No laughing matter: Why is Peacock dumping some of its best comedies?

Renée Elise Goldsberry in Girls5eva; Josie Totah in Saved By The Bell; Michael Greyeyes in Rutherford Falls
Renée Elise Goldsberry in Girls5eva; Josie Totah in Saved By The Bell; Michael Greyeyes in Rutherford Falls

What the hell is going on with Peacock? NBC Universal’s streaming service, which has leaned on unique, irreverent comedies to help distinguish the fledgling platform since its launch in 2020, seems to be turning its back on many of those critically acclaimed shows, including Girls5eva, Rutherford Falls, and the Saved By The Bell reboot.

None of those series will get new episodes on Peacock. The eccentric Girls5eva will move to Netflix for season three, while Peacock has canceled the sweet Rutherford Falls and its winning Saved By The Bell reboot. The streamer also hasn’t provided any updates on this year’s underrated hits like Bust Down and The Resort. And what are the chances that Peacock will still be the American home for We Are Lady Parts, a fantastic co-production with Britain’s Channel 4, which the platform renewed almost a year ago?

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In a move that’s emblematic of the peak TV era, Peacock seems to be pivoting from imaginative and diverse stories to a more generic approach. Several of the streamer’s upcoming comedies rely on existing IP, such as Pitch Perfect, The Best Man, and Ted.

Prioritizing remakes and spin-offs

It’s a sharp turn for the platform, which rolled out in 2020, just a few months after the arrival of Apple TV+ and Disney+ (and as Quibi was swiftly approaching its grave). Peacock obviously boasts other genres, as well as NBC’s entire lineup, same-day film releases from Universal, like Halloween Ends, and Olympics coverage, but the service initially seemed to find a sweet spot with its distinctive comedies.

While those shows should’ve been given the time and marketing to grow their fanbases, that’s hard to do at a time when some players in the industry are prioritizing remakes, spin-offs, and sequels over original storytelling. (Admittedly, Peacock’s contemporary takes on SBTB and Punky Brewster were well-received during their brief runs.)

Rutherford Falls | Official Trailer | Peacock Original

Early on, Peacock benefitted from NBC’s easy access to talent—like Saturday Night Live’s Chris Redd in Bust Down, or The Office’s Craig Robinson in Killing It. (And don’t forget Pete Davidson and Lorne Michaels’ upcoming Bupkis.) The NBC gem A.P. Bio, from Mike O’Brien and Seth Meyers, moved to the streamer for two seasons and should’ve ideally continued for a few more.

Peacock presents an interesting gateway for familiar faces to experiment with genre-busting narratives while retaining classic elements of broadcast TV, as seen in both Rutherford Falls and Girls5eva. Mike Schur created the former with The Office star Ed Helms and Brooklyn Nine-Nine writer Sierra Ornelas-Teller. RF centers on an Indigenous community in a Northeastern town, featuring breakout performances from Jana Schmieding and Michael Greyeyes.

Netflix to the rescue?

The show carries the trademark “Schur-iverse” traits of being wholesome and entertaining, and in a different era it would’ve paired perfectly with series like Parks And Recreation or The Good Place on NBC proper. But Rutherford Falls didn’t stand a chance on a lesser-known platform, especially without the marketing push it deserved.

As for Girls5eva, it departs Tina Fey’s primary headquarters at NBC Universal for (hopefully) greener pastures on Netflix, where Fey and Meredith Scardino oversaw Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Girls5eva follows four members of a ’90s girl group who rediscover their love for music in the present day, and the humor is just as quirky and surreal as UKS. It’s an eyebrow-raising event when Netflix saves a comedy (they’ve previously rescued sci-fi dramas Manifest and Lucifer) after canceling G.L.O.W., The Baby-Sitters Club, American Vandal, Teenage Bounty Hunters, and Santa Clarita Diet in recent years. It’s just another sign of peak-TV chaos. On the plus side, at least we get more Girls5eva episodes.

Girls5eva | Official Trailer | Peacock

Peacock has waded into a business that’s all about survival of the fittest. It earned no new paid subscribers in its second quarter after losing $1 billion at the beginning of this year. Most people are wary of adding yet another streaming service to their viewing schedule, regardless of the quality is worth it—and this is likely a strong reason why these hidden gem comedies are getting axed.

Fierce competition

The competition is fierce, and Peacock doesn’t have a Stranger Things or Handmaid’s Tale yet, nor does it call for fantasy show think pieces. But it does have a bevy of reality TV, sports, true-crime dramas, and, yes, The Office. It’s hard to fault the streamer for struggling to figure out its niche only two years in, but parting ways with some of the platform’s strongest offerings is not a great sign.

There’s still stuff to look forward to, of course. Maybe the IP-based shows will surprise, and We Are Lady Parts and Killing It will hopefully make worthy returns. Plus, Rian Johnson and Natasha Lyonne have teamed up for next year’s Poker Face.

Still, there must be a way for Peacock to balance more mundane programming with the kind of ingenious content that gets attention. As fans of its offbeat programming, here’s hoping the platform finds a way to deliver more of it. If only the higher-up can learn how to value—and not flatten—creativity.

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