Upfronts 2014: NBC’s plans to stay on top

Bailey Wilson, director of investment at UM Canada on the hits and misses in the US broadcaster's relatively stable fall schedule.

Starting off the upfront week, it’s a gorgeous spring day in New York with NBC conventional up first. The event, held at the Javits Center, starts with Seth Meyers doing an awesome monologue filled with many mentions of NBC being #1 among viewers in the 18-to-49 demo for the first time in 10 years and jokes about the location of the upfront (calls it the “stabbing district”). Both NBC upfronts are being held at the Javits Center this year, Monday’s conventional event, as well as a NBC cable/specialty upfront for the first time on Thursday – should be interesting! Seth thanks the crowd for showing up at 11 a.m. for something that could very well have been communicated through a mass email.

This coming season/mid-season five new dramas and seven comedies will join the NBC lineup, along with three event miniseries.

The most talked about shows were returning hits The Voice and The Blacklist. The Voice will continue to air two seasons a year with Gwen Stefani (love her) and Pharrell joining the judging panel. The judges sent us a video message that was really funny – with Blake Shelton talking about cost per points.

The Blacklist will be back on Mondays in the fall and gets the coveted post-Super Bowl spot on Feb. 1, 2015, before making the big jump to Thursday nights at 9 p.m. in the winter. I think the show’s popularity will support it whatever night it airs on. Either that or the show that replaces it on Monday, State of Affairs, will get cancelled and The Blacklist will be moved back to Mondays. If you couldn’t tell, I didn’t love State of Affairs which stars Katherine Heigl as a CIA analyst who prioritizes issues that are communicated to the president.

In a surprising (to me) move NBC renewed About a Boy for a second season, moving it to Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. in the fall. They are hoping (and so am I) that using The Voice as a lead in will help the new show Marry Me, which takes the 9 p.m. time slot previously held by About a Boy. The show is by the creator of Happy Endings and stars Casey Wilson (a.k.a. Penny) and Ken Marino as a couple just getting engaged. The trailer was really funny and I really hope it sticks around.

The other show that I think looks great – but may fit into the “Bailey gets addicted to it and it gets cancelled” bucket was A to Z – starring the mother from How I Met your Mother and Ben Feldmen (who plays the crazy guy, if you saw Sunday’s Mad Men). Katey Sagal narrates the show that tells the story of when Andrew met Zelda. Watch the trailer, it’s so good!

The only other show we saw a clip for, which looks interesting (and a lot like Homeland) was Odyssey, NBC called it the most compelling of all their new dramas and about an international conspiracy and global cover up. It stars Peter Facinelli and will air mid-season on Sunday nights.

Aside from sports, keeping the Olympics through 2032 and airing the Super Bowl this year, NBC spoke a lot about “event programming” and will have three TV events this year.  The first is Heroes Reborn, a 13-episode miniseries based on the NBC show Heroes, which aired on the channel from 2006 to 2010.  The second is Emerald City, which was described as a 10-part dark re-telling of “The Wizard of Oz” and “unlike anything NBC has done before.”  Lastly is A.D., the sequel to the very successful Mark Burnett’s The Bible.

Bob Greenblat, chairman, NBC Entertainment had three main takeaways for the upfront:

1. Stability in the fall schedule.
2. More event programming.
3. The Blacklist’s move to Thursday will “put them back in business on Thursday nights.”

The event was over by about 1 p.m. with no after-party, what a waste. They have the talent there, I don’t know why we can’t mingle for a bit! Stay tuned for more updates from me and other Canadians about all the new exciting shows.

Bailey Wilson is a director of investment at UM Canada, she will be back tomorrow morning with a recap of ABC’s new shows.