Why NBC Is Airing a Live Sitcom Next Season

Undateable will be the first series to be broadcast all-live since Roc in 1992-93

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Undateable is alive—and all-live!

Late Friday night, NBC announced it had renewed its sophomore sitcom starring Chris D'Elia and Bridgit Mendler for a third season and that all of Season 3 will be filmed live.

Launching a live sitcom on the network has been a priority for NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt since the success of The Sound of Music Live! in December 2013. "There's a lot of live things in television," he said last year, "but not in scripted programming. So we've been talking about doing a live sitcom. We just have to find the right show."

Greenblatt thought he'd done that last summer, when NBC began developing a sitcom called Hospitality, about the staff at a Manhattan hotel. That show also would have aired live each week, with live commercials. But Hospitality never came to fruition. So Greenblatt turned to Undateable after the show's successful live broadcast earlier this week. Tuesday's live episode pulled a 1.3 rating in adults 18-49, a slight increase over the previous week's 1.2, and was a hit with fans on social media.

Undateable will be the first primetime series to air a full season live since Roc, a Fox sitcom, did so during season 2 in 1992-93. Greenblatt oversaw primetime programming at Fox that season, when the show was called Roc Live. The problem then, Greenblatt said, was that Roc "didn't feel live" to audiences because "those actors were so good, they never made a mistake." And when the live stunt didn't goose ratings, the show returned to its original pre-taped format for season 3. 

But Undateable should have no such issues. During its live episode May 5, executive producer Bill Lawrence packed the loose, lively show with guest stars like Zach Braff, Minnie Driver and Ed Sheeran. And given the drawing power of NBC's The Sound of Music Live! and Peter Pan Live!, along with other live events like the Golden Globes and The Voice, Greenblatt feels the time is right to attempt the season-long stunt again. "I think we could make that an event" and replicate the "anything can happen" feeling that viewers felt watching The Sound of Music and Peter Pan, he said.

Undateable is NBC's only sitcom picked up for next season. (Our up-to-date roundup of renewals and cancellations is here.)

@jasonlynch jason.lynch@adweek.com Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.