It was a weird pilot season. No network embodied that statement more than NBC, where they: 1. Greenlit fewer pilots to series than ever before in recent memory; 2. Only greenlit series from their sister studio, Universal; and 3. Canceled and then un-cancelled Timeless in a matter of days. The craziness in a nutshell: the most coveted timeslot in all of television, the 8:30pm Thursday space between Will & Grace and This is Us, is going to sophomore series Great News, whose renewal was iffy as recently as two weeks ago.
Andrew: There were only three comedies picked up to series by NBC: A.P. Bio, Champions, and Will & Grace. The Will & Grace revival, the only one that will air during the traditional fall launch window, originally was given a 10 episode order, now upped to 12, and is said to be in talks for even more. If I’m NBC, I’d take as many episodes as I can get. Nostalgia is thriving these days, and Will & Grace should theoretically sell well internationally for parent studio, Universal.
That A.P. Bio and Champions are being held back in favor of Great News is mildly surprising. A.P. Bio fits their comedy mandate, and Patton Oswalt and Glenn Howerton are well-respected, though the premise of the show isn’t great for a 22 episode season. Great News didn’t exactly connect with Nielsen families — it dropped dramatically in its second week — but it’s not exactly easy to launch a show these days unless of course, you can throw Milo Ventimiglia’s backside into the trailer. NBC recently has been more likely to renew shorter first season shows — The Good Place, Great News, Superstore — so this might work out for the best for A.P. Bio.
That Champions got picked up over Sackett Sisters was a mild surprise. Both were produced by Universal, had strong producing names behind-the-scenes, and fit the broad comedy mandate. The logline for Champions is a little clearer (“it’s Two and a Half Men, but the kid is a little older/smarter/half-Indian, and the dorky brother is now an idiot”), and I’m guessing NBC wanted to be in business with Mindy Kaling after The Mindy Project made Universal a pretty significant amount of money. Plus, with Great News renewed, NBC can stay in business with Tina Fey without having to pick up Sackett Sisters.
With The Voice and Sunday Night Football, there’s not a lot of room on the fall schedule, but you have to believe NBC was trying to land another home run freshman comedy to pair with Will & Grace prior to the This is Us timeslot. It just wasn’t meant to be, though.
Ashish: While the series order for Rise was certainly anticipated, the others have left me with mixed feelings. Frankly, I’m ecstatic about Good Girls. Even though I’d have liked to see a stronger series foundation, I did really enjoy the writing and characters — this could be a lot of fun. For God & Country feels like the embodiment of NBC’s FOMO, and I’m not looking forward to this. Even less exciting for me is Reverie, which has achieved just a fraction of its potential and requires a lot of further development. The success of This is Us can’t exactly be replicated, but I expected a heavier focus on character-driven material from NBC this year.
With football ratings down last year, and The Voice losing a little luster with American Idol returning, NBC needs some scripted dramas and comedies to step up. That help likely is not going to come from a freshman series, unless you count Will & Grace as freshmen, since the only other slotted show is The Brave, fka For God & Country, fka the pilot that Ashish didn’t love.
Andrew Woodberry & Ashish Mehta | Contributors