NBC MOVIE OF THE WEEK
Everything old is new again
It's not surprising to see NBC bring
movies back to Sunday nights.
In the TV world, everything that
goes around comes around.
By Eric Kohanik
There was a time when Sunday nights were huge movie nights for all TV networks.
Those were the days when ABC, CBS and NBC ruled the roost on the American TV scene. They were the days when the “world television premiere” of a theatrical movie was a really big deal for a broadcaster – the days before cable channels, pay-per-view, video on demand, DVDs, cellphones and the Internet came along to milk every last drop out of any flick around.
During the mid-1980s, all three of the big American networks had movies on their Sunday-night schedules. The practice began to change with the arrival of the Fox network. In 1987, Fox turned Sunday – its only evening of primetime programming at the time – into a showcase for TV series.
The success of that move gradually prompted other networks to slot series into Sunday nights. NBC steadfastly resisted the change, however, even as ratings for movies continued to spiral downward.
In fact, during a casual conversation on a TV press tour in Los Angeles back in the mid-1990s, I asked a top NBC executive at the time why the network didn’t try airing series instead of movies on Sundays.
The guy laughed in my face. Series just don’t work on Sunday nights, he said.
Of course, it’s a much different Sunday night on the tube these days. NBC finally relented in the fall of 2001, becoming the last big American network to drop the Sunday movie tradition.
In the TV world, though, everything that goes around comes around. And programming trends always swing back and forth, particularly if a network is struggling.
So, it’s not surprising to see NBC making the switch to big Sunday-night movies again. Along Came Polly got the ball rolling a couple of weeks ago. Shrek jumps into the berth this weekend. And Nicolas Cage’s escapades in National Treasure will fill NBC’s movie slot next Sunday.
The decision comes from Vince Manze, an old-school NBC veteran recently named to a newly created position of “president of program planning, scheduling and strategy.”
Sunday is “the place where we used to do events and miniseries,” Manze explained to The Hollywood Reporter recently. According to Manze, putting movies back onto Sunday nights “accomplishes two things: building events and serving as counter-programming to what the others are doing.”
Manze claims that NBC doesn’t have big ratings expectations for its Sunday-night flicks, particularly since they’re up against such shows as Desperate Housewives and Brothers & Sisters on ABC and Cold Case and Without a Trace on CBS.
If NBC’s strategy proves successful, who knows? Others may follow suit. And that old programming pendulum may just swing back the other way yet again.