Taking a cue from Sasha Baron Cohen’s The Dictator, NBC is reportedly considering whether to fire its own starter’s pistol on the 2012-13 television season. By launching their early pilot pickup Go On (starring Matthew Perry as an “irreverent yet charming” sportscaster — as if there were any other kind!) and the second season of it’s-a-hit-if-you-squint Grimm in August, the Peacock hopes to get the drop on its better-rated rivals. (UPDATE: And now comes word they might be throwing two more sitcoms in the mix, Anne Heche's Save Me and Ryan Murphy's The New Normal.)
On the face of it, it’s not a bad idea. The perpetually downtrodden NBC will have a rare leg up this summer when it broadcasts the Olympics, meaning any and all downtime between pole vaults will be filled with endless advertising for the network’s fall slate. So it makes good sense to get those shows on the air before the firework smoke from the closing ceremonies has dissipated. And, after a disastrous year in which only Debra Messing’s extensive pashmina collection could qualify as a bright spot, NBC needs all the extra help it can get.
But there’s also a strong whiff of Silvermanian desperation here. If you’ll remember, NBC’s mid-decade was totally Zucked thanks to a strange prioritization of stunts and salvos about the outdated broadcast model over that hoary old chestnut, “developing and producing good shows.” We’re only a few years removed from budget-slashing, reputation-ruining catastrophes like The Jay Leno Show, remakes of American Gladiators and Knight Rider, and the complete (and temporary) abdication of the upfronts, that silly-but-necessary May carnival when networks do the unglamorous work of convincing advertisers to spend money on them. Without hit shows to anchor their schedule, NBC could debut Go On between Michael Phelps backstrokes and its long-term prognosis would still be just as questionable. The Peacock is in a tough situation, but it's one of its own making — and no press releases or creative thinking can change that. Starting the season in August may prove to be another example of a network better suited to moving the goalposts than actually scoring.