Even with Fox's "Glee" and FX's "American Horror Story" under his belt, Ryan Murphy wasn't able to score another hit with his NBC comedy, "The New Normal."
Why didn't it find its audience? NBC's top executives seemed to grapple with the answer to that question themselves Saturday in a Television Critics Association press tour panel.
"We really wanted to get behind Ryan Murphy," NBC entertainment president Jennifer Salke said. "Maybe, something about the tone of it. It's really one of those things where you look at each other and think, 'Why didn't this show do better than it did?' It was the time for it. It was smart. It was original. It felt like it had breakthrough tone and originality to it. It got people talking and we thought it would build into something."
More Americans, and politicians on both sides of the aisle, are supporting gay marriage. But not enough people backed "The New Normal," about a gay couple who adopt a child.
When it premiered in September, the pilot episode banked 6.88 million total viewers. Its finale in April scored around half that number.
"I don't believe it didn't work because it had gay characters," NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt said. He pointed to the success of 90s series "Will & Grace."
"It was in a different time and in a different lineup of stronger shows and stronger lead-ins and things like that," he continued. "Like Jen said, we think the country is moving in the right direction, the Supreme Court is doing the right thing and there's a growing support for gay relationships and gay marriages in this country. It may have been slightly ahead of its time, because that really was the focus of it: The gay marriage and the baby. But, we feel no regret whatsoever about putting it out there, and feel enormously proud of it."
With Sean Hayes' new sitcom, "Sean Saves the World," premiering this fall, the network will again feature a gay parent, but take a different approach.
"We're drafting off a little bit on the 'Will & Grace' thing," Greenblatt said. "It's a brightly lit situation comedy. He's single, so maybe it will feel more universal to people who aren't gay and don't have people in their lives in gay relationships."
"That show is trying to be a family show in its essence," Salke interjected. "Ryan Murphy, in his shows, likes to push an idea in every episode, something he's grappling with and thinks people should be thinking about and is more issue-oriented in that way. And maybe that didn't help it. Still again, something we would stand by. But the DNA of the other show is completely different only based on in its creative origins, not in that we're guiding it in a way that is less gay or issue-oriented."