NBC’s coverage of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games begins in a few hours with its eagerly anticipated presentation of the opening ceremonies. But tonight’s telecast may also be considered the beginning of something even bigger (if not necessarily better), because in some ways it marks the start of the 2012-13 broadcast season.
That may not be the usual way of looking at the television season, which officially gets underway on Monday, Sept. 24, but given the realities of the medium we probably ought to delete any and all ideas about such tired traditions, including but not limited to the eight-month season that begins a few weeks after Labor Day and ends just before Memorial Day, the three standard sweeps periods and the confines of the usual development season. Everything should run on a year-round basis, just as it does on cable -- not to mention the Internet, where many pilots for all the broadcast networks’ new fall seasons will first be seen, well ahead of their television premieres.
Anyway, there are several reasons why we can consider NBC’s presentation of the Olympic Games as the start of the season to come. Most significantly, and in a move beyond the traditional way that broadcast networks have used the Games as a promotional platform, NBC will during its Olympic coverage present in their entirety the first episodes of two new comedies: “Go On,” starring Matthew Perry, and “Animal Practice,” starring Crystal, the scene-stealing monkey about whom you have heard so much in recent weeks. “Go On” will be telecast on Wednesday, Aug. 8, near the end of that night’s prime-time events. “Animal Practice” will air after the closing ceremonies on Sunday, Aug. 12.
The telecasts of these two shows will be presented without commercials and will be promoted as “previews.” They do not mark the official beginning of either series. That happens on Tuesday, Sept. 11 and Wednesday, Sept. 26, respectively. But these shows are bound to receive decent sampling – arguably more than they might in cold-start premieres come September. If the audience likes them – and that’s a significant if – NBC’s new season will be off and running.
In addition, on Saturday, Aug. 4, in the midst of swimming coverage, the network will run a six-minute preview of its upcoming science-fiction adventure “Revolution,” another show about which the network is particularly excited (much more than many critics who have seen the current version of the pilot). “Revolution” makes its time period premiere on Monday, Sept. 17.
Meanwhile, the network will begin the second season of its supernatural thriller “Grimm” on Monday, Aug. 13, directly following two weeks of heavy Olympic promotion. NBC is wildly enthusiastic about this series, which will return to its regular Friday night time period on Sept.14.
Continuing what it hopes will be major Olympic momentum, NBC will also debut a number of its new and returning series, including “Sunday Night Football” and “The Voice,” long before the season’s official start on Sept. 24.
Of course, running the first episodes of “Go On” and “Animal Practice” several weeks ahead of their actual premieres can backfire. If the Olympic audience doesn’t respond to these shows, the network will then have to contend with weeks of bad buzz and negative word of mouth. Conversely, if viewers do like the shows, they may become annoyed at having to wait so many weeks until they can see more, so they put the shows out of mind, or simply forget about them.
A very carefully edited sequence or series of clips, such as NBC is preparing for “Revolution,” might be the safer way to go, because, as we all know from the film business, a great trailer can drive big business for even the most disappointing movie, at least during its opening weekend. That’s not to say “Revolution” is a disappointment – the network has yet to provide an official copy of the first episode for review. (Conversely, NBC has already provided finished copies of “Go On” and “Animal Practice” so that critics will be able to file their official reviews for these shows at the time of their Olympic previews.) Regardless of one’s opinion, the current version of the “Revolution” pilot is filled with very exciting sequences that should make for a compelling tease.
It’s worth paying attention to NBC’s Olympic experiment with “Go On” and “Animal Practice,” because going back at least through the ‘90s, the usual Olympic promotion for new series – that is, standard commercials for them that have run within Olympic telecasts – failed to yield any noteworthy results. Even Olympic-sized promotions and promotional platforms can’t help substandard shows, which television audiences have become particularly good at identifying in advance of air.