We Peacock Comedy? NBC Tries for Better This Fall

As the broadcast networks roll out season and series debuts over the next few weeks, some have more to prove than others. NBC sits at the top of that list; the TV network embarrassed itself repeatedly over the past few TV seasons, from the Conan/Leno mishap that absurdly landed Leno in primetime to the lack of traction surrounding its once-dominant Thursday night comedy block.

As it moves forward for the 2012-2013 season, NBC’s marketing logo has been “We [Peacock symbol] Comedy” for its new sitcoms. Let’s take a second to discuss. Every time I see that inane logo, I think to myself, Just what is that peacock supposed to symbolize? Is it a heart, insisting NBC loves comedy?

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Credit: Give Me My Remote

Is it a hot air balloon, signifying NBC’s comedies are full of it? Whatever it is, I believe NBC is stepping off on the wrong foot here. Marketing should be strong, clear, and memorable—in a good way. Not confusing and ambiguous. And it certainly should not leave the viewer guessing what the message is.

This marketing mishap speaks to a broader theme of NBC: It does not know how to brand itself. Ever since the star pack of Friends, The West Wing, Heroes, Will & Grace, Frasier, and ER graduated, NBC has failed to launch a non-reality hit. The Office was a hit in its heyday, but closing in on season 9 with dwindling ratings and another year sans Steve Carell, the show is largely ended in viewers’ minds. Most new shows on NBC do not make it past one or two seasons, including its big concepts, such as last year’s The Playboy Club, 2010’s J.J. Abrams show Undercovers, and heck even 2010’s The Jay Leno Show.

On the other hand, take a look at CBS, a network that unabashedly has branded itself as the go-to for procedural crime dramas and milks this concept for all its worth. Most successful dramas get spinoffs with new casts in different cities (most recently, NCIS spinoff NCIS: LA) and that formula works well for the CBS viewer. Even Fox has found a workable niche with quirky, single-camera comedies such as New Girl, Raising Hope, and, to an extent, Glee.

NBC has no go-to niche to cash in on. The closest network it resembles is ABC, which blends comedy and drama into its schedule with ease. If ABC is the Michael Phelps of TV scheduling, NBC is the kid who pees in the pool.
It’s difficult to say whether NBC fails because of the minds behind the network; the scheduling of the shows and the strong competition they face; or the viewers’ lack of interest in the network’s non-reality offerings (we all agree The Voice is a rare success that NBC dully needed). But to grab ahold of viewer interest, the powers that be need to keep happily offering things we want to watch, and I can count on one hand the number of people I know that are excited or even reasonably intrigued by Guys with Kids or Animal Practice on NBC this season.
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