There have been rampant rumors this week that NBC is cancelling underperforming new series The Playboy Club and Free Agents. It’s because the shows have logged 2 and 3 low-rated airings, respectively, dropping double-digits week-to-week. Also in danger is the network’s Prime Suspect, which opened with a disappointing 1.9 18-49 rating last week, and sophomore Harry’s Law, stuck at a 1.2 in 2 airings. But I’m told NBC won’t be pulling any new series this week since NBC chairman Bob Greenblatt wants to give all freshmen more time to send a message to the creative community that he will give their shows on NBC every possible chance to succeed. (And those are not even shows he had developed.). That is a departure from traditional network MO in the case of fall shows with such underwhelming launches. Last year, Fox’s Lone Star and ABC’s My Generation were cancelled after 2 airings each. They drew a 1.0 and 1.1 demo rating, respectively, just before they were pulled. This week, Free Agents and The Playboy Club posted a 1.0 and a 1.3. But Greenblatt comes from the cable world, where series are given a season-long run to find their footing before a decision on their futures is made. In the realities of the broadcast business, keeping a high-end drama or comedy on the air at a 1 demo rating level for more than a couple of weeks is prohibitive. But, since viewers are still sampling shows and tweaking their viewing patterns for the new season, NBC is willing to wait for that process to settle before sacking the biggest underachievers.
NBC’s Greenblatt showed similar patience in mid-season with low-rated new comedy Perfect Couples, though The Paul Reiser show was canceled after 2 episodes as the widely panned comedy started at 1.1 rating and dipped to a 0.9 in the second airing. Historically, there have been a number of shows, including Seinfeld, Cheers and House, which started off very low but went on to become mega hits. As for Playboy Club, there has been a lot of speculation that the new Brian Williams prime time magazine might be eyed as a replacement in the Monday 10 PM slot. While the new program is not quite ready yet, making it unlikely that it can be summoned up right away, it appears its premiere will be well before the original mid-season target date.