Tears of a Clown: Wednesday Night’s Comedies Flop on NBC

Poor showing for 'Animal Practice,' 'Guys with Kids'

Broadcasters last night took the wraps off of three new comedy series, but if the preliminary ratings are anything to go by, viewers were more inclined to mutter “huh?” or “meh” than issue a full-throated “ha ha ha.”

According to Nielsen’s live-plus-same-day data, NBC failed to tickle many funny bones with the premieres of Animal Practice and Guys with Kids. Already a target of viewer spleen for its role in interrupting NBC’s coverage of the Olympics’ closing ceremonies, Animal Practice flopped in its official debut, averaging just 5.19 million viewers and a fifth-place 1.4 rating in the all-important adults 18-to-49 demo.

The antics of Justin Kirk and Crystal the capuchin monkey weren’t enough to move the needle, as the official Animal Practice debut was down 42 percent versus the time-period premiere of Up All Night a year ago. And while no one expected that the first installment would match the generous post-Olympics sampling of Aug. 12 (12.8 million viewers/4.1 rating), AP put up the lowest premiere rating of a new 2012-13 comedy to date.

The picture didn’t improve by leaps and bounds at 8:30 p.m., as Jimmy Fallon’s Guys with Kids delivered 4.84 million viewers and a 1.6 rating. The new comedy tied Univision’s second half hour of Por Ella Soy Eva for fourth place in the demo.

So poorly did Guys with Kids fare that it failed to match the ratings posted by the previous occupant of the time slot. Last fall, Free Agents launched to 6.12 million viewers and a 2.1 rating; three weeks later, NBC canceled the show.

ABC enjoyed far better results with its 9:30 p.m. comedy premiere, as The Neighbors delivered 9.22 million viewers and a very respectable 3.2 rating. This not only represents a gain of 2 million viewers and one-tenth of a ratings point versus last fall’s season premiere of Happy Endings, but now stands as the second-best comedy debut of the season, trailing only NBC’s Tuesday night effort Go On (9.73 million/3.4).

For all that, expect a significant decline when The Neighbors returns for its second airdate. ABC next week will move the aliens-among-us lark to the 8:30 p.m. time slot behind The Middle, ceding the plum post-Modern Family slot to its sophomore comedy Suburgatory.

Clearly, The Neighbors reaped the benefits of its one-time Modern Family lead-in. Season four of the Dunphy/Pritchett Follies averaged a predictably monstrous 14.4 million viewers and a 5.5 rating, retaining 98 percent of its year-ago audience and returning 90 percent of its demo.

The three freshman comedies represent just a fraction of the new hours slated to air on Wednesday nights. On Oct. 10, the CW will unveil its brooding superhero drama Arrow at 8 p.m., while NBC and ABC will battle it out at 10 p.m. with the firehouse potboiler Chicago Fire and Nashville, a sudsy, country-fried musical drama reminiscent of the film All About Eve.

For all the intrigue supplied by the various scripted efforts, it was Fox’s musical-competition series that won the night. The X Factor kicked off its third week in front of 9.63 million viewers, up slightly from the 9.54 million who tuned in for last Wednesday’s two-hour set. Britney, Demi and the rest of the gang served up a 3.4 in the demo, down two-tenths of a ratings point versus the Sept. 19 installment.

On CBS, Survivor: Philippines scared up 10.3 million viewers and a 3.1 rating, down one-tenth of a point from last week’s premiere rating. At 9 p.m., Criminal Minds drew 11.7 million viewers and a 3.1 rating, down 24 percent versus its 2011 premiere, while CSI put up a 2.5 in the demo, beating NBC’s two-hour Law & Order: SVU (2.1) and ABC’s Revenge clip show (1.5).

CBS won the night’s battle for reach with 10.9 million viewers, while Fox breezed to a win in the demo behind The X Factor’s 3.4 rating.