On NBC, Broad Comedies, Broadway Haven't Worked - But Here's What Might
NBC's Broad Comedies and Broadway Haven't Worked - But Here's What Might
NBC has made big bets this season on Broadway and broad comedy, and neither has paid off so far. But one bold gamble still might.
The network's most inspired tactic in recent years has been positioning shows when and where audiences least expect hits -- and then outperforming expectations.
NBC may be in a position to do it again this spring, with help from some returning winners and America's favorite cannibal psychologist. There could even be the slightest of hopes for the doomed-looking "Smash," a favorite of NBC entertainment chief Bob Greenblatt.
Greenblatt has been criticized for saying NBC wants broad new sitcoms rather than the Thursday night shows that for years have earned more respect than ratings. The broad shows, it turns out, aren't scoring either.
But few have noted NBC's other big move this season: trying to bring Broadway to the rest of America. Besides granting "Smash" a second season, the network gave sitcoms to each of the leads of the Tony-winning hit, "The Book of Mormon."
That hasn't worked especially well, either.
"New Normal," with "Mormon" star Andrew Rannells, is averaging a just-adequate 2.1 rating in the key 18-49 demo. Meanwhile, "1600 Penn," with Rannells' "Mormon" co-star, Josh Gad, has a dismal 1.5.
Also read: Leno Jokes NBC Execs Are 'Snakes' (Video)
That's the same rating "Animal Practice," the broadest NBC comedy of the season, had before it was canceled.
"Smash," which also has a 1.5, has been relegated to Saturday, the lowest-rated night for television. Networks often use Saturday nights as a place to burn off episodes of soon-to-be-canceled shows.
And things had been going so well for NBC: Last season, it slightly edged out ABC for third place in the demo, after years of languishing in fourth. It was especially good news for Greenblatt, because it was the first full season he was in charge.
In the fall, NBC shocked its rivals by finishing first in the demo. (CBS, which has an older audience, still led in total viewers, as it has for years.)
As NBC won its first November sweeps in nine years, Greenblatt tried to lower expectations, saying he didn't expect to finish the season on top.
"I'd be astonished if we ended up to be No. 1," he told TheWrap at the time. "But I'd be thrilled if we landed at two, and I'd be really, really pleased if we were just in third place. ... I feel pretty confident that we are not going to end up in fourth place again."
NBC has since slipped to third place. But Greenblatt doesn't seem pleased at all.
Last week, the New York Times reported that he complained to Jay Leno about mocking NBC's ratings on the "Tonight Show," which led to a pointed back-and-forth with the host. At least some of the tensions come from the news that NBC is planning to replace Leno with Jimmy Fallon.
Comedians, like Leno, try to open and finish strong. And that's what NBC hopes to do, too.
It owed its fall success especially to "Sunday Night Football," "The Voice" and "Revolution." This season and last, "SNF" has emerged as television's highest-rated show overall, a position "American Idol" held the previous eight years.
NBC used "The Voice," which became a surprise hit two years ago, to launch "Revolution" to become broadcast television's highest-rated new show and drama this season. ("The Walking Dead," airing on AMC, is the top drama on all of television.)