Monday, May 14, 2007

"His partner is the CIA's top agent (and Chuck's first date in years):" NBC 2007-08 Schedule Analysis

Last year SDD Head Todd said that NBC WANTED to be ABC: 2004, but would probably instead end up being ABC: 2001. Judging from what happened this season and the schedule for next fall, it looks like ABC: 2004 is still indeed a long ways down the road.

The road this season has been a bumpy one for NBC. In the fall things weren't too bad - Football was performing incredibly well on Sundays, Heroes was becoming the It New Show of the season, The Office and My Name is Earl were holding their own on Thursdays, even in an incredibly competitive timeslot. Even E.R. was on the rise again!

However, their fortunes have been changing for the worse as the season wore on. They couldn't find a show that would work with Heroes, which has now been in a slump since returning from a 6-week hiatus. Sundays croaked without Football, and NBC Thursdays were fumbling thanks to complicated scheduling with multiple super-sized episodes and a dying-again E.R., finishing last in its timeslot among 18-49ers, the demo that it once dominated in. Now the network has been having its worst numbers ever.

The new schedule doesn't look to change much. What works is still there (Football on Sundays, Heroes on Mondays, SVU on Tuesdays, a little Deal or No Deal her and there), but the new shows have minor potential that'll probably be lost thanks to clumsy scheduling. For a detailed analysis, continue reading.

8pm Sunday Night Football (until Jan 2008)
8pm Law & Order+
9pm Medium+
10pm Lipstick Jungle*

Football? Shocker! However, that midseason Sunday line-up is really kinda shocking, in how god-awful it looks.

Law & Order is on death's door, unless NBC REALLY wants to beat Gunsmoke (Which is pointless, since it was just be gunning for longest-running drama with The Simpsons running a season ahead showing no signs of stopping). Medium hasn't caught anyone's eye since Arquette somehow won the Emmy two years ago. And Lipstick Jungle, well, it doesn't have the plot or the cast to draw in its own audience from that line-up.

Predictions: Football does well, especially in the second half of the season when they get to pick which games they get. As for midseason, I really doubt that schedule survives past February sweeps. Lipstick Jungle gets a swift cancellation while Medium dies a quiet death and L&O lingers there until its series finale.

8pm Deal or No Deal
9pm Heroes/Heroes: Origins
10pm Journeyman*

Mondays 8-10 was one of the best parts of NBC's schedule, so leaving that unharmed was expected. However, they also have a 8-episode spin-off planned for when Heroes goes on hiatus called "Heroes: Origins" in which they introduce a new hero each week, and afterwards viewers will vote online for which one joins the cast next season. Ew?

Journeyman sounds like a mixture of Early Edition and Quantum Leap, which should make it a far better fit for Heroes than Studio 60 or The Black Donnellys ever were. Of course, that's what people also thought about Invasion and Lost.

Predictions: NBC does indeed know the consequences of over-saturating a game show, so Deal or No Deal should continue to pull rake in the viewer in a quiet timeslot. Heroes, like Lost in season 2, should benefit from people deciding to come in at the beginning of the season. Whether it can keep those viewers (Something Lost didn't do) is the question. And Origins sounds like a floptastic mistake in the making. Journeyman, even with its genre-happy plot, strikes me as the kind of show that'll do kinda-sorta okay for most of the season (Or more than 50% rendition from Heroes) but then get dumped because NBC thinks they can do better.

8pm The Biggest Loser
9pm Chuck*
10pm Law & Order: SVU

The Biggest Loser has always been a show that doesn't do too well in the ratings for the first 7/8 of the season, leading people to ask "Why did they renew this?" Then the ratings kick into high gear and people are reminded why. Don't expect much different this season.

The problem is, that sort of program doesn't work well for launching a new show. Chuck could go either way, weirding new viewers out or pulling people in with what sounds like a goofy fun time. SVU staying where it always wins its timeslot is hardly a surprise.

Predictions: I suspect this'll be the final season The Biggest Loser can do its "back from behind" shtick at the as it wraps up. While I would love to see Chuck succeed, the timeslot has always been a stiff one, and NBC hasn't had a success here since My Name Is Earl premiered here two seasons ago before moving to Thursdays. The Biggest Loser isn't gonna help. And SVU has begun to lag this season, but so has pretty much every other show on network TV, and I doubt it'll stop winning its timeslot, unless CBS finally finds something that works there outside of CSI repeats.

8pm Deal or No Deal
9pm Bionic Woman*
10pm Life*

This was an awful night for NBC this season, between moving L&O for Kidnapped (That show with Jeremy Sisto trying to find a kidnapped rich kid Neither does anyone else), trying Medium out which ended up getting drowned out by Lost and CSI: NY, and Friday Night Lights which actually worked for a while until AI killed its momentum. This schedule doesn't look to change their luck.

