NBC Reveals Programming Shift; No More Niche Comedies

Published 3 years ago by

Gillian Jacobs Community NBC NBC Reveals Programming Shift; No More Niche Comedies

In an effort to bounce back from years of low-rated sitcoms, NBC has announced that it will be taking a broader approach with its upcoming batch of comedies. The move will leave little room for shows that garner a ton of critical praise, but fail to find a large Nielsen audience, like Community and Parks and Recreation.

Essentially, what this means is NBC desperately wants a bigger slice of the ratings pie, something more akin to what ratings-leader CBS is able to do with its comedies like Two and a Half Men and, of course, The Big Bang Theory. The new NBC game plan now is to no longer approach comedies that the network executives have labeled “narrow” and “sophisticated” – which Community is likely the prime example of, and series such as 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation and even The Office (not just in its heyday) were probably also guilty(?) of being.

In fact, NBC president Robert Greenblatt spoke rather candidly about the abovementioned series and his network’s confounding inability to find a large enough audience to appease the corporate overlords. Greenblatt stated: “We just can’t get the audience for them. They tend to be a little bit more narrow and more sophisticated than you want for a broad audience.”

That appears to be NBC’s new mission statement, and after years of constantly bringing up the rear in terms of ratings, it’s easy to see why. NBC is in a state of flux, or as Greenblatt put it: “We’re in a transition. We’re trying to broaden the audience.”

So what does the network have up its sleeve that will alleviate the burden of all that unnecessary sophistication in its low-rated comedies, and bring about the return of a viewership NBC hasn’t enjoyed since Friends was still on the air? Well, the first round of sitcoms they have ready for public consumption includes Animal Practice – the promos for which suggest it to be a comedy about a monkey doctor, but in reality it’s just a veterinarian-based sitcom starring Justin Kirk (Weeds) and Tyler Labine (Reaper).

In addition, NBC is also premiering The New Normal – or Ryan Murphy’s answer to Modern Family – the Matthew Perry-led Go On, and Guys with Kids, which is a raucous send-up of men’s apparent collective inability to handle any time spent alone with their child. While no one is saying these programs aren’t going to be any good (that monkey could turn out to be Dr. Zaius, after all), or that they won’t yield the kind of ratings success NBC is looking for, it’s clear they aren’t going to take the same approach to comedy as say, Community does.

Justin Kirk and Monkey Animal Practice NBC NBC Reveals Programming Shift; No More Niche Comedies

The problem appears to be that in NBC’s quest to mimic the success of its rival CBS, it has done so in a perfunctory manner – or without understanding exactly what the network’s demographic is. The term “broad” is just that, and it seems unlikely that NBC will be able to create a definitive identity off of “broad” comedy. Conversely, CBS is keenly aware the kind of individuals that regularly tune in to watch its programs, and that the network’s demographic skews older. As such, it has a specific type of comedy that may not be everyone’s favorite, but it works well within that range of viewers.

NBC’s transition doesn’t necessarily mean the death knell for Community or comedies like it, since Greenblatt himself said a fifth season is still a possibility – though the firing of series creator Dan Harmon and the move to Friday evening does put a certain ringing in one’s ear. However, the move to “broader” comedies does suggest some rather myopic thinking on behalf of the network. They want their higher ratings, and they want them now. While programs like Animal Practice and Guys With Kids may meet the network’s immediate goals, one wonders if more “sophisticated” comedies will better stand the test of time, especially as more and more viewers abandon the typical viewing methods that determine these highly-prized ratings.


Screen Rant will keep you posted on the news surrounding NBC and its new line-up of comedies, as it is made available.

Source: Time

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  1. NBC was the first major broadcast network in the United States started by RCA
    with a name once synonymous with quality programming and responsible for
    a lot of firsts along the way and now it is associated with a lot of lasts.

  2. That poster for Animal Practice screams fail. Who knows though I could be wrong. Ross did have a pet monkey on Friends for the first couple of seasons. Different premise of course. Just sayin’

  3. I know I will be watching at least one episode of Animal Practice, if only to see it be a train wreck. A monkey in a lab coat will always peak my interest though

  4. Why does it sound like the people at NBC are saying they feel the need to dumb down their comedies in order to appeal to whatever demographic they think they are missing. Really didn’t work with Whitney and that other show did it? And the popularity of something like Friends and even the Big Bang Theory are mostly dumb luck because there is nothing broad about those shows.

