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Faith, Media & Culture

NBC has announced its fall schedule. Here ‘s a night-by-night rundown. New shows are in caps. You can view clips from the new shows here.

Following each nights rundown, I rundown my thoughts and have some fun pontificating about how I personally would have scheduled the night. True, I bring my Christian faith sensibilities to the task but then we all bring our perspectives to anything we do. Also, bear in mind, I’m going by concepts and pedigrees. The actual quality of the pilots would, no doubt, alter some of my choices.

MONDAY
8:00 – The Sing-Off/The Voice (Mid-Season)
10:00 – THE PLAYBOY CLUB/SMASH (Mid-Season)

Comments: The Sing-Off seems better suited to summer than fall to me. My problem with the The Playboy Club is not with the subject matter but with its close affiliation with the actual Playboy Enterprises (View video of Hugh Hefner talking about the show here) which I think will turn it into a marketing tool for the magazine and get in the way of honest storytelling. I’d like to see it reworked to be about a fictional Playboy-like club because, let’s face it, this has hit written all over it.

JWK Alternative: 8:00 – Sanctuary, 9:00 – Being Human, 10:00 – Haven
The first thing I would do if I were (new NBC-Universal owner) Comcast would be to make the NBC broadcast network the premiere hub for all its high-profile series. As things stand now, NBC basically competes with itself against other NBC-Universal networks, most notably USA and Syfy. If it were up to me (which, clearly, it isn’t) I would brand NBC as a destination for premiere programming and utilize USA and Syfy as a home for encore (i.e. repeat) broadcasts of NBC shows throughout the week. That would raise the overall viewing levels of each individual show (making expensive fare, such as big-budget miniseries more feasible). On Mondays, I would go with three shows from the Syfy stable.  Granted, this is out-of-the-box idea that might not actually be possible this season. But, in the future, I think the concept of network melding is a good one.

TUESDAY
8:00: The Biggest Loser
10:00: Parenthood

Comments: Though I think the weight loss concept would actually work better without the competition angle and I truly dislike the subtly demeaning title, it has to be acknowledged that  The Biggest Loser is one of NBC’s few big hits and would have to remain on the schedule. From what I’ve seen, Parenthood actually isn’t bad but it’s ratings are borderline. NBC deserves credit for sticking with it. I, however, wouldn’t — primarily because all the shows I’d import from USA and Syfy wouldn’t leave room for it.

JWK Alternative: 8:00 – The Voice, 10:00 – SMASH/Mid-season: 8:00 – The Biggest Loser, 9:00 – Smash (Mid-season), 10:00 – SMASH/MANN’S WORLD (Mid-season)
The Voice was a huge success for NBC late in the season. I’d lead with it in the fall and hold The Biggest Loser for mid-season. I’d also lose the second hour of Loser. Two hours is way too much. Both The Voice and The Biggest Loser provide very compatible lead-ins for the Broadway-themed Smash which in turn would, hopefully, establish itself and provide a good mid-season lead-in to Mann’s World, a comedy-drama NBC passed on starring Don Johnson as a Beverly Hills hairdresser.

WEDNESDAY
8:00: UP ALL NIGHT
8:30: FREE AGENTS
9:00: Harry’s Law
10:00: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

Comments: When are the broadcast networks going to get the memo that that public isn’t responding to their slew of single-camera sitcoms (i.e. Up All Night and Free Agents). With only a couple of exceptions (notably NBC’s The Office and ABC’s Modern Family) they’ve been repeatedly rejected by audiences longing for comedies that encourage laugh-out-loud fun over wink-wink, aren’t we smart? attitude. As for David E. Kelley’s legal drama Harry’s Law, it’s ratings were decent but not great. I used to be a fan of Kelley who did great work as a writer on LA Law , co-created Doogie Howser M.D. (one of my favorite family sitcoms) and created and wrote Chicago Hope (that first season with Mandy Patinkin was amazing). But, lately, his seeming non-stop liberal diatribes on shows like Boston Legal (and, from what I’ve read, Harry’s Law) have grown tiresome. Barring other evidence (and better ratings), I’d be inclined to bench this one.  Law & Order: SVU still does okay in the ratings but it’s gotten a bit long in the tooth and expensive to produce. I’d let it go.

