Deciphering NBC’s midseason comedy shuffle

The incoming group of NBC executives this year knew they were inheriting a tough situation, with the Peacock Network in fourth place in the ratings (and maybe even worse at times if you include the Spanish-language networks) and no reason to see that changing in Fall 2011.

But by early October, they also found themselves between 30 rocks and a hard place to find enough time slots to go around.

Or about as tough as that metaphor I just tried to pull off.

Thing is, by ordering rookie sitcoms Whitney and Up All Night to full seasons, NBC put itself in a scheduling dilemma — not just on Thursdays, where 30 Rock was being held until midseason due to Tina Fey’s pregnancy, but also throughout the week, because they also have four other sitcoms waiting in the wings. If they had asked me, I would have told them to move Community out of the 8 p.m. Thursday slot where it has been hammered on all sides by more proven, popular hits, and to a safer slot. What did NBC decide to do? They flipped Whitney and Up All Night, and moved Community to…well, nowhere yet.

So the week of Jan. 8, 2012, will look like this on NBC:


  • 8 p.m. Whitney
  • 8:30 p.m. Are You There, Chelsea? (the Chelsea Handler project, now with a shortened, non-alcoholic title)


  • 8 p.m. 30 Rock
  • 8:30 p.m. Parks and Recreation
  • 9 p.m. The Office
  • 9:30 p.m. Up All Night

Both of these changes make sense both stylistically and demographically, as fans of Whitney Cummings’ show are more likely to be fans of Chelsea Handler; same goes for fans of Up All Night and the rest of the Thursday single-cams.

That leaves fans of Community wondering, what now? NBC ordered 22 episodes for the third season and plans to air all of them eventually — currently, #310 would be the last new episode to air on Dec. 8, 2011, before repeats and the forced hiatus. That leaves 12 more episodes to air sometime in spring 2012.

But there is hope. Conventional wisdom holds that Sony, which co-produces Community, would likely offer a lower licensing fee for a fourth season in 2012-2013 to ensure enough episodes that they can recoup the investment and then some via syndication. (See: Rules of Engagement)

And there are other NBC comedies that weren’t announced as part of the January midseason schedule.

Among them: BFF, the sitcom starring Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair. Why wasn’t it on the schedule? Namely because it doesn’t even begin shooting until January. Sources at that show tell The Comic’s Comic to expect a debut later in the spring, closer to April. Remember that NBC’s Parks and Recreation also debuted in April with a short first-season order in 2009.

There’s also Bent, the romantic comedy starring Amanda Peet, with a six-episode order to fill.

And there’s Betty White’s Off Their Rockers, the senior citizen prank show, with a 12-episode order. That one sounds like a summer series, unless one of the midseason dramas falters and creates a scheduling void.

Don’t be surprised if Community becomes BFFs with BFF come spring. I suggest Tuesdays at 8 and 8:30 p.m., once slumpingĀ The Biggest Loser has hit a point when it no longer needs to have two-hour episodes. Sure, the CBS hitĀ NCIS is there, but go after Glee and ABC’s unproven rookies. Just a thought. Or there’s always the 8 p.m. Friday hour, where it could show up after the NBC reality show Who Do You Think You Are? runs its course.

In the meantime, if you want to sign a petition to “Save Community,” you can do that. I’m not sure if contributing to the We Love Community Tumblr does anything to help, but you can do that, too. Although truth be told, this midseason break might be the best way to actually save Community.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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