Four NBC comedies are expected to return next season: The Office, Parks & Recreation and Up All Night, along with a big surprise: Whitney.
Following on the heels of Community and 30 Rock receiving 13-episode orders earlier this week, NBC looking to bring back nearly all of its comedies despite many having modest ratings. The network’s soft time slots and holes to fill benefited the fans of cult-favorite shows like Community and Parks.
First, The Office, which has endured serious downsizing this season, yet is edging toward an official pickup that’s expected to be completed in time for the network’s upfront presentation to advertisers next week. Despite ranking as NBC’s top-rated scripted show, its ratings have dropped precariously, and longtime showrunner Paul Lieberstein is exiting to focus on the show’s planned spinoff. Costar James Spader is leaving at the end of the season, and Mindy Kaling is exiting to focus on her new Fox comedy, The Mindy Project, which received a series order earlier this week.
Still, regulars Jenna Fischer, John Krasinski and Ed Helms are close to signing new deals with the network. The Office remains NBC’s tentpole comedy on Thursday nights (averaging 6.4 million viewers and a 3.4 adult demo rating) and any spinoff will be easier to launch while fans of the flagship are still tuning in to the network.
Parks & Recreation (averaging 4.4 million viewers and a 2.2 rating) is officially picked up. The show is low rated but has passionate fans and receives critical praise. NBC figures it’s worth another round to maintain some schedule consistency and, again, it’s one of the those shows that you would think more people should be watching. Seems NBC agrees: Unlike the network’s other modestly rated comedies 30 Rock and Community, the network is ordering 22 episodes of Parks – not 13 as has been rumored for weeks.
Up All Night (5.3 million, 2.4 rating) hasn’t broken any ratings records either, but it’s critically well regarded and NBC must figure that its creative pedigree – it’s from SNL’s Lorne Michaels – makes it worth a second-season investment .
As for Whitney (5.1 million viewers, 2.2), well, we’ll have to think about that one.
Critics didn’t like Whitney, viewers didn’t particularly like it either, and the sitcom became a whipping boy for bloggers this season. NBC parent Comcast recently announced that star Whitney Cummings is getting a weekly late-night show on E!, so…did corporate synergy play a role? Or maybe NBC hopes Cummings will simply turn into Zooey Deschanel? Female-centered comedies are all the rage this season, after all, and comedies can grow after their debut seasons – witness the weak first seasons of The Office, Big Bang Theory and Seinfeld.
One question remains: Where will the comedies land on NBC’s schedule? Thursday is the night where networks tend to put their strongest shows since the evening before the weekend draws the highest ad dollars. Will NBC continue to aim for a two-hour comedy block with familiar titles? We’ll find out Sunday when NBC announces its fall schedule.