Year-round scheduling is a great idea unless it hits constraints associated with the traditional broadcast production cycle. That is the case this year with two comedies, NBC’s The Carmichael Show and ABC’s Downward Dog. Both premiered in late May and have done respectably by summer standards. Neither has heard yet on its future, but, regardless whether the networks make a renewal decision in the next ten days or not, the studios that produce the two comedies have to make a call as the options on the actors expire on June 30. 20th TV, the leading studio on The Carmichael Show, co-producing with Universal TV, and Legendary TV/ABC Studios, which are behind Downward Dog, will have to pick up the options on the actors for the series to stay alive.
I hear NBC is nowhere near a renewal decision on The Carmichael Show, created by and starring Jerrod Carmichael, and it may very well extend beyond June 30. With no indications from the network one way or the other, I hear 20th TV has quietly sent out feelers to other networks to gauge potential interest in case NBC opts to cancel the show after three seasons.
The Carmichael Show, a rare critically acclaimed multi-camera sitcom, scored a dramatic eleventh hour renewal last year, with a deal coming after NBC had announced its fall schedule and its executive had faced questions about the show’s uncertain future. Season three was produced for midseason but was held until May 31. There were concerns that the delay would chip away at the show’s timeliness, which had been part of its DNA, taking on hot-button subjects like police violence. But Season three had proven unexpectedly timely — NBC even moved to postpone at the last minute last week’s episode, which deals with a mass shooting as it fell on a day of two real-life mass shootings in the U.S., including the shooting at the Congressional baseball practice. The network’s decision was publicly criticized by Carmichael who called it “criminal.”
This week, The Carmichael Show is slated to tackle the N-Word and can white people say it on the heels of the controversy surrounding comedian Bill Maher’s use of the word on his HBO show.
Ratings-wise, The Carmichael Show has been stable four episodes in. Airing on Wednesday behind Little Big Shots, the comedy averaged a 0.8 adults 18-49 Live+same day rating the last two weeks, a tenth off the 0.9 for the season premiere.
Downward Dog, which became the first broadcast comedy series to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, also had been steady. After a better-than-expected debut on Wednesday (1.1 in 18-49 Live+same day), the quirky single-camera comedy starring Allison Tolman was sent to Tuesdays where it airs with no support as the sole original on the night at 8 PM against the biggest series of the summer, NBC’s America’s Got Talent. But the show has quickly developed a core loyal audience, drawing a 0.7 L+SD ratings for the past three weeks, better than the 0.5 that drama Still Star-Crossed had been averaging with The Bachelorette lead-in (The Shondaland drama also faces cast options expirations but its prospects are not good.) Downward Dog also has been getting traction on social media. I hear there have been discussions between ABC and the producers for a potential pickup but scheduling again may be an issue because ABC’s comedy deck is stacked with seven returning series. There is only one new half-hour series slated to debut in the fall, The Mayor, with two more, Alex, Inc., and Splitting Up Together, on tap for midseason.
One way or another, a decision — to renew the series or extend the actors — has to be made on The Carmichael Show and Downward Dog in the next ten days. If nothing is done, that will be equal to cancellation.