NBC faces the task of scheduling six new comedies for next season with only two returning half-hour series: Community, which received an eleventh-hour 13-episode renewal, and Parks & Recreation. The network may just have the right man for the job. This is head of scheduling Jeff Bader‘s first turn at bat after moving to NBC last summer. As a long-time scheduling topper at ABC, he was presented with a similar challenge four years ago when the network picked up five new comedy series and returned two. Like Parks & Rec and Community, those two returning comedies, Scrubs and Better Off Ted, were quirky cult shows and not anchors that could launch new series. What Bader and ABC brass did back then was let Scrubs and Ted be, pairing them together for what became both series’ final season. Then they took four new comedies and launched a new two-hour comedy block on Wednesday. It worked – three of the four comedies are still on the air: Modern Family and The Middle on ABC and Cougar Town on TBS. (The fourth, Hank, was quickly cancelled.)
Bader may take a similar approach at NBC. Like at ABC in 2009, the two returning NBC comedies are workplace, while most of the new series are family or family-esque (Michael J. Fox, Welcome To The Family, The Family Guide, Sean Saves The World, About A Boy). Coincidentally, the last new comedy series this year, Undateable, is a multi-camera show about dating, which was also the case at ABC in 2009 with Romantically Challenged, which was scheduled behind Dancing With The Stars.
NBC will have two big launching pads next season – the fall and the beginning of March, following the network’s coverage of the Sochi Winter Olympic Games. Last year, NBC devoted the lion’s share of its marketing money to two new fall shows, drama Revolution and (just cancelled) comedy Go On, which starred Matthew Perry. The network will likely follow a similar path this year with white-hot drama Blacklist and the Michael J.Fox comedy, which marks the return to primetime of another sitcom star, Fox. (Additionally, NBC has Sean Hayes coming back with Sean Saves The World).
Given how high NBC brass are on Blacklist, it is conceivable that, like Revolution last year, it may get the best slot available on the network, Mondays at 10 PM following The Voice. NBC’s other new drama that has people raving, Crisis, may be held for midseason. The thriller is serialized and is well suited for an uninterrupted run off the Olympics. Spring, when men are less distracted post-football season, has proven a good time for serialized dramas with male appeal like 24, Lost and most recently Fox’s The Following this season. Speaking of Lost, Bader was at ABC when the show successfully switched to an uninterrupted limited run in midseason. I can see him applying that template to Revolution, which suffered from a long hiatus. Will NBC go for a J.J. Abrams block with Revolution and his new high-concept drama centered on a young heroine, Believe?
Another uber-producer Dick Wolf, will likely get a block again. His veteran Law & Order: SVU helped launch his new series Chicago Fire this season. Now it is possible for Chicago Fire to be called upon to help launch spinoff Chicago PD the way CBS did with NCIS and NCIS: LA. The bulk if not all of NBC’s new comedy series will likely launch in the fall as it has proven very difficult to introduce half-hour series in the spring. Coincidentally, the last midseason comedy to make it was actually on NBC, The Office, eight years ago.
NBC will already use the Olympics to heavily promote its switch in late-night, with The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon slated to premiere immediately after. (Ironically, NBC used the previous 2010 Winter Olympics to plug its previous late-night shift, from Conan O’Brien to Leno, who returned to The Tonight Show after the games.) But the winter games historically have not been a particularly great launch pad for primetime series. Four years ago, one show started successfully after the Vancouver Olympics, underrated dramedy Parenthood.
NBC is expected to announce its schedule Sunday at 2 PM PT. Check back with Deadline then.