Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Obligatory NBC Midseason Schedule Analysis Post

It's like playing musical chairs on the siesta deck of the Titanic.

NBC's problems are not going to be fixed wholesale by yesterday's midseason schedule announcement. Not when the highest rated drama on the network (which, to be clear, is the highest rated out of 7) is pulling mid-to-low 2s (which, yes, CW would still be popping champagne over). That drama, Law & Order: SVU, will likely see some real gains when it - once again - moves back to a 10pm timeslot. I understood the decision to have it at 9pm as a lead-in to LOLA, at least in theory. But to put the show back in the timeslot it was getting slaughtered in last year during the Jay Leno fiasco was foolish, don't you think? Not to hit the same nail on the head over and over again, but "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results." I have no idea if NBC expected different results in moving SVU to Wednesdays at 9pm once again. But it didn't get them (what it got was a weakened lead-in into a spin-off that is still unproven and will need to stand on its own stocky legs now). Time to get out of dodge.

Chuck remains at 8pm. I watch Chuck. There are times that I love Chuck. I don't think the show has been fantastic this season (though it has gotten much better the last couple weeks), but then again I also didn't think last season was as good as the second. The second season was awesome. From a ratings standpoint, Chuck gets the crap beaten out of it by the punditry. Because a 1.9 (±0.2) for every episode in Live plus Same Day ratings? Not great. But a consistent show that isn't bleeding viewers or demo... it's gonna stick around. So, sorry haters. It's low rated, but because of NBC's state of affairs... it's not the biggest fish to fry.

The Cape... I haven't seen it. I loved the script. It reminded me of a Saturday morning cartoon in wonderful ways. But I've heard that the final product came out, um, taking itself very seriously. This could be the campiest camp that ever camped, in that case. Not expecting huge things from it, but it gives The Event a break... and when the Event comes back, it'll be to finish out its run and not return for a second season (last night it was below Chuck's A18-49 rating... NBC ought to be able to do better).

Parenthood at 10pm on Mondays is a headscratcher. It's been doing solid if unspectacular business on Tuesdays at 10pm. And there isn't going to be enough of a break between Tuesday episodes in January and Monday episodes in March to really consider it a big relaunch. I don't see The Event as having the same audience profile as Parenthood (while I did see PH having a similar audience as The Biggest Loser). Parenthood, though, has a solid audience at this point and will certainly build on Chase's spectacularly awful ratings... but will still place third to Castle and Hawaii Five-0 (whereas in the coming weeks, it may edge out The Good Wife for 2nd on Tuesdays at 10pm... it's been within a tenth).

I've nothing to say about Harry's Law because it's been so heavily rewritten from the pilot I read, which I had no intention of ever laying eyes on. I can't even lay a guess as how spectacularly this ought to flop.

The Biggest Loser stays, and stays at a plumped up 2 hours. I haven't watched this season, and apparently a big chunk of America's who used to watch the show opted out this year. Perhaps it was casting? Format changes? Will the audience return or have people given up on the show (America's Next Top Model suffered a similar bleed out beginning around Cycle 9 or 10).

Regardless, L&O: SVU used to do decently (more viewers but less demo) on Tuesdays at 10pm out of (a much stronger) BL. We'll see about LOLA. If it continues to pull its current Wednesday numbers that'd be about what Parenthood was doing.

Wednesday night is a night of big changes, isn't it? Minute To Win It returns to Wednesdays at 8pm, where it was pulling mid-to-high 1s last season. Better than Undercovers is doing. But it's a bandage.

Chase at 9pm on Wednesdays... it's there for no reason other than NBC picked up a full season for some reason. I don't get it. It won't be doing better at 9pm because of higher HUTs. It won't have a bigger lead-in (though perhaps a more casual TV viewer lead-in that watches live instead of on DVR). And it'll face a strong Criminal Minds, which is wiping the floor with signature drama L&O: SVU. And Modern Family (I say CM first because I see more audience similarities between Chase and SM). And Idol (weakened as it may be). Chase is being thrown to the wolves here.

