Life’s a Bitch and Then You Get Canceled: ABC Evicts Apt. 23

Low-rated charmer a victim of Tuesday night comedy traffic jam

Broadcast’s Tuesday night comedy roadblock has claimed its first casualty, as ABC has canceled its stalled sophomore effort Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt. 23.

Following a seven-episode springtime run behind ABC’s powerhouse Modern Family, in which it averaged 5.71 million viewers and a 2.3 in the 18-49 demo, Apt. 23 this fall was shifted to the Tuesday 9 p.m. time slot.

Without the protection of the Pritchett-Dunphy clan—Apt. 23 in its sophomore run leads out of the decidedly weaker comedy Happy Endings—the series lost whatever momentum it built up last May. Bowing on Oct. 23 to just 4.20 million viewers and a 1.7 in the dollar demo, Apt. 23 would fall to a 0.9 by its fourth episode.

A plan to scare up new viewers on Sunday nights was abandoned after the show drew a meager 1.76 million viewers and a 0.8 in the demo on Jan. 13. All told, the truncated second season of Apt. 23 averaged just 2.85 million viewers and a 1.1 among the under-50 crowd.

There are no plans to air the eight episodes that remain in Apt. 23’s Season 2 order. 

While Happy Endings has put up better numbers than Apt. 23, it’s hardly holding its own in the 9 p.m. time slot opposite Fox’s New Girl and NBC’s Go On. Through nine first-run installments, Happy Endings is averaging a 1.3 in the demo. Season to date, New Girl and freshman entry Go On are both averaging a 2.4 rating.

Last spring, as the networks unveiled their 2012-13 prime-time schedules, media buyers suggested that cramming six comedies into a single hour could have unintended consequences. “It’s always nice to have options, but we’re going to see a lot of cannibalization in that hour,” said Sam Armando, svp, director of strategic intelligence at Starcom MediaVest Group Exchange. “Fox may have an advantage because of New Girl, but we’ll have to see how strong it is when it comes back.”

Apt. 23 went head-to-head with a pair of underperforming newcomers in Fox’s The Mindy Project and NBC’s The New Normal. After bowing on Sept. 25 to a modest 4.67 million viewers and a 2.4 in the demo, The Mindy Project has failed to draw an audience. On Jan. 22, the Mindy Kaling comedy delivered a 3.05 million viewers and a 1.5 rating. The New Normal is also in jeopardy, falling from a premiere delivery of 6.88 million viewers and a 2.5 rating to 3.28 million viewers and a 1.2 on Tuesday night.

Effective next week (Jan. 29), ABC will air back-to-back episodes of Happy Endings in the 9-10 p.m. slot.

Actor James Van Der Beek, who played a hilariously exaggerated version of “himself” on Apt. 23, was spot-on in his analysis of broadcast’s core dilemma. “I know most of you watched us on your own time [and] platform and that the competitive network scheduling game is irrelevant to you,” Van Der Beek tweeted Tuesday evening. “But network TV is a business dictated by Nielson [sic] ratings. And while that’s an antiquated business model, it’s the only one they’ve got.”

Network executives have been saying much the same thing since the season began.