Upfront Analysis: Somehow, NBC isn’t dead all of a sudden

Remember when NBC was a gong show? That was like, a year ago. The network was in last place, trying to fix itself, with tons of insiders wondering if it even could be fixed.

This year, NBC will beat the other three major networks among Adults 18-49, the demographic most valued by advertisers. This is due to the Olympics (though it’s been said NBC would win without them) and to The Voice and its lead-out programming, like The Blacklist and About a Boy. Oh, also football, lots and lots of football.

The network — now stable on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday and somewhat Wednesday and Friday — now goes about fixing what’s left of the trouble spots. Early hours on Wednesday, all of Thursday, what to do on Sunday after football season. We know two of those solutions now, so let’s take a look at the network’s slate and see what their chances of prospering are.


Night-by-night analysis


8 p.m. ET – The Voice
10 p.m. ET – The Blacklist (through Nov. 10)/State of Affairs (Nov. 17)

The Voice gets another judge shakeup in the fall, with Gwen Stefani plugging in for Christina Aguilera while she’s on maternity leave. The Monday showings of the reality hit have remained largely stable. I’m sure NBC stays up every night wondering when it will finally implode.

More on The Blacklist in a minute, but State of Affairs is a much-talked about Katherine Heigl drama that pretty much looks like Scandal Homeland – edge. Surely, it could find success on what’s left of Heigl’s star power, but just how much of that is there? Heigl’s box office mojo waned pretty quickly, and she’s often portrayed as unlikable by the entertainment press, whether justified or not.

In short, the series will be sampled because there a lot of people who fall asleep toward the end of The Voice. The show won’t get much time behind the spinning chairs, however, as the show usually ends its fall season before most of the rest of television. Whether or not that’s enough time for people to make up their minds on sticking with the series is yet to be seen.


8 p.m. ET – The Voice
9 p.m. ET – Marry Me
9:30 p.m. ET – About a Boy
10 p.m. ET – Chicago Fire

The Voice‘s Tuesday episodes have started dipping in the ratings this season. Is it the natural drop shows start taking during the spring, or a sign that people are just tired of it? That’s certainly not a question NBC is interested in answering anytime soon, but it’ll be a storyline heading into this season, especially with another judge swap.

I hope it remains a force, if only for Happy Endings creator David Caspe’s new series, Marry Me, which has about as winning a trailer for a pilot as you can have. Starring Happy Endings‘ Casey Wilson (Caspe’s real-life fiance) and ace TV pinch hitter Ken Marino (his turn on the final season of Eastbound and Down remains one of the more under-appreciated genius performances of recent vintage) as an engaged couple who are hilarious and often mean to one another. You know, in the way that the Happy Endings gang was. I really want it to work.


About a Boy and Chicago Fire are two more beneficiaries of The Voice lead-in crop. NBC has, in a shorter amount of time, already spawned as many hits from their reality franchise as Fox and ABC ever did with American Idol. For some reason, people stick around after it.


8 p.m. ET – Mysteries of Laura
9 p.m. ET – Law & Order: SVU
10 p.m. ET – Chicago PD

No offense to Debra Messing, but Mysteries of Laura just sounds like the name of the first show cancelled from a long-forgotten television season of yesteryear. The show is sort of a younger Murder, She Wrote with Messing playing a mystery-solving mom, but with a “sexy partner” as goes the PR description. How is this less of a nostalgia grab than Sean Saves the World?

Elsewhere, Law & Order: SVU and Chicago PD will do fine, I suppose. I’ll bet on this being the year NBC and Dick Wolf finally pony up and get Chris Meloni to cameo. It’s not as if he’s busy with Surviving Jack anymore.


8 p.m. ET – The Biggest Loser
9 p.m. ET – Bad Judge/The Blacklist (Feb. 5)
9:30 p.m. ET – A to Z
10 p.m. ET – Parenthood/Allegiance (midseason)

The Biggest Loser at 8 p.m. ET is a good idea, and a good blocker on Thursday for this season, as CBS experiments with eight weeks of football. (Remember, the network’s contract for Thursday nights is only one year, for now.) Though I just made fun of Debra Messing, I’d be shocked if both Bad Judge or A to Z lasted more than six episodes. Maybe NBC replaces them with the final season of Parks and Recreation, which will be back at some point with 13-16 final episodes.

The Blacklist - Season 1

The Blacklist on Thursdays at 9 is going to work like gangbusters, and I’d bet the house on it if I had a house. It’ll get a post-Super Bowl episode four days prior and you know NBC will do a massive publicity run for it. CBS isn’t setting the world on fire with comedy, Grey’s Anatomy is pretty much just for the diehards now (though you wonder if ABC finally flips it with Scandal this season now that this move is public) and Fox… yeah, this is going to be a massive success for NBC.

Allegiance is another Scandal/Homeland-lite, with Hope Davis starring as a CIA agent who specializes in Russian affairs, just so we can rip off The Americans at the same time. It’ll probably stick around if The Blacklist clicks at 9 p.m. ET unless it’s a total disaster. But I did just kind of describe a total disaster, so…


8 p.m. ET – Dateline
9 p.m. ET – Grimm
10 p.m. ET – Constantine

This will probably all work, as the 8-10 p.m. ET hour has been solid for a while now. The only question is if Constantine will do a 13-episode run and cede the timeslot to the returning Hannibal, or if the show based on the Hellblazer Vice comics connects enough that NBC can’t keep it off the air. Either way, this is quickly becoming an interesting little block of programming.

Tomorrow: Fox, which could overhaul a ton of stuff… or do nothing!

About Steve Lepore

Steve Lepore is a writer for Bloguin and a correspondent for SiriusXM NHL Network Radio.