NBC’s Thursday Night Comedies Fall Flat

Middle-of-the-road approach may have backfired

Bob Greenblatt’s decision to steer the HMS Funnybones into the mainstream hasn’t prevented NBC’s Thursday night comedy lineup from sinking to the bottom. And while it’s too early to call for a salvage mission, the early numbers are decidedly unpromising.

According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, the two-hour comedy block averaged a 1.4 in the dollar demo, falling 18 percent from the year-ago deliveries. When the 10 p.m. hour is factored in, NBC finished last among the Big Four in total viewers (4.05 million) and the 18-49 demo (1.4), down two-tenths of a point from last year’s rating.

Leading off the night, the criminally underappreciated Parks and Recreation dipped to a 1.2 rating, while Welcome to the Family earned the dubious distinction of posting the lowest rating for a fall comedy debut in NBC history (1.1). This marks the second time the Peacock bottomed out this week—Ironside on Wednesday bowed to an historic low 1.3 rating.

NBC’s second Thursday night comedy premiere performed slightly better, as Sean Saves the World delivered a 1.4 rating. Year-over-year comparisons are a bit unfair in this case, as The Office and its 2.2 rating last year occupied the 9 p.m. slot.

The third episode of The Michael J. Fox Show drew a 1.7 in the demo, down 19 percent versus its time slot premiere, while lead-out drama Parenthood dropped a notch to a 1.5 rating.

Once home to a block of quirky, critically acclaimed (read: niche) comedies like Community, 30 Rock and The Office, Thursday has long been a trouble spot for NBC. Entertainment chairman Greenblatt elected to shoot for a broader target with three new family-oriented sitcoms, but thus far viewers haven’t taken the bait. 

On the other side of the coin, CBS won the night with total viewers (12.3 million) and a 3.2 in the demo, as its new two-hour comedy block made short work of NBC’s lineup. Anchored by top-rated The Big Bang Theory (18.2 million viewers, 5.2), CBS’ chuckle stack averaged a 3.5 in the 18-49 demo, more than doubling (+150 percent) NBC’s comic deliveries.

At 8:30 p.m., the flatulent series premiere of The Millers averaged 13.1 million viewers and a 3.3 rating, making it the season’s second highest-rated new comedy. Lead-out The Crazy Ones dropped a full ratings point, or 26 percent to a 2.9, while Two and a Half Men fell to a series-low 2.4. 

Sophomore drama Elementary closed out the night in front of 9.38 million viewers; its 2.0 rating dipped one-tenth of a point from last week’s season premiere.

At ABC, the much-anticipated premiere of the Beltway potboiler Scandal drew 10.5 million viewers and a robust 3.6 in the demo, up a whopping 74 percent from its Season 2 opener. Lead-in Grey’s Anatomy slipped 9 percent to a 3.1 rating. All told, ABC finished second on the night among total deliveries (8.62 million) and adults 18-49 (2.8).

Fox’s The X Factor dipped one-tenth of a ratings point to a 2.0, but was down 38 percent when compared to the year-ago Thursday. Glee came within one-tenth of a point of tying an all-time low, posting a 1.6 in the demo.

The CW’s top-rated series The Vampire Diaries returned for its fifth season, averaging 2.59 million viewers and a 1.3 rating among adults 18-34. Total deliveries were down 26 percent from last season’s opener, although those numbers will be upgraded radically upon application of the relevant DVR data.

Leading out of TVD in a special preview, spinoff The Originals bowed to 2.21 million viewers and a 0.9 in the target demo, outperforming four of the network’s five scripted drama premieres in 2012-13. (Beauty and the Beast premiered Oct. 11, 2012, to 2.78 million viewers and a 1.1 rating among adults 18-34.)

The Originals shifts to its regular Tuesday 8 p.m. time slot on Oct. 8, where it will be staring down the barrel of ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.