With the TV Season Well Under Way, What Went Wrong for NBC?


We're in the sixth week of the new TV season, and you know what that means: All the excitement surrounding the slew of new fall shows has been replaced by cold, hard reality. Such as: Dinosaurs are not enough to make for compelling viewing; Charlie's Angels should've remained in TV heaven; and despite your undying love for Sarah Michelle Gellar, you're probably never going to get around to watching those episodes of Ringer that are clogging your DVR. And Vulture has looked beyond these three immutable truths, taking stock of the 2011–12 season to date to figure out just what we can learn from how the networks have fared so far. All this week, Vulture will check in on how each of the Big Four networks are doing, starting today with NBC, which remains stuck in Nielsen hell. How bad are things? Read on.

What's next: Prayer — plus the return of The Voice and the promising Smash. The good news for NBC is that in this time of crisis, it appears to have a steady hand on the till. The old NBC regime likely would've blown up its entire schedule by now; by contrast, Peacock chief Bob Greenblatt seems to be the model of calm. While he's wisely cut bait when it was clear no hope existed (see Agents and Playboy), he's doubled down on shows he thinks might yet have a future. That's why Prime Suspect is airing at 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday this week. It's also why he didn't rush Fear Factor on the air to artificially pump up ratings in the meaningless November "sweeps," but is instead waiting until December, allowing plenty of time to get viewers stoked for its return (hey, lots of people watch Wipeout). Greenblatt's big hope now is that The Voice returns in February at least as strong as it exited last June, and that Smash can appeal to those who don't regularly read Playbill. Before that, NBC's only two remaining hopes this calendar year are that Grimm (bowing this Friday) is a sleeper hit and that folks still have a soft spot for Fear Factor.