Sitcom Scorecard: November 29-December 3, 2020

On the heels of NBC's devastating announcement is it ending Superstore, the Sitcom Scorecard is going to evaluate and discuss which networks are committed to sitcoms vs. phasing out.  Superstore is ending in its sixth season after a sturdy run for NBC, and sadly long before its quality faded too much.  Also, please note last week's Sitcom Scorecard weighed lighter than ABC's true weight as its entire lineup gained a tenth after final numbers were posted.  Apologies for this inconsistency, as well as the harshness toward ABC sitcoms.  Nielsen has experienced mild delays following the holidays so data has been inconsistent but monitored.  This changes ABC and CBS now both vexed in 2nd place.

Sunday, November 29 delivered lighter helpings for FOX's animation block with only The Simpsons (0.6) and Bob's Burgers (0.5) delivering original episodes.  Monday, November 30 experienced another stable CBS evening with The Neighborhood (0.8) and Bob Hearts Abishola (0.6) matching their respectable last outing.  Wednesday, December 1 was a mixed blessing for ABC (final numbers have yet to be determined).  The Goldbergs (0.7) and American Housewife (0.6) matched their last outing while The Conners (0.6) and Blackish (0.4) shed a tenth.  Thursday, December 2 delivered a stable evening for CBS with Young Sheldon (0.8), B-Positive (0.6), Mom (0.6) and The Unicorn (0.5) all matching their last outing two weeks earlier.

Status changes for this week's entry sadly change Superstore's wrongly predicted "Certain Renewal" to "Final Season," oops and apologies.  Also, CBS' B-Positive has upgraded from "On the Bubble" to "Leans Renewal" after rebounding from a bad outing, as well as retaining its numbers after a two-week hiatus.

COVID-19 has been blamed for ruining the television landscape.  What many forget is the last three television seasons have been rotating away from scripted programming (again) in favor of cost-effective Reality TV.  Many may dis and curse the genre, but it has proven to be the proper solution on broadcast networks continually hemorrhaging 15-25% of their audience each season for the last 14 years.  When scripted shows become too costly, networks begin shying away from the classic format and looking to what costs less and easier to attract eyeballs to.  Someone is less likely to DVR a sporting event, and Reality TV is deemed less predictable and also recorded less vs viewed live.  Take a peek at which networks are committed to (or culling) their sitcoms.


The network experienced a massive drop from Fall 2019 with only 6 timeslots committed vs. their prior 10.  However, ABC appears to be MODERATELY COMMITTED to keeping at least 4 timeslots available.  Pilots have been lean pickings the last two seasons, the hits are aging and sturdier helpings of Bachelor(ette) proved more effective than 4 hours of floundering comedies.  Releasing Call Your Mother on Wednesday, January 13 demonstrates a desire to keep a stake on Wednesdays.  And even offering lower-rated Blackish and Mixed-ish space on Tuesdays demonstrates ABC wants comedies on their map.  The veterans and outsourced players are on the radar for dispensing, and hopefully ABC can locate suitable replacements to update the tired "Crazy Mother, Dopey Father and a House Full of Kids" formula it has exhausted since 2014.


A few seasons back, CBS ended a 65-year old trend of always having a comedy on Monday in 2015, ominously leaning toward trimming down its canned laughter.  However, locating suitable replacements in The Neighborhood and Bob Hearts Abishola repaired 5 years of faltering Monday entries.  And the Thursday Block is intact and delivering above average for 2020-21 standards, even withstanding interruptions from holiday and seasonal scheduling.  CBS is VERY COMMITTED to keeping comedies on the radar.  It could lose Mom due to contractual issues and costs, but Young Sheldon and The Neighborhood hold sturdy and respectable to the expected ratings.  Plus, CBS hasn't updated their network in some time, so they are still ordering pilots and scheduling like it is 2009 with laugh-track sitcoms and predictably dull procedurals.


Back when the 2017-18 season started, FOX had 7 timeslots with its animation block delivering sturdy and live entries tanking.  A massive bloodletting taking out Brooklyn-99, Last Man on Earth, The Mick, New Girl and LA>Vegas spelled a new era (along with irrational outcries from angered fans).  This was also the year the FOX and Disney merger took hold.  FOX still commits to six timeslots, and even has two timeslots not animated.  However, take a closer look.  The network struck gold when a revived Last Man Standing came to Friday nights in 2018-19.  However, the network moved it to mid-season and on Thursdays in 2019-20.  And this season, the Tim Allen hit is ending.  Again.  

Backing it up is The Moody's, once dubbed a limited series which delivered abysmal numbers for even lower-rated December, is committed as a companion for LMS.  Given The Moody's is likely dead before premiering unless it rates at 0.8, it appears FOX has stopped investing in live-action sitcoms.  Reducing its offerings to animated only demonstrates FOX is LESS COMMITTED to maintaining sitcoms for its viewers.  They have placed priority in non-scripted entries like sports and reality TV, as well as their stronger dramas.  The animated shows are also easier to produce under quarantine, perhaps indicative of a secondary factor for leaning this direction.


It has been a hard road for Must-See-TV on Thursdays the last 16 years.  After juggernauts Friends, Frasier and Will & Grace left the air between 2004-06, few hits such as The Office emerged, and too many comedies disposed and dispensed.  Several seasons went without sitcoms, particularly between 2014-16.  Futile efforts from the peacock were made to revive the brand.  And there was no lack of innovation, quality and creativity in what was offered.  Outside of the brief fireworks made by the Will & Grace revival in 2017, sitcoms on this network could only aspire to be average in ratings.  Ironic, as 2011-19 became the era which NBC soared into 1st Place thanks to The Voice and later stronger dramas from This Is Us and the Chicago-verse.  

Superstore moved into being NBC's strongest player 2 years earlier, and seemed to be the strongest player to carry the network into the new era.  Truncating it to a final season in 2021 looks ominous.  Brooklyn-99 is in its 8th season and had behind-the-scenes troubles stemming from the nasty riots in 2020.  All that is left is Kenan, an afterthought sitcom slated to air last year and likely DOA when it hits the schedule in 2021.  Given few promising entries are coming, NBC appears to be NOT COMMITTED to keeping sitcoms on the air.  Tragic as it ruled Thursday nights from 1984-2006, but that was a long time ago.  Why would an NBC exec be saddened by this when their dramas, sports and unscripted programming are succeeding in the ratings with a potential reclaiming of 1st place eyed soon?

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