Back in July 2012, NBC President Robert Greenblatt announced at the Television Critics Association a bold, new direction for NBC sitcoms, once the biggest primetime source of revenue for the network. That strategy was this: To sell out.
“NBC can no longer afford pride. Those sophisticated, risk-taking, grown-up comedies? Love ‘em! Not going to do ‘em so much anymore!,” he said. “We’re in a transition. We’re trying to broaden the audience.”
So, how is that transition from sophisticated, risk-taking, grown-up comedies like 30 Rock and The Office toward broader comedies going for the network?
Let’s take a quick look at the NBC comedies that have premiered since Greenblatt took over the position of President of NBC:
1600 Penn: Cancelled after 13 episodes.
Animal Practice: Cancelled after 9 episodes.
Are You There Chelsea?: Cancelled after 12 episodes.
A to Z: Cancelled after 5 episodes aired.
Bad Judge: Cancelled after 5 episodes aired.
Bent: Cancelled after 6 episodes.
Best Friends Forever : Cancelled after six episodes. (Note: Both Best Friends and Forever and Bent were actually good shows, almost certainly greenlit before Greenblatt’s tenure, and basically cancelled before they were even burned off).
Free Agents: Cancelled after four episodes aired.
Go On: Cancelled after one season.
Growing Up Fisher: Cancelled after 13 episodes.
Guys with Kids: Cancelled after 17 episodes.
The Michael J. Fox Show: Cancelled after one season (but it only lasted that long because NBC was contractually obligated to run it for a full season).
The New Normal: Cancelled after one season.
Save Me: Cancelled after 7 episodes.
Sean Saves the World: Cancelled after 15 episodes.
Up All Night: Cancelled after a season and a half, a reboot, and a scrapped attempt to broaden the audience by making it a laugh-track sitcom.
Welcome to the Family: Cancelled after 3 episodes aired.
Whitney: Cancelled after two low-rated seasons.
And so, since Robert Greenblatt took over as NBC President, only three sitcoms greenlit under his tenure still remain. The first is Undateable, an unwatchable sitcom that premiered over the summer and was renewed as a midseason replacement for the spring.
The other two: About a Boy (a midseason replacement that was renewed for this season) and Marry Me, which hasn’t been cancelled … yet.
But let’s take a look at last night’s overnight ratings:
Marry Me: .7 in the demo
About a Boy: .8 in the demo
Meanwhile, there’s just one holdover from “risky, sophisticated” sitcoms remaining from the pre-Greenblatt era, Parks and Recreation, which is currently being burned off with two episodes a week in its final season. Its ratings last night? A 1.4 in the demo, or double that of Marry Me.
So, Greenblatt, how’s that broad-sitcom strategy working out for you? Looks like basically 0 for 22 so far, to me.