Last fall it appeared that NBC might finally be making inroads in its quest to return to its former frontrunner status in the Nielsen ratings. But appearances turned out to be deceiving. NBC's success was built on the slender shoulders of just two series, reality competition "The Voice" and freshman drama "Revolution," and when those shows took a break between December and March, NBC's ratings again collapsed.
NBC is poised to end the 2012-13 TV season later this month in fourth place among total viewers behind No. 1 CBS, No. 2 Fox and No. 3 ABC. (NBC will likely rank third place among adults 18-49 behind No. 1 CBS and No. 2 Fox; when it comes to the audience demographics advertisers crave, ABC is arguably in worse shape.)
With an abundance of low-rated series, the pink slips were bound to fly and they did. NBC canceled "Deception," "Go On," "Guys with Kids," "The New Normal," "Rock Center," "1600 Penn," "Smash," "Up All Night" and "Whitney," adding these series to a refuse pile that already included the 2012-13 shows "Animal Practice" and "Do No Harm." (NBC has not yet made a decision on the futures of "Hannibal" and "Celebrity Apprentice.")
NBC will replace these programs with three new dramas and three new comedies this fall, and the network ordered an additional five dramas, three comedies and three reality shows to also air during the 2013-14 TV season. Previews of these programs will be unveiled to advertisers today in New York as part of the annual "upfront" week when advertisers buy commercial time in programs up front before the start of the fall TV season.
NBC's fall schedule shifts "Revolution" to 8 p.m. Wednesday and moves "Parenthood" to 10 p.m. Thursday following three new family-themed comedies. "Chicago Fire," a freshman drama that slowly grew its audience through the 2012-13 season, will move to 10 p.m. Tuesday to benefit from "The Voice" lead-in.
With its new schedule, NBC appears to have learned some hard lessons from this past season, particularly the importance of having "The Voice" as a lead-in to 9 p.m. Tuesday comedies. Last fall "Go On" and "The New Normal" performed decently in the ratings until they lost their "Voice" lead-in. NBC won't make that mistake this year, waiting to debut two new 9-10 p.m. Tuesday comedies until "The Voice" returns at midseason.
NBC renewed comedy series "Community" but has not slotted the show for fall; it will likely return if one of the network's new comedies fails.
Here's NBC's fall schedule, with new series in bold:
8 p.m.: "The Voice."
10 p.m.: "The Black List": An ex-government agent (James Spader, "Boston Legal") who's now one of the FBI's Most Wanted fugitives, turns himself in and volunteers to help capture a terrorist but only if his only contact is with a new FBI profiler (Megan Boone, "Law & Order: Los Angeles").
8 p.m.: "The Biggest Loser."
9 p.m.: "The Voice."
10 p.m.: "Chicago Fire."
8 p.m.: "Revolution."
9 p.m.: "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit"
10 p.m.: "Ironside": Carnegie Mellon University grad Blair Underwood ("The Event") stars as an NYPD detective who's in a wheelchair in this remake of the 1967-75 drama that starred Raymond Burr.
8 p.m.: "Parks and Recreation."
8:30 p.m.: "Welcome to the Family": Cultures clash when a Latino high school valedictorian (Joseph Haro, "Glee") gets his white girlfriend (Ella Rae Peck, "Deception") pregnant. Mike O'Malley ("Glee") and Mary McCormack ("In Plain Sight") play the girl's parents.
9 p.m.: "Sean Saves the World": A divorced, gay dad (Sean Hayes, "Will & Grace") finds his life gets more complicated when his teen daughter (Sami Isler) moves in full time. Linda Lavin ("Alice") and Thomas Lennon ("Reno 911") also star.
9:30 p.m.: "The Michael J. Fox Show": Mr. Fox plays a New York news anchor who put his career on hold after a Parkinson's disease diagnosis but after five years on the sidelines considers returning to work.
10 p.m.: "Parenthood."
8 p.m.: "Dateline NBC."
9 p.m.: "Grimm."
10 p.m.: "Dracula": Jonathan Rhys Meyers ("The Tudors") stars as the title character in this re-telling written by "Carnivale" creator Daniel Knauf that's set in the late 19th century as Dracula arrives in London posing as an American entrepreneur interested in modern science.
7 p.m.: "Football Night in America."
8 p.m.: "NBC Sunday Night Football."
