The Voice
10-11 p.m. -- SMASH
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