Upfronts 2011, Part 1 – NBC

by Colin McGuire. 0 Comments

Much like you can’t have a blog aimed at television without tackling Netflix, you can’t take on the task of writing about TV without having a look at what’s known in TV land as upfronts. What are upfronts, you ask? Well, it’s when the big shots at all the networks hold meetings typically attended by press and advertisers in May — way before the fall television schedule begins — to try and pitch to writers and buyers alike all the awesomely awesome ideas they have for fall programming.

This matters because it’s the first glimpse at what new shows may or may not help or hurt a network’s standing in the ever-so-important ratings war. It also matters because, well, it’s the time of year when we find out which shows have been cancelled (I still shed a tear for you every day, “The New Adventures Of Old Christine”). Wednesday marked the final day of the four major networks’ announcements for what’s going to go, what’s going to stay and what it is you are supposed to love come September as CBS, the leader in the ratings clubhouse, took the stage to let all of us way-too-eager television watchers know how it plans to maintain top status.

So, what does this all mean for you, the television-loving reader of this particular blog? Well, for the next four posts, I’ll be taking a look at three talking points that I felt came from each of the big four’s upfronts. Today, we’ll begin with the least-watched network, NBC, the first of the four to hold its meetings. The fall schedule for each network will be posted along with each update, and while none of this stuff will take effect until fall, it’s always fun to keep track of which projects succeed (like “Glee” a couple years ago, for instance), and which fail (there can’t be a single one of you who remember what NBC’s “Outlaw” was about, right?).

Why do this? Because I love you. That’s why. Enjoy.


1. Two words: Bob. Greenblatt. He’s the guy who was named NBC’s Entertainment Chariman three months ago, and he’s the guy who is widely regarded as “the guy who brought Showtime back from the eternal flames of television irrelevancy” by green-lighting such smashes as “Dexter,” Weeds” and “Nurse Jackie.” This is his first trip to the plate for a network that is in desperate need of a jumpstart. Can he be the one to finally turn it around? “This is a marathon to rebuild this network,” he told The Associated Press Sunday, proving he at least has the right attitude about what could be a long, grueling journey back to the top. Or, well, at least back to the outer edges of the top. His main goal should be getting back the trust of all television viewers. NBC used to be a giant. The mishaps of the last decade — bad decisions, bad leadership and bad programming — are going to take a lot of time to make right. It’s never a good sign when you continue to hold on to a franchise that has long seen its best days subside (“The Office”), or your signature talent/reality show features Blake Shelton as a judge (“The Voice”). “We have no illusions,” Greenblatt told the fabulous Lisa de Moraes of Washington Post fame earlier this week. He better not be lying. Because if this ship doesn’t turn itself around soon, he may be out of a job quicker than he can say “Fresh Prince reunion.”

2. “30 Rock.” It’s the smartest, funniest show on television today. It has the awards to back that claim up, and it also has the star power to make sure it continues to be taken seriously. The problem? No one watches it. Despite all the awards the show has taken home, no network wants to continue to air a series that can’t sell ads, no matter how brilliant it is (here’s looking at you, “Arrested Development”). I bring this up why? Well, that’s because the network decided to not bring it back until midseason as the peacock will opt for a block of “Community,” “Parks and Recreation,” “The Office,” the brand new “Whitney” (starring Whitney Cummings) and “Prime Suspect,” a move that sees NBC return to drama for the 10:00 slot on Thursday nights (as we pause for a quick moment of silence for “ER”). Greenblatt explained that the move is mostly because of Tina Fey’s pregnancy, a reason hard to really debate. Still, though, if the heads at NBC can finally strike gold with some other programming during the interim, it’s hard to believe the network wouldn’t turn its back on its greatest show (a move that has been written about and speculated over for months now). Could this be the last we see of Liz Lemmon? My God, I hope not.

3. “Smash.” This seems to be the show with the biggest buzz within NBC land. It’s Steven Spielberg’s baby. It’s about a musical. And it looks at the life of Marilyn Monroe. It’s like “Glee” meets “Mad Men” meets “Jurassic Park.” The other sign it has the attention of most is that it replaces “The Playboy Club,” another highly-touted show NBC is promising we all will instantly fall in love with, midseason. Aside from those two names, though, there really isn’t too much more to report from what — if anything — could help NBC’s cause. “Whitney” has a shot, though only because Cummings can be funny. Filthy funny, though. How’s that going to play up next to the pedestrian, less-than-G-rated comedy of “The Office?” One can’t imagine well. “Up All Night” has a shot because it has Lorne Michaels behind it and Will Arnett starring in it. And “The Event” … Wait. “The Event” was cancelled. I guess we’ll never know what all the fuss was about, now will we?


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