JWK Alternative: 8:00 – NECESSARY ROUGHNESS/Fairly Legal (Mid-season), 9:00 – THE CROSSING, 10:00 – Prime Suspect
Necessary Roughness, about a female therapist for a pro football team, is set to air on USA this summer. The premise sounds possibly entertaining and it’s seems strange to me not to tie it to the football season. It could be heavily promoted during NBC’s Sunday night games. At mid-season, the show could give way to the USA mediation drama Fairly Legal. The Crossing (aka Reconstruction) is a post-Civil War western. I miss westerns. At 10:00 PM, Prime Suspect (based on the British series starring Helen Mirren) has the look of a solid crime drama and a suitable replacement for Law & Order: SVU.

THURSDAY
8:00: Community
8:30: Parks & Recreation
9:00: The Office
9:30: Whitney
10:00: PRIME SUSPECT

* 30 Rock is due to return mid-season.

Comments: See my Wednesday comments about single-cam comedies. Enough already. Spin the numbers any way you want. Community is not a true hit.  As for The Office, it remains an exception that highlights the rule — but, without Steve Carell, it’s time to shutdown Dunder Mifflin.

JWK Alternative: 8:00 – Royal Pains, 9:00 – Burn Notice, 10:00 – Covert Affairs
USA has been scoring big time with these shows. Why not move them over to the broadcast network?

FRIDAY
8:00: Chuck
9:00: GRIMM
10:00: Dateline

JWK Alternative: 8:00Psyche, 9:00 – White Collar, 10:00 – In Plain Sight
More examples of shows that have scored well on USA that should get a broadcast network shot.

Comments: Friday has traditionally been a night when Syfy rolls out some of its big guns. So, what does NBC trot out on Friday? Sci-fi and fantasy shows. A classic example of competing with one’s self.

SATURDAY
8:00: NBC Encores

Comments: Remember when the networks actually programmed Saturday nights — with iconic hits ranging from All in the Family and MASH to The Love Boat and Fantasy Island to (more recently) Dr. Quinn Medicine, Medicine Woman and Walker, Texas Ranger. By throwing up their hands on the night, the networks are unnecessarily putting out the message that their business is shrinking. First of all, by not programming the night, that becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. Secondly, there’s still plenty of people at home who could be coaxed to their TV’s on Saturday nights. It’s a perfect opportunity to reach an older (or traditional family) demographic which, contrary to the apparent belief of some advertisers and network execs, actually buy stuff . What’s more, if the shows were repeated on NBC’s sister networks (USA and Syfy) there’s no reason they wouldn’t ultimately acquire more-than-adequate viewing levels.   

JWK Alternative: 8:00 – FAMILY MOVIE NIGHT IN AMERICA, 10:00 – Who Do You Think You Are?
NBC’s deal to air original family-theme movies produced and sponsored by P&G and Walmart has scored some decent ratings when airing as specials.  Why not work out a deal for a weekly series of films? The network would get original entertainment on Saturday night while P&G and Walmart would get distribution for their movies and an excellent vehicle to reach consumers. BTW, many of these films are backdoor pilots and could turn up some new hits for the network as well. At 10:00, I’d air the Lisa Kudrow-produced genealogy-themed reality series Who Do You Think You Are? It scored well for the network last season and is due to return — though it’s not on the fall schedule. What’s wrong with airing it on Saturday night. Smaller cable networks can afford to air less expensive reality shows on Saturdays but NBC can’t?  Come on, grow the business already.

SUNDAY
7:00: Football Night in America
8:15: NBC Sunday Night Football

SUNDAY (Mid-Season)
7:00: Dateline
8:00:  Celebrity Apprentice
10:00: THE FIRM

Comments: Keeping football is a no-brainer. As for Mid-season, Dateline and Celebrity Apprentice belong on MSNBC and/or CNBC (which, while I’m pontificating, should be merged). The Firm,  based on the John Grisham novel/Tom Cruise movie, is probably worth a pickup but I think I’d hold it for another time slot.

JWK Mid-season Alternative: 7:00 – Merlin, 8:00 – Chuck, 9:00 – Warehouse 13, 10:00 – Eureka
Market the night as Syfy Sunday and fill it with hits from that cable network plus NBC’s own Chuck.

There you go. I obviously have too much time on my hands.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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