    • It sounds like they’re are saying that because they are…
      The 4 shows on watch on NBC are the shows that they are looking to move away from. I think the only show that stands a chance of making it past next season is Parks & Rec and that’s only if it does well at the Emmys. Otherwise say bye bye to smart comedy on NBC all together…

      • NBC is really spinning out of control if they think that getting rid of the actual quality shows is the way to go. Whitney and that Chelsea Handler show were horrible, and many of the other comedies they have tried in the last year have been mediocre at best. At this point I think the production cycles of these shows is making people enough money that they will run through 6-8 episode runs of 10 shows a year and just hope something sticks. The two or three shows on the other major networks that are doing well aren’t their only problem, basic cable has left the networks in the 80′s as far as show quality and depth.

  5. As much as people crap on NBC, they currently have the only network TV comedies I actually look forward to watching on a weekly basis (Community, Parks & Rec, The Office(only occasionally now), 30 Rock). From the looks of it, that’s likely about to change. I guess my opinion of what’s funny and entertaining differs greatly from that of the “broader” audience.

    NBC should take a note from the star of one of their most successful sitcoms:
    ” I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” -Bill Cosby

  6. Haha, that poster of “Animal Practice” reminds me of the banana advice in season 1 of “Weeds”.

  7. Yea why make smart shows, let’s dumb it down to even the stupidest of us can laugh…yea it’ll be fart jokes and a non-stop eyerollly dialogue, but hey….there will be more viewers. I hope community can go to another network, luckily we live in a time where we have plenty of other outlets to watch good shows

  8. This is a very sad day, people. The network that gave us smart groundbreaking sitcoms like Seinfeld and Frasier among many others is actually going for a show about a doctor that works with animals. Oh how the mighty have fallen

  9. I will literaly go insane if Community or Parks and Rec. are canceled. Yes I did say “literaly” like Chris(Rob Lowe) as I always do now out of habit. Animal Practice sounds like a joke show madeup on a nother show like Family Guy or South Park. Infact I can’t stop thinking I’ve heard that name before. When I saw the comercial during the Olympics a few moments ago where the monkey did gymnastics. I was hoping that it was
    Annie’s Boobs and a comercial for Community.

  10. Honestly, they need to realize some shows get a lot more viewers overt time. Look at Breaking Bad. More viewers come in every season due to word of mouth. People will get into the show through netflix or something. Over time, Community and Parks/Rec should also find a larger audience. Just have to give it time.

  11. the current ratings system has always been flawed, but now between netflix, hulu, ondemand, and illegal downloading, it’s more flawed then ever! nbc, and all the other networks, need to get with the times and start taking advantage of the new way of watching tv.

  12. I had to do a double take. At first I thought the headline was, NBC Reveals Programming s***; No More Niche Comedies. A Freudian lapse, I wonder?

    • +3, that one was from beyond the three-point line….

  13. The sad part of all this is that Community is one of Hulu’s most popular shows still now in the middle of the summer. It has a following, but instead of finding a way to exploit that consumer base like create an app for on-line viewing on your television through X-Box or Roku, they decide to dumb down their programming. NBC does it again, you don’t stay in 4th place with good ideas ;)

  14. “We just can’t get the audience for them. They tend to be a little bit more narrow and more sophisticated than you want for a broad audience.”

    Translation: Stupid people watch a lot of television. Therefore, in order to make any money, instead of producing clever, inventive, and intelligent programming, we are going to severely dumb it down and focus on fart jokes, crotch shots, and “reality” shows, in order to appeal to the knuckle dragging, illiterate, mouth breathers that make up the majority of our “broader audience”.

    • If you want a good line-up why would you take off Harry;s Law? It was the best show NBC carried and now Kathy Bates and Jean Smart are up for emmys. Hopefully another network will pick it up and NBC can cry all the way to the bank. I gave not watched any program on this network and wont.

  15. NBC just sealed their doom. Too many other “good” choices to watch on cable/satellite channels. My kids (teens) enjoy watching our DVDs of the older shows (Everybody Loves Raymond, Reba, Night Court, Cosby, Cheers, Family Tiesm, Coach) way more than the new shows, so NBC is way off base in their analysis. We do like Modern Family–so NBC has to try to copy it instead of coming up with something good and original? (like Harry’s Law which they cancelled in spite of it’s great ratings). Bye, Bye, NBC.

  16. Dear NBC,
    For the majority of my 50′something years, you were THE leader in television. Day & nite, you kept us informed & entertained. You’ve screwed up by cutting Ann Curry off the Today Show, when you should have fired Matt Lauer, instead. Your audience would. You also cut shows that target 50+ yr old audience, like Harry’s Law. DO YOU LIKE TV? Get with the ball, & stop jacking around your shows. I quit watching the Today show, & if you cut other 50+ shows, I will cut you.

