NBC manages to destroy its momentum
You say you want a “Revolution?”
Come back in March.
That’s when NBC plans to bring back its hit freshman series once it completes its fall run at the end of this month. Never mind that two other promising (though somewhat lower-rated) serial series on the same network died a quick death after being rested during the winter season. Rest in peace, “Fast Forward” and “The Event.” You soon may have company in the network graveyard.
Sadly, for all the praise NBC received this fall for its strategic scheduling, the “Revolution” decision looms as one of several missteps made in the past several days.
The prolonged fiasco began earlier this fall, when NBC executives decided not to proceed with “1313 Mockingbird Lane,” a reboot of “The Munsters.” To recoup some costs of the pilot, the network aired the sitcom as part of a pre-Halloween package. To their shock, it scored impressive ratings, and now viewers are asking for more. Unfortunately, there’s little chance NBC can reassemble the cast.
Last week, the network heavily advertised Halloween-themed episodes of “Go On” and “The New Normal,” then yanked them with little warning Tuesday in favor of a news program on the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
That move would have been perfectly acceptable during the last century. There’s no denying Hurricane Sandy was an important news story. But viewers now have many cable news services – including those operated by NBC – to watch for such information. In today’s more competitive TV world, it’s better to advise viewers of the alternative choice on a sister station than to tick off viewers by pre-empting regular programming.
It gets worse.
Those two sitcoms, which normally air from 9 to 10 p.m., had been plugged into the 10 to 11 p.m. slot to fill in for “Parenthood,” which just a week earlier topped the CBS and ABC competition in the critical 18- to 49-year-old group. Was anyone paying attention?
The following day, again with little notice, NBC shoved a new episode of “30 Rock” into the 8 p.m. time slot to replace the canceled “Animal Practice.” That’s not necessarily a bad idea, but the rationale for doing so had many scratching their heads. The plot of “30 Rock” was the election, and when NBC decided to postpone its Thursday lineup, network brass said they still wanted to air “30 Rock” before the election so it would be “relevant.” And those postponed Halloween episodes will still be relevant around Thanksgiving?
That brings us to last Thursday, when NBC wiped off its two-hour comedy block to air a rerun of Monday’s “The Voice.” On Friday, it repeated Monday’s “Revolution” at 8 p.m. Both shows were reportedly given quick encores as a courtesy to those affected by Sandy earlier in the week. Again, that’s so 20th century. It’s fairly easy to locate “instant” reruns of current shows online or on cable services, so why blow up the schedule for the vast majority of viewers to placate a few?
The result is that in one short week, NBC destroyed its momentum in much the same way Sandy pummeled the Jersey shore.
After all of those inept moves, the temporary jettisoning of its most popular drama may well have been the final insult to both its faithful viewers and the many that were giving the Peacock Network another chance. Somewhere, CBS is smiling. Again.
Along with the idiotic yanking of “Revolution,” NBC made a few other announcements last week. “Whitney” will permanently replace “Animal Practice,” beginning next Wednesday. Two changes are in store on Thursdays, when “1600 Penn” fills in for “Up All Night,” and “Community” returns to the lineup Feb. 7. “Parks and Recreation” will be shifting to 8:30 p.m. early next year as well. Evidently, the struggling “Up All Night” is being retooled as a three-camera sitcom, although one senses it’s a little late in the game to save that series.
On the drama front, “Deception” takes over for “Revolution” beginning Jan. 7, and “Smash” inherits the “Parenthood” slot Feb. 5.
The season so far
If you’re keeping track, two freshmen series (“Made in Jersey” and “Animal Practice”) and one veteran drama (“Private Practice”) have been canceled, while more than a dozen shows have been given full-season orders, including the returning “Scandal” and the critically bashed “The Neighbors.” The success of “The Neighbors” shouldn’t be a surprise. The fall’s biggest new hits – “The Neighbors,” “Revolution” and “The New Normal” – all veer away from the typical network formula.
Series reportedly in danger of cancellation include “666 Park Avenue,” “Last Resort,” “Partners,” “Vegas,” “Mob Doctor,” “Ben & Kate,” “Emily Owens MD” and “Guys with Kids.” Of those, expect “Vegas” and “Ben & Kate” to be given every opportunity to latch on to viewers.
‘Walking Dead’ rises
The cable series “The Walking Dead” scored network-like ratings – 10 million viewers – last month, while another drama, “Sons of Anarchy,” managed to top some network shows in key demographics last week, even with a moderate 4.3 million fans.
But perhaps the most interesting cable news was that FX’s “Anger Management,” after airing just 10 episodes, has been guaranteed a 100-episode run. The series, which stars Charlie Sheen, also has been sold into syndication. That’s certainly the quickest turnaround for any sitcom in TV history.
Forget Big Bird
For all of the hullabaloo over funding Big Bird during this election season, it would have been interesting for someone to state the obvious: “Sesame Street,” with all of its merchandising, hardly needs government funding. Nor does public television, which has relegated itself to a series of oldies concerts.
But – and it’s a major “but” – public television has become perhaps the only broadcast outlet for an honest reading of the news. CNN and Fox distort the news at every turn, and the networks are moving in that direction, if only to stay competitive.
Of course, cable does allow us to follow some government proceedings gavel-to-gavel. For my money, though, it’s worth funding PBS just to have that particular monotony condensed to 30 minutes.