State of the Network: NBC (Part Two)

Returning Series
[note: all ratings as of April 21, and all critic quotes are based on most recently aired seasons]


Chuck– in 2nd Season
Ratings- 9.28 million series premiere,
1st season avg.- 7.76 million
2nd season- 6.63 million

What the critics say- “This is pure kiddie fare; no big deal–Chuck’s back; TV’s a better place.” (Verne Gray, Newsday)

Analysis- When NBC made the decision to hand Jay Leno the 10:00 slot every weeknight, that significantly reduced the availability for any new or returning shows. Perhaps the biggest victim of this strange programming move is “Chuck”. NBC’s promotion of this show (especially around Super Bowl time) indicates that they really want this show to succeed, but so far their efforts have failed. Although critically adored, along with a devoted fan base, the show has failed to bring in decent viewership. You can call it the sophomore curse, you can call it the NBC curse, but in the end all that matters is that NBC’s availability is low, as are “Chuck’s” ratings.

Chances of renewal: Slim

Friday Night Lights– Finished 3rd Season
Series premiere- 7.17 million viewers
1st season avg.- 6.1 million
2nd season avg.- 6.2 million
3rd season avg.- 4.02 million

What the critics say- “…delivered with the precision and manner of ethnography–it never condescends.” (Ginia Bellafante, NY Times)

Analysis- “FNL” is a very interesting case. The show is one of THE most critically acclaimed dramas on network television, yet also happens to average some of THE worst ratings on network television. The show has already been renewed for two more 13-episode seasons, and its renewal can be attributed to its deal with DirecTV. The satellite subscription service is helping NBC to finance the show, and the third season of the show was aired on DirecTV prior to being re-aired on NBC (this will continue for the next two seasons.

Chances of renewal: Renewed for two more seasons

Heroes– In 3rd Season
Series premiere- 14.3 million viewers
1st season avg.- 13.88 million
2nd season avg.- 11.45 million
3rd season avg.- 7.8 million

What the critics say- “This show, which was once so thrilling and fun, has become full of itself, its characters spouting crazy nonsense.” (Adam Buckman, NY Post)

Analysis- Mostly due to its performance in the important 18-49 demographic and its international appeal, NBC “plans” to renew “Heroes” for a fourth season. Their announcements haven’t been official yet so I’d wait until the fall line-up is announced before anyone gets excited. (I don’t see why it wouldn’t be renewed but you never know). Assuming the show does in fact get renewed, I don’t know if “Heroes” has enough gas left in the tank for anything further than that. In its first season, “Heroes” was a NBC rarity in that it was critically acclaimed AND an extremely popular show. After the extremely successful pilot episode, the first season topped out at 16.03 million viewers (only bested by the second season premiere). In its strike-shortened second season, “Heroes” still managed solid numbers, but started to experience a decline in viewership as the season progressed, bottoming out at 9.44 million viewers. For the third season, the creators decided to split the season up into two “Volumes”, which didn’t really help at all in the end. After a brutal start to the season (both critically and ratings-wise), the show fired two members of the production staff and brought in “Pushing Daises” creator Bryan Fuller. In the end, this creative change did not help at all and the show has since experienced weekly viewership declines so bad that a recent episode could only bring in a measly 6.11 million viewers. I don’t know where all the other fans went, but I expect “Heroes” to be in trouble a year from now.

Chances of renewal: Plans are set for a fourth season

Life– in 2nd season
Series premiere- 10.15 million viewers
1st season avg.- 8.1 million
2nd season avg.- 5.77 million

What the critics say- “Because of [Damian] Lewis’ brilliant portrayal of the eccentric Charlie, the show is perfectly enjoyable.” (James Poniewozik, Time)

Analysis- “Life” is in the same boat as “Chuck”, in that it is a critically beloved show which unfortunately fell into a sophomore slump. The presence of the tentatively titled “Jay Leno Show” every night ruins any lasting chance this show had at renewal for a third season.

Chances for renewal- Unlikely

Medium– in 5th season
Series premiere- 16.13 million viewers
1st season avg.- 13.9 million
2nd-4th season avg.- 10.03 million
5th season avg.- 7.66 million

What the critics say: “This show knows what it is, and knows exactly what the core audience expects. ” (Verne Gray, Newsday)

Analysis- This is appears to be the direction “Heroes” is going, as “Medium” was once one of the top rated shows on NBC but now finds itself averaging just under 8 million viewers per episode. Five seasons is an amazing accomplishment, especially in today’s climate, but five seasons may be enough.

