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NBC: Betting on Olympics,'Voice' to Launch New Hits - Broadcasting & Cable

NBC: Betting on Olympics,'Voice' to Launch New Hits

Network revamps Thursday with three new comedies, gambles big on drama 'The Blacklist'
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Complete Coverage: Upfronts 2013

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Click here to view the fall primetime schedule grid.

Click here to view pilot clips and trailers from the networks' new shows.

STRATEGY: Utilize the strength of The Voice and the 2014 Winter Olympics to launch new hits, with a focus on family comedies and character-based procedural dramas.

NBC will go into next fall with TV's No. 1 reality show in The Voice and two returning rookie dramas in Revolution and Chicago Fire, but after failing to launch a new comedy hit and a dismal midseason track record, the network still has plenty of holes to fill. It is betting on a better 2013-14 thanks to its two golden opportunities to launch a schedule -- using Sunday Night Football and The Voice in fall and the network's broadcast of the Winter Olympics next February.

"It was a bit of a roller-coaster year for us this year, but I think we overall made great progress," NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt told the upfront audience last week, while acknowledging the challenging season to come. "We have no illusions about how much work is ahead to grow our business."

A big part of that progress this season was successfully airing two cycles of The Voice. The network will again double up in 2013-14, with the fifth cycle bowing on Sept. 23. Since The Voice successfully launched Revolution, NBC will use what Greenblatt called the "invaluable lead-in" this fall for The Blacklist, a new drama starring James Spader as a former fugitive helping the FBI track down a terrorist. Greenblatt crowed Blacklist tested better than the last 125 new dramas at NBC. On Tuesdays, The Voice will lead into Chicago Fire; NBC hopes that show can grow in its sophomore run.

In midseason, The Voice will move up an hour to help launch new Tuesday comedies About a Boy (from Parenthood executive producer Jason Katims) and The Family Guide. Uplifting family comedy was the goal of this development cycle, as the net looked for half-hours that were "funny, accessible and positive," said NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke.

That thinking will also be the cornerstone of NBC's rebuilt Thursday lineup: Sole veteran comedy Parks and Recreation will lead off the night at 8 p.m., followed by Welcome to the Family starring Mike O'Malley, the Sean Hayes vehicle Sean Saves the World and The Michael J. Fox Show at 9:30 p.m., with family drama Parenthood capping off the night. Thirteen episodes of Community and the new Bill Lawrence comedy Undateable remain unscheduled for midseason.

In drama, NBC went for a "real emphasis on law enforcement characters and procedurals, which we think is a good thing as long as characters are relatable and cases are compelling," Salke said. In addition to the FBI drama Blacklist, Blair Underwood stars in an update of Ironside, about a tough cop relegated to a wheelchair, airing Wednesday at 10 p.m. on a night of drama with Revolution and Law & Order: SVU.

Friday will be a "fun genre night," with a new season of Grimm leading into the limited series Dracula (starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers) in fall and Crossbones (with John Malkovich as the pirate Blackbeard) in midseason.

NBC hopes it will have stronger footing in early 2014 thanks to the network's broadcast of the Winter Olympics from Sochi, Russia. Greenblatt said the Games will be an "incomparable launch pad" for the midseason offerings as well as the network's new late-night lineup of Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers, which will debut on Feb. 24.

After Sunday Night Football ends its season in January, the night will turn over to drama with the J.J. Abrams entry Believe and Crisis, starring Gillian Anderson and Dermot Mulroney. New medical drama The Night Shift and Chicago Fire spinoff Chicago PD are also on the bench for midseason.

E-mail comments to amorabito@nbmedia.com and follow her on Twitter: @andreamorabito

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