Outside of Monday (Where it can sometimes go as high as 18 million viewers), DOND is usually good for about 9-11 million, but after that it kinda drops off. Bionic Woman could get some critical acclaim should David Eick work the same modernizing skills he and Ronald Moore did with BSG, but assuming ABC puts Private Practice at 9 like they're expected to, it's just not gonna survive. And Life just doesn't sound overly compelling and lacks the cast to get people interested.

Predictions: DOND gets 9-11 million, stays there for most of the season with the exception of whenever NBC tries launching a new show there. If Bionic Woman can get decent reviews, NBC might let it live out its 13 episode order If not, it and Life don't live to see November sweeps.

8pm My Name Is Earl
8.30pm 30 Rock
9pm The Office
9.30pm Scrubs
10pm ER

Nothing changes, with the exception of The Office and 30 Rock swapping times.

Also, Scrubs only gets an 18-episode order for what is certainly its last season, and The Office will have 25 episodes, five of which are to be an hour long (Making for 30 episodes whenever it heads it syndication). E.R. stays put for what should almost certainly be its last season. Ho-hum changes, pretty awesome night overall.

Predictions: Alas, it'll almost certainly be a ho-hum night in the ratings. I think Earl is headed for its final season, unless NBC wants another season for syndication. And 30 Rock better hope for some audience growth and Emmy recognition over the summer, because if it doesn't get any it could end up being screwed. The Office remains the closest NBC can get to its heyday of Comedy greatness, so it could probably get 5 million viewers and still survive to see another season. Unless NBC has a hard time letting go, season 14 should be the last for E.R.

8pm 1 vs. 100/The Singing Bee*
9pm Las Vegas
10pm Friday Night Lights+

So you have arguably the most critically acclaimed show on network TV, winner of a Peabody award. It's been struggling, but it has shown that it's not a lost cause and might have some potential if you keep it out of an overly competitive slot. So what do you do?

Personally, I would've tried finding a day and time that would've worked for it and if I could, put it with a show that had what it would take to help it along. The thing is, putting your show in a timeslot on a night that nobody watches with a lead-out that's five-years-old and doesn't really attract an audience that's interested in critically acclaimed TV...that just doesn't work.

Predictions: The move is actually similar to what NBC did to Boomtown in its second season, when NBC moved it from Sundays at 10 to Fridays at 10. It ended up getting canceled after two weeks. I doubt NBC will be that swift, but that timeslot is not gonna help the show, at all. As for the rest of the night, expected the same 7-10 million viewer range it was in this season, though I expect The Singing Bee to flop like all AI knock-offs.

And there you have it. Drop your own takes on the schedule in the comments section if you desire.


Todd VanDerWerff said...

I don't really like this schedule, but it's NBC, so they didn't really have a lot of options, as they didn't have enough money to clean house like they should have.

Anyway, I've expressed my sort-of fondness for the new FNL slot. Here's hoping it can pull 7 million or so so they'll leave it alone. I think Reilly would like to have it on the air as long as he can, but Zucker (who canceled Boomtown) is his boss.

Todd VanDerWerff said...

Also, yes, that Heroes idea is awful.

David Sims said...

You think this will be Earl's final season? Honestly? That seems nuts to me, I don't see it going anywhere.

Todd VanDerWerff said...

The ratings are way down, as fans seem more disgruntled with the second season's formula-busting than we are.

I agree it won't be canceled, but I can't see it lasting past, say, season five.

Jon said...

Well, maybe that was a little extreme, especially considering how bleh NBC's schedule is overall. But the show has lost most of any recognition it once had with critics and audiences, and it being parted from The Office probably won't help. Still, I guess it probably won't get canceled. But should it crash and burn in the out.

David Sims said...

Season 5 seems a more reasonable expectation to me. NBC's comedy development this year was so bad, they better step it up next year (cause Scrubs is gonna be gone, and I don't see The IT Crowd hitting).

Libby said...

I dunno guys, maybe I'm super hopeful, but I have faith in the Thursday night comedy block. Which is not to say that it won't all go horribly wrong, what with the overdependence on The Office and short order of Scrubs ... but maybe people will finally be ready to laugh again! That or TV will lose another 2 million viewers and we'll all need to find new hobbies.

Andy Scott said...

I don't know what to say about Earl: Season 2. It was such a departure from season 1 that it's almost impossible to assess as a whole right now.

That being said, it still had a lot of fun moments, and I will be content as long as Jason Lee and Jaime Pressly are nominated for Emmys. Besides, even though Earl was my favorite comedy last season (sigh), its cutesyness (sp) would have eventually grown stale, right?

I'm not too sure about its longevity, but I hope it sticks around for a little while longer. I like the NBC comedy bloc.