Dwight Schrute Buys the Farm

Passed-over Office backdoor pilot draws record low ratings

After a three-week hiatus, NBC’s The Office returned last night in the form of the backdoor pilot to the stillborn Dwight Schrute spinoff, The Farm. If the preliminary ratings are anything to go by, NBC was wise to pass on the project.

According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, last night’s special episode was the least-watched in the nine-season history of The Office, drawing a mere 3.54 million total viewers. Having averaged a 1.9 in the adults 18-49 demo, the Schrute-centric installment tied three other 2012-13 broadcasts as the lowest-rated shows since The Office bowed as a midseason replacement in 2005.

Roughly half of last night’s episode took place at Schrute Farms, where Dwight retreated to attend his Aunt Shirley’s funeral. In a video message from the Great Beyond, Shirley announced that she would leave her own farm to Dwight and his brother and sister.

NBC officially passed on The Farm last fall. In a tweet dated Oct. 29, actor Rainn Wilson said that while he “had a blast making the pilot,” the network decided not to go forward with the spinoff.

While it was another dismal Thursday night at NBC, with Community posting a 1.1 in the demo—up a tick from the 1.0 registered by the freshman comedy 1600 Penn—things were tough all over the broadcast dial. Fox’s American Idol fell to an all-time low 3.1 rating, while ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy served up a series-low 2.6 in the dollar demo.

Among the few original episodes that demonstrated week-over-week growth were CBS’ Person of Interest, which drew a 4.3 among adults 25-54, up one-tenth of a point from March 7, and Elementary, which delivered a 3.5 in the demo, up two-tenths of point from its most recent first-run installment (Feb. 21).

Despite the poor lead-in provided by Community, NBC’s Parks and Recreation grew 14 percent versus its most recent premiere outing, drawing a 1.6 rating.

The switch to Daylight Savings Time had no impact on overall deliveries: per Nielsen, total viewership on ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, Univision and the CW was up 2 percent versus last Thursday.

CBS won the night in total deliveries and the 18-49 demo, averaging 13.4 million viewers and a 3.3 rating. Fox took second (8.65 million/2.6), while ABC placed third (5.51 million/1.7) with its slate of two repeats and a new Grey’s. Univision took fourth place, edging NBC by two-tenths of a ratings point (1.5 to 1.3) and 300,000 total viewers.