Up Front at the Upfronts: NBC

Parks

This week in New York City, the four broadcast networks are unveiling their fall schedules, complete with renewals, cancellations and pickups. Though a volley of announcements earlier this week robbed the announcements of much of their suspense, and the very idea of a fixed schedule is irrelevant to a large percentage of the TV viewing public, these announcements remain interesting as the last vestiges of an outmoded business model.

NBC is up first. Notable points:

Parenthood

Farewell to the Greats: Two of the network’s most critically acclaimed shows will take their final bows in the 2014-2015 season. Parks and Recreation Michael Schur all but declared this upcoming season the show’s last in recent interviews about the time-jumping sixth season finale, but today’s announcement seals the deal. Meanwhile, the sprawling cast of Parenthood necessitated pay cuts, and the show’s cycle of melodrama occasionally grew repetitive this season. I’ll be sad to say goodbye to both of these shows, but neither one is bowing out prematurely.

Blacklist

NBC Doesn’t Suck Anymore: Despite the pervasive “NBC Sucks” meme and the abject failure of The Michael J. Fox Show, the Peacock is actually on relatively stable ground right now. The Voice is television’s most popular singing show, The Blacklist managed to maintain its large post-Voice audience even when The Voice wasn’t propping it up, and the one-two punch of Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D. is quickly becoming NBC’s version of the NCIS or CSI franchises.

That said, this schedule reflects an attempt to plug the remaining holes in the NBC brand. The abandonment of a two-hour comedy block on Thursday nights is the most striking, given the network’s history with that lineup. Instead, The Biggest Loser will lead into new comedies Bad Judge (starring Kate Walsh as…a bad judge) and A to Z (which will attempt to capitalize on HIMYM fans’ appreciation of Cristina Milioti) on Thursday nights. A far cry from the glory days of The Office, 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation and Community. Speaking of which…

Community

Cancelled But Not Forgotten: After an unlikely, tumultuous and frequently astounding five-year run, Community will not appear on NBC anymore. I’d be surprised if another network (Hulu or Comedy Central, perhaps?) doesn’t at least try to pick it up, though. After all, the show has yet to fulfill its promise of “six seasons and a movie.”

Even if this never happens, though, I’m satisfied with how Community turned out. The first three seasons include some of the best episodes of TV I’ve ever seen, with more ambition and experimentation than five lesser shows combined. The fourth season is largely terrible, thanks to the forced absence of creator and showrunner Dan Harmon, but the most recent season was an encouraging rebound, despite no episodes that quite reached the heights of “Remedial Chaos Theory” or “Cooperative Calligraphy.” I’m happy this show got so much time to do its unique thing, and I’ll be thrilled to revisit it in the years to come. Onward…

State of Affairs - Season Pilot

New Blood: I can’t say I’m particularly excited by the prospect of Katherine Heigl in a generically titled CIA thriller (State of Affairs) or Smash star Debra Messing in a ridiculously titled crime drama (The Mysteries of Laura). The same goes for Bad Judge (which wins the award for Bluntest Title on Television) and A to Z, neither of which sounds revolutionary or interesting upon first glance. In fact, the only truly promising fall show on NBC is Marry Me, which marks the triumphant return of Happy Endings star Casey Wilson to the small screen.

The shows on the bench for spring seem more promising, particularly the Ellie Kemper vehicle Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (executive-produced by Tina Fey) and the Craig Robinson vehicle Mr. Robinson. It’s a fool’s errand to prognosticate about shows based on the premise, though. I’ll reserve full judgment until I actually see the shows.

For more analysis of the state of NBC, check out takes from Daniel Fienberg and Joe Adalian.

Next up: Fox.

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