Oh, Brother: Fox Cancels Ben and Kate

Freshman Comedy Fails to Deliver Ratings

Fox is revising its two-hour Tuesday night comedy block, halting production on the freshman effort Ben and Kate just days after pulling the show from its winter schedule.

The amiable sitcom, which starred Dakota Johnson and writer-performer Nat Faxon as a pair of mismatched siblings, enjoyed what seemed to be a plum time slot, occupying the half-hour between Raising Hope and New Girl. But, as has been the case with nearly every show that has premiered this season, the ratings never came together for Ben and Kate.

After bowing Sept. 25 to 4.21 million viewers and a 2.1 rating in the 18-49 demo, Ben and Kate began taking on water. By week four, the show was drawing just 2.70 million viewers and a 1.2 in the demo, per Nielsen live-plus-same day data.

Not helping matters was Ben and Kate’s competitive set, a roster of reach vehicles that included: NBC’s The Voice; Dancing with the Stars (ABC); and the CBS procedural NCIS. The latter is the most-watched scripted series on television.

Through the course of the 13 episodes that aired this season, Ben and Kate averaged a mere 2.82 million viewers and a 1.3 in the dollar demo. Fox halted production on the series with just two episodes left to be filmed out of an 18-episode order. It’s uncertain if the remaining three installments will air, although there’s always a chance Fox may burn them off in the summer.

Fox placed a full-season order for Ben and Kate on Oct. 8. 

Beginning this week, Fox will fill the 8:30 p.m. time slot with a second episode of Raising Hope. Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen will return for its 11th cycle on March 12, effectively bringing an end to the two-hour comedy experiment—at least for the near term. But that’s not to say Fox won’t try to revive the block next fall; after all, it has ordered eight comedy pilots.

In any event, the cancelation is a blow to Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly’s plans to maintain a standalone pillar of four comedies. Prior to the network’s 2012-13 upfront presentation in New York, Reilly told TV writers that the Tuesday night block was “something we wanted to do for a long time,” before adding that in newcomers Ben and Kate and The Mindy Project, Fox “finally [had] the shows that feel like exactly the tone we are looking for.”

Reilly went on to say that Fox didn’t overload on comedy projects because his development team “made some bets that we think are going to stick.”

Fox still has one last comedy bullet in the chamber with the single-camera sitcom The Goodwin Games. While the network hasn’t announced a premiere date, it could air as many as seven episodes before the season ends in late May.

Season-to-date, Ben and Kate is the third new sitcom to be canceled (fourth if you count NBC’s stillborn Dane Cook pilot, Next Caller). It joins NBC’s Animal Practice and CBS’ Partners in broadcast’s Great Beyond. If the ratings are anything to go by, Ben and Kate won’t be wanting for additional company at season’s end. Of the 10 new comedies that have premiered this year, only ABC’s The Neighbors is still delivering a 2.0 in the demo.

After losing its Voice lead-in, the once-promising Matthew Perry comedy Go On has flatlined, falling from a 3.4 in its fall debut to a 1.3 in the demo last Tuesday. This puts the show in league with lead-out The New Normal (1.2 on Jan. 22), Guys with Kids (1.3 on Jan. 9) and 1600 Penn (1.3 on Jan. 24).

Also failing to draw a crowd are Fox’s The Mindy Project,which has drawn a 1.5 in its last four new installments and ABC’s Malibu Country, which averages a 1.5 rating on low-HUT level Friday nights.

Ben and Kate’s ouster comes on the heels of ABC pulling the plug on its sophomore Tuesday night comedy, Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt. 23

If Tuesday nights are now a little less cheery, things are generally starting to look up at Fox. While it has a long way to go to make up its shortfall among the under-50 set—through Week 17, the network is down 27 percent in the demo with an average rating of 2.4—Fox is starting to see a little daylight thanks to the return of American Idol and the new drama series The Following.

While Idol is no longer delivering jaw-dropping ratings, the franchise remains one of the last non-NFL properties to reach a 5.0 or better in the demo. Meanwhile, the graphic serial-killer procedural The Following debuted last Monday to a very promising 10.4 million viewers and a 3.2 rating.