NBC: Building on 'The Voice,' 'Blacklist' and 1st-Place Finish

Network busts up Thursday comedy block in ‘seismic shift’

Why This Matters

Use 'The Voice' to launch new series and 'The Blacklist' to rebuild on Thursday night, saving a flight of new comedies for midseason.

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After years relegated to second-banana—and often third- or fourth-banana—status, NBC executives reveled in their network’s ascendance last week at their upfront presentation. The network went into upfronts with a lock on a first-place finish in the ratings for 2013-14, the first time in a decade that NBC could claim victory in a ratings race. In Nielsen mostcurrent ratings (live-plus seven, and live-plus-sameday for the two most recent weeks) for adults 18-49, NBC is averaging a 2.8—trailed by Fox at 2.5, CBS at 2.4, ABC at 2.1 and The CW at 0.8. In total viewers, NBC trails CBS 9.4 million to 10.7 million.

“We’re No. 1, you’ve heard it a number of times,” NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt told the upfront crowd on May 12. “So just get ready to hear it a lot more.”

A big part of that first-place finish can be attributed to The Voice and The Blacklist. (As Jimmy Fallon joked during the presentation: “We’ve got The Voice, we’ve got The Blacklist, we’ve got reruns of The Voice and The Blacklist.”) NBC will use the two as twin pillars on which to build its 2014-15 season, launching new series once again out of the post- Voice time periods and making The Blacklist the centerpiece of a new Thursday-night—eventually.

The Blacklist will again premiere Monday at 10 p.m., following The Voice, where it made its debut last fall before going on to become the season’s highest-rated new drama. The series will go on hiatus in November. Its time period will be taken by new drama State of Affairs.

Tuesday will see the second night of The Voice lead in to new half-hour Marry Me. That strategy helped establish About a Boy, NBC’s only returning new comedy from last season, which will follow at 9:30 p.m., and will itself be followed by the Dick Wolf-produced Chicago Fire.

Wednesday night NBC will air a trifecta of cop dramas: the new Mysteries of Laura, the long-running Law & Order: SVU and freshman midseason success Chicago P.D.

NBC canceled all three of its new fall comedies in 2013. In response, the network is throwing in the towel on its traditional Thursday-night comedy block. This fall will see the night kick off with unscripted The Biggest Loser, followed by new comedies Bad Judge and A to Z, then the final season of drama Parenthood. The Blacklist will re-emerge at midseason with a post-Super Bowl airing Feb. 1, then settle in at 9 p.m. on Thursdays, ahead of new drama Allegiance.

“This is the one seismic shift of our schedule next year,” Greenblatt said. “It should do a critical thing for us—put us back in business on Thursday nights.”

The new Thursday-night configuration also appears to acknowledge the challenge in CBS’ eightweek Thursday Night Football in the fall.

Friday night will see NBC again present a two-hour block of genre programming, with Grimm and new series Constantine following newsmagazine Dateline.

Event series A.D., producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’s follow up to their History miniseries The Bible, will launch Easter Sunday, April 5, well after the end of Sunday Night Football. Fellow event series Heroes Reborn, Aquarius and Emerald City have yet to be scheduled.

In touting the upcoming December live broadcast of the musical Peter Pan, Greenblatt also announced that the network will produce a live version of The Music Man “somewhere down the road.”

NBC will hold returning comedy Parks & Recreation and newcomers Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, One Big Happy and Mission Control until midseason.

THE ROOKIE CLASS

COMEDIES

A TO Z: Cristin Milioti and Ben Feldman play a young couple whose story is told “from A to Z.” Rashida Jones and Will McCormack executive produce.

BAD JUDGE: Produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay’s Gary Sanchez Productions. Kate Walsh plays a boozy criminal court judge.

MARRY ME: Casey Wilson and Ken Marino play a couple trying to salvage their relationship after a series of botched engagements. Wilson re-teams with Happy Endings creator David Caspe.

MISSION CONTROL: Another Ferrell-McKay series; Krysten Ritter plays a brilliant NASA engineer in the male-dominated 1960s.

MR. ROBINSON: Craig Robinson plays a musician who takes a job teaching middle school. Mark Cullen and Robb Cullen write and executive produce.

ONE BIG HAPPY: From executive producer Ellen DeGeneres. Elisha Cuthbert and Nick Zano play a lesbian and a straight man who decide to have a baby together.

UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT: Ellie Kemper stars as a woman who has been kept sheltered from the outside world by a cult leader, then moves to New York. Tina Fey and Robert Carlock executive produce.

DRAMAS

ALLEGIANCE: A family has a secret—the parents are Russian spies living in the U.S. incognito. Written and executive produced by George Nolfi and Avi Nir.

CONSTANTINE: Adapted from DC Comics’ Hellblazer, the series follows demon hunter John Constantine, played by Matt Ryan. David Goyer serves as executive producer.

MYSTERIES OF LAURA: Debra Messing plays a cop who must balance solving murders with being a mom. Greg Berlanti is an executive producer.

STATE OF AFFAIRS: Katherine Heigl serves as the CIA liaison to the president. Written and executive produced by Ehren Kruger.