NBC reboot has begun: Where to now?

Tonight — well, I guess this week since Leno’s Tonight Show started yesterday — is the makeshift reboot of NBC’s schedule, as it’s newest hope for ratings success, positive critical response and good buzz, Parenthood debuts at 10 PM.

In the last year, NBC’s undergone a slew of changes that more or less led to nothing. So where do we stand with the Peacock network?

This time last year, we were all discussing the Leno-to-10 PM deal and what the ramifications would be. Well, I think everything that’s happened since September more or less caused all the ramifications anyone with a brain could deduce in the spring of 2009:

1. Certain programs wouldn’t fit in the 9 PM timeslot — and thus would get axed. Hello, Southland (which fittingly starts the second season ordered-then-no-thanks’ed by NBC tonight).

2. The affiliates would have trouble adjusting to lower ratings and ultimately lower ad revenues. Um, check.

3. The Jay Leno Show would suck. Hell yes.

Since it is NBC, there were some unexpected events over the past calendar year as well, with Ben Silverman finally moving on — with NBC acting like that was the plan all along — and the whole Leno-Conan melodrama.

And yet, here we are a year later and everything is more or less in the same spot it was pre-Jay Leno Show announcement. NBC’s pilot development for the 09-10 season was more or less a bust, with Community being the lone bright spot — and even it isn’t pulling in good ratings at all. The other newbies Mercy and Trauma were as generic as everyone expected, but NBC’s in such a mess that the latter was canceled, then brought back and then maybe canceled again and now it’s on the bubble for renewal.

But that’s how things go at NBC these days. Only Parks and Recreation remains from their 08-09 season slate of scripted newbies and Chuck is the similar lone scripted survivor from 07-08. Yep, that’s two programs since 2007 that have stayed on the air — and have only done so because of NBC’s pathetic expectations. Don’t think that’s going to cut it.

Now, NBC’s hoping for a spring series from big-name producers to save them — just like they were last year with Southland. The reviews have been mixed for Parenthood, and this point, that’s clearly not good for NBC. If the network is going to rebuild its reputation, it needs a drama series that lots of people love AND watch, and based on NBC’s typical ratings, the latter part isn’t coming — so the former has to be there.

So where does NBC go from here? Jay debuted to big numbers last night, so all might be right in the late night front, but despite huge post-Olympic numbers, nearly everyone hated the “let’s give Seinfeld a blank check and let him do whatever he wants” project, The Marriage Ref.

And obviously the success or failure of Parenthood won’t destroy NBC — because it’s already damaged pretty heavily. But it would surely help them on their way to some rehabilitation, as would a strong development slate (you can see for yourself what’s on the table right now).

In any event, tonight is the unofficial “new beginning” for NBC. It would be great to look back and say Parenthood was the start of a resurgence, wouldn’t it? But with NBC, I never get that feeling. Ever.

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