NBC’s fall schedule announcement earlier this week shocked industry indisders by only having one hour of comedy—on Fridays, no less—a move the network hasn’t made since 1978. The revelation came after the network canceled all of its sitcoms except for Undateable, whose third season will have all-live shows.
While NBC has plenty of promising content this fall (the thriller Blindspot is one of the best bets to breakout) we reached out to the network’s entertainment president Jennifer Salke to get more insight behind the comedy plan.
“I don’t think it’s any surprise or secret that it’s been hard for us to launch comedy and we were turning over all the stones,” Salke told EW. “There was never any intention to abandon comedy in any way, but we wanted to see what we can we do to maximize success and to be realistic.”
Salke noted that if one high-visibility title ordered for next season—the network’s reboot of Coach with Parenthood star Craig T. Nelson reprising his starring role—had been ready in time for fall, then a different strategy might have been adopted. Given what the network had on tap, NBC wanted to hold some of its comedies for midseason when executives felt they would have a stronger platform to market the content.
“Trying to launch so many new shows this fall with the dramas was another consideration,” she said. “We can’t just throw these shows on. We came to the conclusion that it was better to put them in a protected spot where they could grow. And everybody involved in these projects—all the producers—they are thrilled we’re doing it this way.”
It’s worth pointing out that NBC is not the only network to struggle with comedy lately. While there’s been a few half-hour bright spots (like Fox’s Last Man on Earth and ABC’s Black-ish), they’ve been aided by strong lead-ins, while most efforts sunk quickly.
“Comedy is so challenged in general,” Salke said. “It’s a quest for the next big show. It will happen.”