Monday, May 21, 2012

NBC : The Housecleaning That Wasn't

The Not Broadcasting Competently network, having endured eight years at or near (but mostly at) the bottom of the commercial television food chain in America, was supposedly gearing up for a complete revamping of its schedule, with most of its old shows history and a schedule for 2012-13 that would bear little resemblance to the lineup of the season just completed (give or take a few earlier cancellations).  Well, I just saw the NBC lineup for this coming fall, and it didn't quite turn out like that.  Thank goodness; that means "Parenthood" is returning, despite a season finale that looked like a series finale.  (Tuesday at 10 PM Eastern, same as before.)
It also means that shows rumored for cancellation notices are still on the air.  NBC had reportedly canceled "30 Rock," "Community," "Parks and Recreation," and either "Whitney," "Up All Night," or both.  But all of these shows will be back, as will "The Office," which has survived the loss of Steve Carell to the movies.
(Not everything survived, of course.  The drama about a man with two parallel lives, "Awake," was put to sleep, and the Kathy Bates vehicle "Harry's Law" has been repealed.)
Among the new shows for the fall 2012 season are "Chicago Fire," a drama about a Chicago fire station (not about the MLS team - sorry, soccer fans)  and "Go On," a sitcom starring Matthew Perry as a cocky sportscaster.  After "Mr. Sunshine" failed at ABC, I expect that Perry will have to do some real acting to appear cocky.
NBC doesn't seem so cocky, either.  Obviously sticking with what has worked for them in recent years, the network seems to be comfortable in trying to keep on keeping on, keeping newer shows and giving them time to find larger audiences and older shows with loyal followings while adding brand new shows to fill the gaps.  (Except for Saturdays; apparently convinced that no one watches TV on Saturday nights and that everyone goes out that night instead, NBC is  reserving prime time on Saturday for reruns.)  It seems to make sense, at least on the surface; building up solid programming over time helped NBC get out of its last ratings rut.  But that was thirty years ago, when there was one fewer network and several fewer cable channels - not to mention better programming.     Scratch below the surface here, and there are problems.  There are two Wednesday night sitcoms going up against "The Middle" and "Suburgatory," which is almost asking for a ratings disaster, and Brian Williams' news magazine keeps wandering around the schedule looking for a time slot to find an audience without much of a reason to exist.  Maybe I'm too skeptical.  Maybe the 2012-13 season will be the year NBC finally emerges from the rubble of nearly a decade of bad decisions.
Maybe it's not a coincidence, but  I couldn't help but notice that the start of NBC's free fall coincided with the cancellation of "Ed" in 2004.  Note to the 30 Rock bosses: You guys really screwed up with that one, particularly by giving up on a show with Julie Bowen in the cast.
Wait! Why am I still going on about NBC's problems? "Parenthood" will be back, and, as always, that's all you need to know.    
The full NBC fall 2012 schedule is here.

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