2011-12 season in review: ‘Community’ drama, ‘The Voice’ drop hurts NBC

A tough year for the Peacock.

We don’t really know how to write a story about the 2011-12 season and be nice to NBC in the process. A network that was supposed to find some stability with Robert Greenblatt at the helm now seems in disarray — and there are plenty of reasons why.

Be sure to visit some of our other articles in this feature in addition to this one — including our review of ABC’s season.

What worked – If nothing else, you have to give NBC at least some credit for appealing to the show’s fans during this season — regardless of what you may think about them now. They allowed “Chuck” the opportunity to have a final season, kept low-rated “Community” and “30 Rock” around, and are even burning off “The Firm” on Saturdays despite the fact that next to no one actually watches it.

Considering that the network did pass ABC for third place, you have to also applaud Greenblatt and company for a few smart moves when it comes to reality TV. They started season 2 of “The Voice” after the Super Bowl to give it an incredible bump to start the season off right, and they also gave “America’s Got Talent” a spot to premiere in the May sweeps — a wise move to boost their overall numbers.

What didn’t – Now, you come to the list of problems — and there are many. For example, you can’t really talk about a single thing above without there being a downside. “Chuck” had terrible ratings for its final season, “30 Rock” is about to end, and “The Firm” is doing terrible business. “The Voice” also dropped throughout the season once the blind auditions were over, and “AGT” is down versus last season.

The reason we think ABC is primed better than NBC for the future is that there doesn’t seem to be a foundation here. Despite a great premiere, “Smash” fizzled fast thanks to a disappointing first season — and the list of canceled new shows is long (including “Prime Suspect,” “Awake,” the aforementioned “Firm,” “The Sing-Off,” “Are You There, Chelsea?,” “Free Agents,” and a certain Eddie Cibrian show we are already trying to forget). The network was also forced to keep around some shows that really would’ve merited a cancellation elsewhere — including “Rock Center with Brian Williams” staying over “Harry’s Law” (which drew a slightly better demo and way more total viewers) and “Whitney” staying in general.

We also have to talk about the “Community” fiasco. If the plan was to fire creator Dan Harmon, why are you renewing the show and moving it to Fridays? Fans of Greendale are a loyal bunch, and they may not watch more than one episode with a new pair of showrunners at the helm. While we’re not going to say they should have canceled the show without Harmon (mostly because we don’t want to see any crew member without a job), they should have either kept him or fired him back when the Chevy Chase – voicemail drama was playing out rather than allowing the story to drag on for as long as it has.

The future – Unlike ABC, things aren’t looking so bright here. There are no real ratings anchors outside of “The Voice” with long-term potential, and even it is in a precarious position next season now that the luster is gone. “The Office” is on its last legs, and “The Biggest Loser” is coming back at midseason.

Everything on the network’s fall schedule at this point is a gamble, whether it is airing comedies four nights a week, inexplicably making “The Celebrity Apprentice” an hour when it returns, or moving a show like “Community” with a young audience to Fridays. If some of this works, they’ll be geniuses — otherwise, we expect to write a rather similar article about NBC next year.

How do you think NBC did this past season, and do they have some potential moving forward to the fall to turn things around — especially with the Olympics serving as a good way to introduce some new series?

Photo: NBC

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