  17. NBC digs it’s own grave with its stupid choices. Take the canceling of “Harry’s Law” Their highest rated show and they cancel it because it was “old people” watching it. Canceling successes in hopes of finding another “Friends” out there is like taking a million dollars and buying lottery tickets in hopes of winning twenty thousand dollars. That is why I no longer watch NBC. CBS knows it viewers and knows to keep a show that is succeeding instead of looking for “greener pastures”.

  18. It astounds me that they still rely on the Neilsen ratings system to get a reading on audiences.
    Firstly, what is the percentage of people with that box on their tv’s that does all the counting, and how does it compare to the percentage of people who watch Tv online or through netflix and the like? Or what about the number of people who DVR shows and watch them later. I would imagine that all these other, easily monitered methods, would give a much more accurate reading.

    • The Neilsen system probably had been obsolete for at least 20 years, and it’s still in business because it has big money behind it and the people involved won’t give up that cash. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who even knows someone that has been a Neilsen family and the accuracy behind it seems dubious at best.

      This isn’t the 60′s or even 70′s and there are more channels, shows and houses with multiple televisions with people watching different programs. The more recent trend of DVR, online streaming, etc. has really made it nearly impossible for the Neilsen system to gauge what a wide range of people actually watch, even though that isn’t there goal to begin with. They just give information that set the prices for advertising, which people don’t watch anyway.

  19. NBC always takes the good shows off the air and leaves the garbage how many people actually watch you’re fired? how about the biggest loser? oh wait, that’s the name of their network.

  20. Greenblatt said: “We’re in a transition.”

    “Transition” is a word used to describe things that are dying.

    NBC is dying. It’s actually a suicide, but I don’t care, because they have either canceled or are going to cancel all of the shows I watch on NBC.

    Good riddance.

  21. Truth be told, they want reality programs (read: cheap production costs). The majorityof network sitcoms are even now so dumb, that I can’t even imagine how one would actually “dumb them down” anymore! I see a lot of police/detective programs and smary shows like Blue Bloods — why not replicate th ose?? Who knows, might work! Why didn’t they pick up Dallas…that’s a real eatings bonanza, I will bet! Great show! Oh, yeah, too smart for NBC!

  22. ABC is much worse that NBC but NBC had no business cancelling Harry’s Law. That was pretty stupid.

    • ABC isn’t lagging behind NBC. How can they be worse? They have their demographic with Modern Family and The Middle and cater to them. NBC has no idea who they have as an audience, or they do and want a different audience. I have to admit I am still ticked off that ABC cancelled FlashForward.

  23. Maybe NBC should make the laugh tracks louder, to make sure people know when to laugh.

  24. Gotta say, real sad day in our home if/when Community leaves the air.In fact, almost dreading what it’s going to look like without Dan Harmon; so sad to see him go- it was his baby, and must be very hard to carry on the spirit of the show without him. We watch that show as a family, my husband and our two teenage daughters, never missing an episode- in fact each one is saved on our DVR and watched over and over again! It’s certainly flattering to be considered sophisticated, yet I’d be happy with any label- geek, nerd, whatever their demographic requires to keep this epic show on the air. NBC will lose yet another household of viewers by “dumb-ing” down it’s programming to keep up with the other stations. I thought that you guys were better than that.

  25. First you cancel harrys law because the viewers are to “old” ding strike one. Then you muck you the olyimpics online viewing by requireing you have cable that have your chanels you nbc chaneles if not someone cant see them strike two. Then more stupid reality and dumb down sit coms stike three nothing more to keep me to watch nbc. This is the second or the third time Ive walked away from nbc. Doesnt suprse me network tv keeps dumbing down their programing before to long their are going to offer something like Semseme Steet only with people on it that is how dumb its going to get only that is smart for them.

  26. Basically what he’s saying is

    “Making good and intelligent TV means no one watches you so we will copy the ratings juggernauts and make crap TV.”

    Sad just last year I was talking about their struggles in the ratings but was saying that I really loved NBC for being brave enough to take risks on making great shows like Community and Awake. Sad they are turning their backs on that kind of quality.

  27. Probably a bad thing, but could be a good thing, based on the quality of the shows. However, “Animal Practice” seems awfully gimmicky. I have no intention of ever watching that. I also do not approve of NBC’s sports coverage.

  28. Cant wait to see NBC’s newest fall comedy…”Terrence and Phillip!”

  29. It would be nice if we could keep these shows and just make Americans smarter.

    • As an American, I would say I resent that… but you’re so right