Fox Places Full-Season Orders for Mindy Project, Ben and Kate

Kevin Reilly sees potential in new Tuesday night comedies

Fox has given an unambiguous vote of confidence to its new Tuesday night comedies, placing back orders for Ben and Kate and The Mindy Project.

The network announced today that it rounded out a full-season order of Mindy, committing to nine additional half-hour installments. It also picked up six more episodes of Ben and Kate, which is produced by 20th Century Fox TV and Chernin Entertainment.

The orders demonstrate Fox’s willingness to be patient with both comedies, which function as bookends to its sophomore hit New Girl. Neither series is generating tremendous ratings; after debuting to 4.21 million viewers and a 2.1 in the adults 18-to-49 demo, Ben and Kate on Oct. 2 lost 1 million viewers and plummeted 24 percent in the demo (1.6). Mindy, meanwhile, lost 21 percent of the dollar demo, falling to 3.68 million viewers and a 1.9 rating after premiering to 4.67 million and a 2.4 rating.

Fox may have been encouraged by the time-shifted deliveries. Mindy last week improved 32 percent upon application of three days of DVR viewing, rising to a more palatable 2.5 in the demo. Ben and Kate saw a 19 percent bump, finishing with a 1.9 in the Tuesday 8:30 p.m. time slot.

It’s worth noting that live-three results are directional at best. Until Nielsen processes the first batch of C3 ratings—the currency against which all TV buys are measured, C3 demonstrates commercial viewership in live programming plus three days of playback—it is more or less impossible to determine if the new shows are hitting their marks.

As far as Fox entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly is concerned, both shows are pulling their weight. “Ben and Kate and The Mindy Project have everything we want to stand for in comedy: smart writing, hugely appealing casts and comedy that feels contemporary and real—which is why we’re confident they will continue to build on what is already an appointment comedy night for young, influential audiences,” Reilly said, by way of making the announcement.

The back orders come on the heels of NBC’s decision to give full-season orders to its new Tuesday comedies, Go On and The New Normal. In head-to-head competition, Fox’s New Girl last week made quick work of Go On, drawing a 2.8 in the demo versus the Matthew Perry comedy’s 2.1. (Those are live-same-day numbers; per L3 data, Zooey Deschanel and the boys enjoyed an even greater margin of victory (3.8 to 2.7). 

At 9:30 p.m., The Mindy Project has a slight edge over The New Normal (1.9 to 1.7 per L-SD ratings, 2.5 to 2.4 upon application of the L3 data).

Reilly’s decision to give the shows some time to grow runs counter to the kill-it-in-the-cradle ethos that has made series launches all-or-nothing propositions. The fact is, broadcasters may have to be more forbearing; as the 2012-13 season has demonstrated, low ratings are, well, the new normal. (In their most recent outings, the eight new network comedies put up a miserly 1.8 rating in the demo, while the seven newbie dramas eked out a 1.9.)

While Mindy Kaling and Ben and Kate creator Dana Fox took to Twitter to thank their supporters, there was no celebration in the offing for Fox’s new drama series, The Mob Doctor. Tonight marks the fourth installment of the genre mashup, which has foundered in the Monday 9 p.m. time slot. (Even with the L3 numbers added in, the Oct. 1 episode delivered a meager 1.2 in the demo.)

No official announcement has been made, but an additional order for The Mob Doctor is almost certainly not in the cards. With as many as three weeks of MLB Playoffs/World Series preemptions in the wings, expect Fox to quietly shift the show into the Witness Protection Program.