Why not: Three reasons why NBC’s midseason schedule isn’t so bad

NBC released its midseason schedule today while I was in class, which in the age of Twitter is a major disappointment. Missing a big event like this means not getting able to revel in the jokes, jabs and gags on Twitter, and when the event involves NBC, the material is so much better to work with.*

*I can neither confirm nor deny I’m using the word “event” as much as possible as to poke fun at The Event.

If you haven’t seen it, check out NBC’s new midseason schedule at the bottom of this post. Go ahead, I’ll give you a second to try to figure out what the hell is going on there. It’s nearly incomprehensible in so many ways. I believe a few people like Dan Fienberg tweeted this today, but not one of NBC’s new series will be in their original timeslots come January — except The Event, which will return in February with some sort of relaunch that absolutely no one will care about. That’s a whole lot of movement for series that don’t have much of an audience in the first place.

However, despite all the jokes and laughs we’ve had at NBC expense over the past five years and most importantly, today, I’m going to try to look at the brightside with this new schedule. There’s not a lot to praise, but I think that I’ve found three things we can point to as at least somewhat positive. Being overly critical of NBC seems too easy at this point, so let’s try something different, shall we?

1. Parks and Recreation is coming back! And it’s behind The Office!

NBC’s Thursday night comedy block (more on this later) is really the only beacon of hope of the Peacock, and so most critics and journalists have wondered why the network would damage its best night by keeping its best comedy off the air. We’ve all read the stories about the production team pushing forward at the end of season two to hammer out a half dozen more episodes for season three so the series could work around Amy Poehler’s pregnancy, to which NBC responded, “No thanks, we’ll hold you until midseason.”

But perhaps more egregiously, the network has never aired Parks and Rec in the 9:30 timeslot, the timeslot it was developed to be in so it could serve as a companion for The Office. With the moderate success (in NBC’s standards) of Outsourced in that slot this fall, many of us wondered what the hell would happen Parks and Rec, but thankfully, NBC has decided to push forward with its three-hour comedy block which will put Parks and Rec at 9:30 where it belongs.

Apart from the swell of critical praise for the series, it makes business sense for NBC to put Parks and Rec after The Office. Not only are they aesthetically similar and thus make a nice block of programming, but in reality, this is the network’s last chance to turn Parks and Recreation into anything resembling at hit. It needs The Office as a lead-in if it wants to build any sort of audience and this is realistically the last year that The Office will be a guaranteed lead-in. If this works, NBC might be able to swap the two series when the older one struggles without Steve Carell (which it will).

Thus, anytime Parks and Recreation is on my television screen, I’m a happy man. And to have it on the schedule where it belongs is just icing on the fictional cake.

2. Parenthood and the Law & Orders could improve

This is probably a stretch, but a few of these moves aren’t awful. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit always, always does much better in the 10 p.m. slot, so moving it back there seems like an obvious choice. Of course, moving it to 9 p.m. for the second time was absolutely ridiculous, but let’s not dwell on the past, okay?

Moreover, I imagine that NBC wants to stay in the Dick Wolf business so putting the newest iteration of the L&O franchise, Los Angeles, on after the network’s most consistent performer The Biggest Loser makes a lot of sense. The two series don’t really work together in any sort of flow sense, but I’d much rather see the L&O franchises spread out across the schedule instead of right next to each other on a week Wednesday night. I’ll be interested to see if either of the L&O series’ ratings increase now that they’re separated and with better lead-ins than they had before (though there isn’t much difference between Chase and Undercovers).

Parenthood, meanwhile, is probably screwed either way. NBC’s best drama is finally away from The Good Wife and Sons of Anarchy if we’re considering cable, but now it has to face the surprising success that is Castle and the season’s biggest new drama, Hawaii Five-0. I would like to say that following Chuck and The Event will help Parenthood, but even with the relaunch of the latter, I don’t think that’s the case. Therefore, I don’t really see Parenthood improving in the ratings on a more competitive night, but if it keeps the same ratings, it could be alright. And in general, I feel as if this move is NBC trying to do something with it because they know it’s a great series, and that I can respect (I guess).

3. Finally, WHY THE HELL NOT?

Listen, this schedule is a freaking joke. It’s a mess. If television critics and journalists can barely comprehend it in written form, how in the hell NBC thinks audiences will figure it out is beyond me. Airing four episodes of Parenthood on Tuesday with the general 2011 relaunch and then moving it to Monday is ludicrous. A six-series, three-hour comedy bloc with 30 Rock at 10 p.m. and Outsourced at 10:30 p.m.? Probably insane. Perhaps NBC is hoping viewers will be so confused as to where their favorite series fall on the schedule that they’ll turn it on NBC every night and just keep it there! What a genius decision!

But if you’re NBC, the punchline to every critic, journalist, scholar and comedian’s joke, what choice do you have at this point?* Again, this might be heresy or something, but although the Jay Leno at 10 p.m. experiment was an awful disaster and a generally stupid idea, the logic behind that idea — no one is doing very well with drama series at 10 p.m. on broadcast television — was on the right track. 10 p.m. is apparently becoming more and more difficult to build or even sustain an audience — unless your Castle I guess — so trying two more comedies in a slot that everyone is used to drama seems like a moderately intelligent decision.

*You know, aside from creating and producing good programming.

In general, NBC is a mess. People expect it to be a mess. WHY NOT GIVE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT. As someone who likes to use NBC as an obvious example of what’s wrong with 21st century broadcast television, I love days like today, for the good and the bad. Most of these decisions will end up being awful and most of these series will be gone by next season, but in a weird way, I respect NBC for risks it takes.*

*And by “in a weird way,” I mean it makes me laugh.

8-9 p.m. – “Chuck”
9-10 p.m. – “THE CAPE” will premiere with a two-hour episode on Sunday, January 9 (9-11 p.m.). New episodes start in its regular time period on January 17 (9-10 p.m.)
10-11 p.m. – “HARRY’S LAW” (beginning January 17)
9-10 p.m. – “The Event” (returns on February 28, 9-11 p.m.; resumes in its regular time slot March 7)
10-11 p.m. — “Parenthood” (debuts in this slot March 7 with all originals)

8-10 p.m. — “The Biggest Loser: Couples” (beginning January 4)
10-11 p.m. – “Parenthood” (beginning January 4 for four episodes)
10-11 p.m. — “Law & Order: Los Angeles” (beginning February 8 )

8-9 p.m. — “Minute to Win It” (beginning January 5)
9-10 p.m. –”Chase” (beginning January 12)
10-11 p.m. – “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (originals beginning January 5 with two-hour episode, 9-11 p.m. ET)
9-10 p.m. – “AMERICA’S NEXT GREAT RESTAURANT” (beginning March 16)

THURSDAYS (all beginning January 20)
8-8:30 p.m. – “Community”
8:30-9 p.m. – “PERFECT COUPLES”
9-9:30 p.m. – “The Office”
9:30-10 p.m. – “Parks and Recreation”
10-10:30 p.m. – “30 Rock”
10:30-11 p.m. – “Outsourced”

8-9 p.m. — “Who Do You Think You Are?” (beginning January 21)
9-11 p.m. – “Dateline NBC” (beginning January 7)

7-8 p.m. – “Dateline NBC”
8-9 p.m. – “The Marriage Ref” (beginning March 6)
9-11 p.m. – “The Celebrity Apprentice” (beginning March 6)


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