NBC cancelled Bad Judge and A to Z on Halloween, ending what was a horrible ratings run for both series, matching NBC’s lackluster comedy performances last season with Welcome to the Family and Sean Saves the World.
This was no surprise to anyone in the industry, both series had lackluster reviews before their pilots even aired. All thirteen episodes will air for the rest of the fall season. But NBC announced that the 9p Thursday slot would be taken over in February by their #1 scripted show: The Blacklist. Which. Is. Huge.
The Blacklist was not only NBC’s #1 new show last year and #1 scripted show of the year, but it also catapulted the desires for ratings past the same day it premiered. By the season’s end, The Blacklist practically held the records for the largest rating lifts, along with most episodes in the Top 10. The Blacklist not only helped NBC win the TV season for the first time in more than a decade, it also changed what type of ratings networks and advertisers cared about.
But that’s not why this is huge. Small picture: it’s huge because Thursday are about to get absolutely intense. Big picture: it’s huge because NBC could lock up the TV season on that move alone.
Let’s start by looking at the small picture. Looking at the Thursday network schedule in the winter, CBS will kick off with its comedies The Big Bang Theory, The Millers, 2.5 Men, and new series The McCarthys. Elementary will lead out at 10p. FOX will have its 9 billionth season of American Idol. And while the show not being the rating juggernaut it once was, it still brings in modest numbers. Then, there’s ABC. Unfortunately, How To Get Away With Murder only has 15 episodes and will finish by the end of January. But Grey’s and Scandal will continue to help ABC, leading into their newbie at 10p Secrets & Lies, a soap drama based on the show of the same name in Australia. ABC as of now is 2nd behind CBS in the ratings. NBC and FOX are so far behind, it doesn’t matter who’s 3rd.
Last year, NBC won Mondays and Tuesday because of The Voice, Fridays due to Grimm and Dateline, and Sundays for Sunday Night Football. They were a little competitive on Wednesdays, but were non-existant on Thursdays.
So why move The Blacklist to Thursdays? It’s done so well on Mondays. Well, the show is strong enough to stand on its own at this point. NBC could have placed it in a new timeslot to start the season, but after what happened with another post-The Voice show (Revolution, cancelled after 1st season on its own), NBC probably wanted to be patient for the right timeslot. Now halfway through the TV season, moving Blacklist to Thursdays while giving its Monday 10p slot to newbie State of Affairs is a good move. Also, look at the genres playing on Thursdays. CBS is comedies until 10p, FOX is all reality, and ABC is all soap dramas. There are no procedurals during primetime, so it’s good counter-programming. But that’s not all. The Blacklist ratings at 9p will help out newbie drama Allegiance, a modern-day version of FX’s The Americans, at 10p.
So slight recap of Thursday Night during the 2nd Half of the season: High ratings from CBS’s comedies, reliable ratings from FOX’s A.I., ABC’s soap drama domination, and NBC’s new procedural lineup, headed by its #1 scripted show. But’s let’s also be realistic. CBS’s 2.5 Men ends this year and Big Bang has reached its peak at this point. In addition, The McCarthys look like they’re not gonna make it past season one. So CBS Thursday will slowly decline (unless they decide to take on Thursday Night Football completely). American Idol will only decline in ratings for FOX year-to-year. ABC will remain strong with Scandal and HTGAWM, but Grey’s only has so many years left on ABC. Now, we look at NBC. #1 show Blacklist plus a modern-day The Americans (Allegiance) with critics stating it’s pretty good. NBC might not win out Thursdays (if they continue leading in with Biggest Loser), but they’ll be competitive on Thursdays for the first time in a long while.
Now, we look at the bigger picture. Last year, NBC won Mondays and Tuesday mainly due to The Voice. Fridays were won with Grimm and Dateline. NBC destroyed Sundays with Sunday Night Football. They were slightly competitive on Wednesdays, but were non-existent on Thursdays. Thanks to The Voice on two nights for the whole TV season and The Blacklist, NBC won its TV season last year for the first time in 10 years. This year, NBC will probably win Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays again. So included a more competitive Thursday nights. With no big hit on the horizon, NBC set itself up to become the two-time champion.
So cancelling “Bad Judge” and “A to Z” may sound like NBC failed, but, now thinking about it, it might have been NBC’s plan all along. With Parenthood ending, NBC perhaps knew the two comedies preceding Parenthood weren’t going to last. NBC wouldn’t want The Blacklist to be sandwiched between two low-rated series (The Biggest Loser & Parenthood); it’d be a waste of ad dollars, not to mention the aforementioned prevention of another Revolution. Maybe NBC thought of this plan back in May during the upfronts, having Blacklist and Allegiance back-to-back on its once dominating Thursdays, but to sneak it up on people halfway through the year, as opposed to playing it during ABC’s dominant HTGAWM. Perhaps cancelling Bad Judge and A to Z was the plan all along.
Whether it was or not, all things constant, NBC just became geniuses. And rich. Because they’re improvement on Thursdays just made them an even better, scarier network.