Thursday, January 20, 2011

Three's Anatomy - Breaking Down NBC's Comedy Night

There are some interesting rating issues to watch for in each of the three hours of NBC's all-night comedy experiment, premiering tonight, so here are a few ratings and creative thoughts on the six shows that will make up this lineup.

Community (8/7c) - Many thought the arrival of The Big Bang Theory would be the end for this program, but it's held up OK-ish, with its 2.00 average to date only down 4% from last year's fall 8:00 average. Now American Idol enters the mix and we'll get to learn once again just how loyal this small audience is. Though the heavily pop culture-laden eps are kinda hit-or-miss for me, this show certainly produces greatness often enough to be one of TV's best comedies.

Perfect Couples (8:30/7:30c) - The one data point for Perfect - a 1.3 demo for a special post-Sing-Off preview in December - suggests there's big trouble ahead for tonight's official premiere. It's also a straight-up relationship comedy in a lineup of five other workplace comedies. Oh yeah, and there's that American Idol thing. And I hated the preview ep. But... at least it doesn't also face Big Bang like Community, and I've heard other early eps are better, so I'm giving it a shot and hoping for better things.

The Office (9/8c) - Since NBC moved The Office to the 9:00 spot in fall 2007, it's been far and away the brightest spot in NBC's Thursday comedy lineup - and, pretty soon after, in NBC's entire lineup of scripted TV. Its 3.76 fall 2010 average is down about 10% from the fall 2009 numbers, but I hold out some optimism that the year-to-year comparisons might get better as the late April departure of Steve Carell approaches. It's one of my favorite shows ever and, even though it's certainly not as good as it was in its season 2 prime, it was still often my personal favorite of the four comedies this fall. I think it still has quite a bit to offer most weeks. But I'm kinda out on an island on that one in Internet-land, so... I guess believe all the real critics who are piling on this one?

Parks & Recreation (9:30/8:30c) - Tonight marks the very long-awaited return of the excellent Parks & Recreation, which hasn't aired an original since May despite filming much of season 3 early to accommodate Amy Poehler's pregnancy. Airing post-Office, it's probably gonna do better than its 2.07 average at 8:30 in 2009-10, but it's probably more about percentages than raw numbers now. Previous Office 9:30 lead-outs 30 Rock, Outsourced, and Scrubs have all been in the 70s retention %-wise, and it would not behoove P&R to drop below that vicinity.

30 Rock (10/9c) - Kicking off the final hour of this all-night experiment is the three-time Emmy winner for Outstanding Comedy Series. It's never been a ratings giant, and though its 2.40 average at 8:30 this fall was down from its previous season, it still made a decent transition out of the  post-Office slot. Now it moves to its fourth different regularly scheduled half-hour on NBC Thursdays and will try to establish a foothold for a genre that hasn't been programmed there in many years.

Outsourced (10:30/9:30c) - Man, remember the days when all Outsourced had to deal with was a bunch of critics calling it "racist"? It's NBC's second-strongest scripted show (2.69 average) because of its big lead-in, but now it moves to a half-hour when Households Using TV are fast declining and people are heavily DVRing other stuff. If it underperforms, NBC will hear from affiliates who want a better lead-in for their local news telecasts. I don't think the show's that bad, but this is not a favorable situation.

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