Chances of renewal: 50-50

ER– finished 15th season
Series premiere- 23 million viewers
1st-5th season avg.- 19.73 million
6th season avg.- 25.0 million
7th-10th season avg.- 21.0 million
10th-13th season avg.- 14.7 million
14th season avg.- 9.16 million
15th season avg.- 10.2 million (not including series finale)

Series finale- 16.3 million

Analysis- After 15 seasons on the air, “ER” ended its run on April 2and over 16 million people tuned in to watch the final episode. Although “ER” hasn’t been so great in recent years (in terms of quality or ratings), it wasn’t always this way. To get an idea of what “ER” was like in the past consider the following:

– “ER” has received 123 Emmy nominations, making it the most Emmy-nominated series of all-time
– Won 22 Emmys
– Nominated for 25 Golden Globes
– Was ranked #1 (in all of network TV) in viewers three times, in the top five for 9 straight seasons, and the top ten for 10 straight seasons
– At various times, “ER” starred such movie stars as George Clooney, William H. Macy, Thandie Newton, John Leguizamo, Sally Field, Stanley Tucci, Ving Rhames, Forest Whitaker, Kirsten Dunst and Don Cheadle.
Chances for renewal- Ended after 15 seasons on the air

Lipstick Jungle– Finished 2nd season
Series Premiere- 7.54 million viewers
1st season avg.- 6.18 million
2nd season avg.- 4.18 million

What the critics say- “Thoroughly average and unfailingly adequate.” (Rob Owen, Pittsburgh-Post Gazette)

Analysis- One could say that “Lipstick Jungle” experienced a sophomore slump, but what was it really “slumping” from in the first place? The pilot episode was the most viewers the show brought in two seasons, and after months of rumors to the contrary “Lipstick Jungle” was finally cancelled in March, according to Entertainment Weekly.

Chances of renewal- Already canceled

My Name is Earl: in fourth season
Series premiere- 14.9 million viewers
1st season avg.- 10.9 million
2nd season avg.- 8.9 million
3rd season avg.- 7.3 million
4th season avg.- 7.2 million

What the critics say- “My Name Is Earl” is cheeky, inventive and often bewitching. (Sid Smith, Chicago-Tribune)

Analysis- “Earl” is a part of NBC’s Thursday comedy block (along with “Office”, “30 Rock” and now “Parks and Recreation”) and has been for the entirety of its four seasons, but it will be interesting to see if that is enough to keep the show on the air. Ratings have experienced a steep decline in the past two seasons, and the quality of season 3 and 4 hasn’t been so great. In all likelihood, NBC will remain committed to this show and renew it for a fifth season, but I’m not sure how much longer it has.

The Office– in fifth season
Series premiere- 11.2 million viewers
1st season avg.- 5.4 million
2nd-3rd season avg.- 8.85 million
4th season avg.- 9.5 million
5th season avg.- 10.47 million

What the critics say- “…the show has plenty of life in it – and that with just a few changes and mixing up the character relationships – The Office has still got it.”

Analysis- “The Office” has actually managed something quite amazing, especially considering its presence at NBC. Most television shows start out with their best ratings, only to decline until they are canceled or finished, but “The Office” has done the complete opposite-its ratings have actually gradually increased since its mediocre first season. Viewership has nearly doubled since its first season, and amazingly the quality of the show has remained top notch. The main reason the show has been so increasingly successful and popular is because of Steve Carrell. Even though his movie career is booming, he has stayed with this show making it one of the funniest comedies in a long time.

30 Rock– in third season
Series premiere- 8.13 million viewers
1st season avg.- 5.8 million
2nd season avg.- 6.4 million
3rd season avg.- 7.64 million

What the critics say- “This is TV’s best comedy.” (Verne Gray, Newsday)

Analysis- “30 Rock” has had widespread critical acclaim heaped upon it over its last two seasons, and the show has garnered 7 Emmy nominations (five wins) and 27 Golden Globes (nine wins). Tina Fey went from a funny “Saturday Night Live” alum to being called a comedic genius and one of comedy’s brightest minds. As a writer, producer and star on “30 Rock”, Fey has been universally praised for all of her work. Fey’s comedic genius, combined with Alec Baldwin’s hilarious performance as Jack Donaghy, should carry this show for as long as Tina Fey wants to keep working on the show. Even though the ratings might be just be average, they have continued to rise (especially since Fey got so much attention for her Sarah Pallin impersonations).

Renewal- 100% lock for renewal

Overall Outlook

With Jay Leno occupying every night at 10:00, the availability on NBC’s schedule is very limited. Taking into account that “Deal or No Deal”, “Biggest Loser”, and “The Apprentice” occupy slots on the schedule, it will be tough to gauge which shows are likely to return, but I’ll try anyway.

Locks: 30 Rock, The Office

Likely to return: Law & Order: SVU, Heroes, Southland, Parks and Recreation

Already renewed: Heroes, Friday Night Lights

On the Bubble: Chuck, Medium, Life, Law & Order

Doomed for cancellation: Kath & Kim, Kings, Knight Rider