Richard Bach once said, “If you peacock something, set it free; if it comes back it’s yours. If it doesn’t, it never was.” And so goes NBC’s 2015-2016 programming schedule, which the network introduced at its Monday upfront presentation, a slate consistent with its recent strategy of aggressively developing hour-long dramas at the expense of its ratings-challenged comedies. NBC previously euthanized the four comedies it introduced last season—A To Z, Bad Judge, and Marry Me in the fall; One Big Happy in the spring—as well as second-year sitcom About A Boy. The network committed to five of its comedy pilots for the upcoming season, but of the new sitcom crop, only one, the multi-camera People Are Talking, landed on the fall schedule, leaving the others in mid-season limbo.
The result is a schedule heavy on new dramas (with four scheduled for fall) and anchored by Sunday Night Football, The Voice, and The Blacklist, NBC’s only breakout scripted show in years. NBC currently holds first place in year-to-date ratings among the vital 18-to-49 demographic, but the ranking is somewhat misleading given that, if not for this year’s Super Bowl broadcast, NBC would be trailing CBS. Last year’s drama debuts didn’t perform much better for NBC than its comedies did, with only The Mysteries Of Laura eking out a second season, while Constantine, State Of Affairs, The Slap, and Allegiance got the ax. Still, NBC is confident its fortune lies in dramas, one of which is the much-discussed return of Heroes.
Here’s a night-by-night breakdown of NBC’s fall line-up, with previews for the new series (in bold):
8 p.m.: The Voice (Performance)
10 p.m.: Blindspot
Considering the success NBC had with The Blacklist, it’s no surprise the network would gravitate to a show with a similar premise, and Blindspot’s premise is mighty similar. Another intriguing, potentially dangerous stranger presents themselves to the FBI holding clues about imminent crimes, but this time its Jane Doe (Jaimie Alexander), who emerges from a duffel bag in the middle of Times Square nude and tattooed with no memory of who she is and how she got there. The mystery woman teams with FBI agent Kurt Weller (Sullivan Stapleton), whose name is inexplicably inked on her back, to uncover the truth about her identity and prevent such psychologically devastating attacks as a plot to blow up the Statue of Liberty.
The show also bears a resemblance to The After, the tattoo-conspiracy drama pilot from X-Files creator Chris Carter that was picked up for Amazon Prime, then quietly put down. Like that show, Blindspot has potential, so long as it isn’t derailed by an elaborate mythology or poorly-executed genre elements. The writing talent bodes well: Blindspot comes from The L.A. Complex writer Martin Gero, who developed the series with TV super-producer Greg Berlanti.
8 p.m.: The Voice (Results)
9 p.m.: Heartbreaker
10 p.m.: Best Time Ever With Neil Patrick Harris/Chicago Fire (returns in November)
The Slap was one of NBC’s high-profile disasters, but the Peacock isn’t holding that against one of its stars, Melissa George, who nabbed the female lead in the sexy medical drama Heartbreaker. George stars as Dr. Alex Panttiere, a gifted heart surgeon who can perform a cardiac transplant without chipping a nail, but can’t manage the same precision in her social life. Jill Gordon, a former producer for Doogie Howser M.D. and The Wonder Years, adapted the show from Heart Matters, Kathy Magliato’s memoir. NBC has struggled to launch medical dramas since the glory days of ER, but it’s getting back in the game perhaps due to the success of its midseason drama, The Night Shift, which NBC renewed for a third season.
Logistics and the principle of fairness preclude Neil Patrick Harris from hosting every live awards show, but fans of his honey-voiced variety-show stylings can get their fix from Best Time Ever, a concept based on the British variety show Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway. Harris will be joined by celebrity guests for each of the show’s 10 live episodes, and he’ll get to show off his comedy chops in sketches and improv games with the audience. Networks have yet to figure out how to successfully revive the primetime variety show after years of trying, but if anyone can make it fly, it’s the Artist Formerly Known As Swarley.
8 p.m.: The Mysteries Of Laura
9 p.m.: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
10 p.m.: Chicago P.D.
8 p.m.: Heroes: Reborn
9 p.m.: The Blacklist
10 p.m.: The Player
The equally anticipated and dreaded return of Heroes still doesn’t have anything to show for itself beyond the bite-size teaser-trailer NBC released in February. But Jack Coleman is back as HRG, and maybe Tim Kring can take what he learned from the show’s first run and apply those lessons to the reboot, a 13-part limited series.
NBC is clearly confident about The Player (formerly titled Endgame), hence its decision to give the freshman drama the coveted post-Blacklist time slot. Wesley Snipes stars as Mr. Johnson, the facilitator of an unusual Las Vegas game of chance in which eccentric plutocrats place wagers on whether a military-trained security expert (Philip Winchester) can stop crimes before they happen. The Player looks awfully similar to CBS’ Person Of Interest, but with the precognitive technology moved to Vegas and the less-than-eager operative with cash riding on him.
8 p.m.: Undateable
8:30 p.m.: People Are Talking
9 p.m.: Grimm
10 p.m.: Dateline NBC
NBC’s sole hour of fall comedy comes on Friday nights, with a multi-camera block starting with Undateable (the only NBC comedy granted another season) and concluding with People Are Talking. Mark-Paul Gosselaar leads the cast as Mitch, one-half of the show’s two couples who live next door and get in all sorts of wacky adventures. People also stars Tone Bell, who like Undateable’s Chris D’Elia started out on NBC’s Whitney, and starred alongside Kate Walsh in the canceled Bad Judge.
8 p.m.: Repeats
10 p.m.: SNL Vintage
8 p.m.: NBC Sunday Night Football