Midseason on NBC
NBC will use the 2014 Winter Olympics as a promotional platform to launch several midseason shows, including:
"About a Boy" (9 p.m. Tuesday): Based on the Nick Hornby novel that was turned into a Hugh Grant movie, this TV adaptation from writer Jason Katims ("Parenthood") stars David Walton ("Bent") as a man-child who befriends a woman (Minnie Driver) and her 11-year-old son when they move in next door.
"The Family Guide" (9:30 p.m. Tuesday): An oddball family's story is retold through adult narration by Jason Bateman ("Arrested Development"). J.K. Simmons ("Family Tools") plays a blind father to 11-year-old son Henry (Eli Baker).
"Crossbones" (10 p.m. Friday): Blackbeard (John Malkovich) rules a Bahamian island in 1715 in this pirate drama from writer Neil Cross ("Luther").
"American Dream Builders" (8 p.m. Sunday): Designers, builders, architects and landscapers compete in a weekly contest of extreme home renovations judged by Nate Berkus and a panel of experts.
"Believe" (9 p.m. Sunday): A wrongfully imprisoned death row inmate (Jake McLaughlin) and a 10-year-old girl who can control nature and predict the future travel together as they outrun sinister forces. Written and directed by Alfonso Cuaron ("Children of Men") and executive produced by J.J. Abrams, "Believe" also stars Delroy Lindo and Kyle MacLachlan.
"Crisis" (10 p.m. Sunday): Dermot Mulroney and Gillian Anderson ("The X-Files") star in this action-thriller about high school-age children of Washington, D.C., power brokers who are kidnapped during a field trip.
"Undateable": A slacker (Chris D'Elia, "Whitney") gets a new roommate and teaches him and his friends the dos and don'ts of dating in this comedy.
"Chicago PD": A spin-off from NBC's "Chicago Fire," this one-hour drama follows Chicago detectives. Jason Beghe and Jon Seda star.
"The Night Shift": A drama about doctors who work at a hospital in the wee hours of the night starring Eoin Macken ("Merlin"), Ken Leung ("Lost"), Brendan Fehr ("Roswell") and Freddy Rodriguez ("Six Feet Under").
"The Million Second Quiz": A live competition series where players battle through trivia questions for 12 consecutive days and nights.
"Food Fighters": Amateur cooks test their skills in this cooking competition game show hosted by Adam Richman ("Man vs. Food").
Meyers moves to 'Late Night'
On Sunday NBC announced that "Saturday Night Live" head writer and "Weekend Update" anchor Seth Meyers will take over as host of "Late Night" (12:35 a.m. weekdays) in early 2014 when current host Jimmy Fallon moves on to host "The Tonight Show."
More renewal/cancellation news
On Friday TNT canceled critically acclaimed but low-rated cop drama "Southland" after five seasons; freshman medical show "Monday Mornings" also got the ax.
CBS won't announce its fall schedule until Wednesday, but the network has already canceled "CSI: NY," "Rules of Engagement," "Vegas" and "Golden Boy."
ABC announces its schedule Tuesday and has canceled "Body of Proof," "Family Tools," "How to Live with Your Parents for the Rest of Your Life," "Red Widow," "Malibu Country" and "Happy Endings," although there is talk that USA might pick up "Happy" just as TBS picked up "Cougar Town." ABC renewed "Nashville," "Suburgatory" and "The Neighbors" and picked up the "Avengers"-inspired drama "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."
Syfy renewed its freshman drama series "Defiance" for a second season to air in 2014.
ABC's streaming service
ABC announced a plan Sunday to allow iPhone and iPad users to watch live TV from ABC affiliates in New York and Philadelphia beginning this week. A deal to bring the service to cities with Hearst-owned ABC affiliates, which includes WTAE, means Pittsburghers will be able to utilize the new Watch ABC service at an unspecified time later this year.
But there is a catch: Access to live programming via the Watch ABC app will only be available to paying subscribers of some cable and satellite providers, including Comcast. In addition, The New York Times reports that with the advent of the Watch ABC app, which also allows for on-demand viewing of programs, ABC will withhold the most recent episodes of prime time shows from the free versions of Hulu and ABC.com, limiting easy, convenient access to cable/satellite subscribers.
TV writer Rob Owen: email@example.com or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook.