Amid a sea of reality series on the Big 4 networks this summer, Fox tried something different with What Just Happened??!, an aftershow parody hosted by Fred Savage.
The series — a blend of a real talk-show and a scripted comedy set around a fake aftershow for a fictional sci-fi drama based on a series of books that don’t exist — has barely registered in the linear Nielsen ratings, averaging paltry 680,000 viewers and a 0.2 adults 18-49 rating in Live+Same Day on Sundays.
The network has not made an official renewal decision for What Happened??!, which still is airing, but the writing seems to be on the wall.
“Obviously the ratings were not as high as we’d hoped, so I think a second season is challenging,” Fox Entertainment President Michael Thorn told Deadline at TCA.
Still, “the project was a really fun experiment for us,” he said. “While it didn’t break through in the ratings, it has been a great calling card for us in the comedy community where many creators and comedians have told us: ‘I can’t believe you tried that show, that’s amazing. Can I be on it if it’s on again?'”
Added Fox Entertainment CEO Charlie Collier, “For us, especially if we’re going to be a home for talent, I think it was a win on a lot of levels. I’m proud of it.”
And the network will continue to take swings in the alternative comedy arena where it has several projects well underway, including a U.S. version of Les Guignols, a satirical puppet show that ran for decades in France, with Saturday Night Live alum Robert Smigel, as well as a sketch/variety show.
“While we are looking at more classic live-action narrative comedies. we are really aggressively looking at different ways to do sketch shows and alternative comedies,” Thorn said. “The puppet comedy from Robert Smigel is very high on our list and something we are really excited about.”
Putting What Just Happened??! in the summer took pressure off the show, allowing the network to complete its run despite the low ratings. That is a strategy Fox likely will continue.
“Michael Thorn, [head of alternative] Rob Wade, and I talk a lot about not just taking big swings but doing them off-cycle, doing them when they’re opportunistic,” Collier said.
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