Critically acclaimed multi-camera sitcom has become something of an oxymoron, with no multi-camera shows winning the best comedy series Emmy in a decade, and only one, CBS’ The Big Bang Theory, coming close since.
Then NBC’s The Carmichael Show, co-created by and starring comedian Jerrod Carmichael, came along last summer. Feeling almost like an off-season burn-off, the sitcom drew eyeballs and strong reviews, earning a second season renewal. But now, the show is in jeopardy of not making it to a third season.
NBC has been in renewal discussions with 20th Century Fox TV — which became the lead studio on the show after its pickup to series, co-producing with Universal TV — but with hours remaining before NBC unveils its 2016-17 schedule Sunday morning, there has been no deal. No one would comment, but I hear that the size of the order may be among the sticking points. (The Carmichael Show‘s first season consisted of 6 episodes, the second of 13.)
The show’s initial run ranked as the most-watched summer comedy on the Big 4 networks in eight years and tied for the No. 1 summer comedy over that span in adults 18-49.
The Carmichael Show returned for a second season in March with even stronger reviews, earning a rare 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The show made headlines with its Bill Cosby episode. But, airing with a solid — though not very compatible — lead-in from unscripted breakout Little Big Shots, The Carmichael Show has been a so-so ratings performer in Season 2, hovering around the 1 rating mark in adults 18-49 Live+same day.
Based of ratings alone, one could make a case for cancelation. But there have been a number of broadcast series that have been kept on the air despite low ratings because of the prestige they bring to their networks — CBS’ The Good Wife ran for 7 seasons, and ABC’s American Crime was just renewed for a third season.
Without The Carmichael Show, NBC would be bringing only one existing comedy series back, newbie Superstore. And the experiment of bringing edge and topicality to the stodgy multi0camera format will be over. The Carmichael Show has been lauded for its takes on sensitive and controversial topics. Its fans include comedy great Norman Lear, to whose classic, All In the Family, The Carmichael Show often gets compared to.
There is still little time, and an 11th-hour renewal agreement could conceivably be reached (or the pickup decision pushed until after the upfronts). It was only seven months ago that NBC brass said at the renewal that they were “extremely proud” of the show, calling it “funny”, “relatable” and “fearless about discussing issues that are significant in the world today.”