And that's okay. Because SVU at 10pm can stand on its own. Unless Off the Map does extremely well (I expect it to perform admirably, certainly better than The Whole Truth, but not spectacularly... leveling off in the high 2s) and CBS keeps The Defenders at 10pm (I'm seeing a Friday 8pm timeslot for Jim and Jerry and the CM spin-off here, though, when CBS announces its changes), SVU should win the timeslot. And the affiliates breathed a sigh of relief.

Thursdays. Oy. What have we here. NBC has a problem, at least from my DVR's POV, on Thursdays. Love Community. No intention of watching Perfect Couples (the pilot I saw was awful). Have stopped watching The Office, but can't wait for more Parks & Recreation (though I must say, from a scheduler standpoint, WHAT TOOK NBC SO LONG to put P&R after The Office? Expect series high numbers and better retention from The Office than Outsourced has). Back in love with 30 Rock this season (after a subpar season 4), but couldn't be bothered with Outsourced. What does all of this mean, at least for my habits? Hulu! Sorry, I'd rather record a full hour of TV that I'm gonna watch than a half-hour and try to watch an hour-long show online the next day. 30 Rock will get recorded, though, since I don't have 10pm conflicts.

What do I think of a six-comedy block on Thursday? I like the idea. And, really, 30 Rock/Outsourced has to do better than The Apprentice... right? Against stiffer competition, 30 Rock is doing mid-2s at 8:30pm. It could actually improve on that at 10pm, with a stronger lead-in (again, I expect an Office-fueled Parks & Recreation to pull better numbers than Community is right now). If it gets to be "edgier" now that it's at 10pm... I'm game. I don't think audiences care about comedy being at 10pm (South Park, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia). It's a remnant of a pre-DVR age that the networks don't program comedy at 10pm. The thing NBC has to be careful with, though, is the 10:30pm show. It has to lead into local affiliates' 11pm news. It's a risk that people will just... leave at 10:30pm. But, again, compared to the current The Apprentice numbers, Outsourced will be an improvement and, for the short-term, that's all that matters. The six-comedy is an experiment and we'll see how it goes. NBC will be able to make an informed decision for next fall on whether to keep it or not. This is also why Community is staying at 8pm against The Big Bang Theory. Sure, it's getting beaten. But NBC could do a lot worse (and Community has critical if not awards press... something NBC does care about with its comedies).

I have absolutely nothing to say about NBC Fridays or Sundays. Nothing.

So, overall? A stop-gap (NBC hopes). Nothing more. Nothing less.


DuMont said...

I am rather encouraged by the NBC mid-season gambits. I will watch 'The Cape', which is nicely paired up with 'Chuck'. And, being a sitcom lover, I like the Thursday comedy six-pack. If it works, I hope NBC finds another night (Tuesdays) to grow into a comedy night.

I still haven't got around to watching 'Chase', but it's on my list...I really liked that promo from a few weeks ago where the heroine is running through the forest to rescue a damsel in distress who is about to jump out the window to elude her pursuers...that was an absolutely Kubrickian level of editing for a mere 30-second spot.

I'm a little disappointed that 'Love Bites' didn't make the cut. I really miss the anthology genre, and to have it being in the romantic comedy vein, well it's like 'Love, American Style' bolted on to 'Cupid'. Hopefully, it makes the spring third season sked in time for some viewer testing before upfronts.

The Paul Reiser project seems to be in limbo (I haven't heard a web-peep on it since it got picked up), and 'Friends with Benefits' seems to have slipped beneath the waves too. Hopefully, they'll both come in off the bench in the spring when 'Community' and 'Outsourced' run dry of fresh episodes.

Anonymous said...

Hey Dumont!

Miss you on the PIF!

Hope you see the ION data I've been posting!


iggy said...

I don't expect Parks to do better than Outsourced.