Two Hits And A Flop: Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock, Outsourced


Two Hits And A Flop examines three shows, similar in a category such as style, scheduling, and/or actors involved. Two of those shows are recognizable hits that lasted many seasons, while the other show is a flop that may not have seen a second season. This edition focuses on three NBC workplace sitcoms: Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock, and Outsourced. While Parks and Recreation and 30 Rock are award-winning shows that both lasted seven seasons and maintained a passionate fanbase, Outsourced was canceled after its first season. 

Scheduling & Ratings

While at first Outsourced looked to be about in line on average ratings-wise with Parks and Recreation and 30 Rock, it must be remembered that Outsourced started off the season in a much more favorable time slot than the other two series. It got to premiere after NBC’s flagship sitcom The Office, and aired there through 2010. Meanwhile, 30 Rock was scheduled at 8:30 pm after a fairly low-rated Community. That is a large time slot downgrade from the previous season, where it was able to air after The Office. Additionally, Parks and Recreation didn’t even make the fall schedule, missing out on higher TV viewing levels in the fall. 

When it comes to retention, Outsourced didn’t do all that great out of The Office. Its final episode in the fall received a 2.5 Live + Same Day Adults 18-49 rating out of The Office’s 3.7, putting it a tad ahead of 30 Rock’s 2.3. While 30 Rock had a smaller rating, it was quite clearly the stronger show, growing out of Community’s 1.9. With Parks and Recreation still on the bench, American Idol coming to FOX in January, and The Apprentice flopping at 10 pm, NBC’s Thursday night schedule was due for a shakeup. 

The schedule they made demonstrated NBC’s clear favoring of Parks and Recreation and 30 Rock over Outsourced. Parks and Recreation would start 2011 in the 9:30 pm post-The Office time slot, and NBC would expand comedies to 10 pm to avoid 30 Rock having to air against the ratings juggernaut that was American Idol. Outsourced shifted to 10:30 pm, perhaps to avoid having to premiere a brand new comedy that late. NBC now had a two-hour workplace comedy block from 9 pm to 11 pm, with Community and two short-lived new sitcoms being the sacrificial lambs against American Idol (and in Community’s case, The Big Bang Theory as well). 

Outsourced certainly didn’t have the worst spot on that midseason schedule, but it was clear NBC would rather it fail than one of their veteran sitcoms with critical acclaim and established on-screen talent. The final day all three shows aired together, Outsource had a 1.5 Live + Same Day Adults 18-49 rating, paltry retention from 30 Rock’s 2.1 and even further below the time slot competition. At 9:30, Parks and Recreation had a 2.5 rating out of The Office’s 3.5. Retention-wise, this is just a tad stronger than the final post-The Office airing of Outsourced. However, having dipped all the way down to a 1.5, it’s hard to argue Outsourced would’ve been able to go back to the days of mid 2s even if it started airing after The Office again. 

Star Power

30 Rock was created by and starred Tina Fey, who also co-executive produced the series with the likes of Lorne Michaels. Tina Fey was previously Saturday Night Live’s head writer, a show Lorne Michaels created. With 30 Rock based off of Tina Fey’s time at Saturday Night Live, this was a show practically made for NBC. Other co-stars of 30 Rock included former Saturday Night Live cast member Tracy Morgan as well as movie star Alec Baldwin. 

Parks and Recreation was co-created by Greg Daniels, creator the US version of The Office, and Michael Schur, a writer on The Office. It starred and was produced by Amy Poehler, who previously co-anchored Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update with Tina Fey. Between Amy Poehler and Greg Daniels, Parks and Recreation naturally had overlap with The Office and 30 Rock. In fact, there was even talk of branding Parks and Recreation as a spin-off of The Office, an idea that ultimately did not come to fruition. 

Outsourced was based on a indie rom-com that grossed just over $700,000. It was set in a call center in India, with the main character being an American relocated to India to manage the branch. This character was played by Ben Rappaport in his first ever television role. Most other actors had limited to no past experiences on American television. An exception is Diedrich Bader, who received steady work on well-known series and co-starred on The Drew Carrey Show from 1995 through 2004. While Outsourced was by no means a poorly-acted show, the unfortunate reality for the series was it lacked the star power it needed to get organic initial exposure. The success of the show rested entirely on it somehow holding well from The Office and developing enough of an audience that would follow it to another time slot. Neither of those happened, leading to its cancelation. 


30 Rock was one of the last broadcast sitcoms to consistently reap in major awards. Its first three seasons all won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series, and the subsequent four seasons received nominations. Alec Baldwin was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series in all seven seasons, and won twice — for comparison, that’s two more wins than Steve Carrell received for his performance in The Office in the same time period. Tina Fey was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series in all seven seasons, and won once. The remaining cast members also received anywhere between one and four Emmy nominations over the course of the show’s run. In Season 3, all five main cast members received nominations. Given all the wins for 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation was not lucky enough to score an Emmy win during its run. However, Amy Poehler received six nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, and Parks and Recreation scored two nominations for Outstanding Comedy Series. Both shows did extremely well at the Golden Globes as well, so much so that Fey and Poehler eventually went on to co-host the ceremony four times. 

Outsourced did not receive that type of awards love. It was nominated for a People’s Choice Award for Favorite New TV Comedy as well as two NAMIC (National Association of Multi-Ethnicity in Communications) Vision Awards. Outsourced was not going to be given a second chance because of awards.

Was Outsourced Destined To Flop?

NBC did not treat Outsourced well in 2011. They could have reasonably kept it behind The Office all season to see if it would grow, but that would require one of Parks and Recreation and 30 Rock to air at 10:30 pm. Neither show really deserved that ratings-wise, and NBC clearly wanted every reason to keep them around for years to come. Time slots mattered a lot more back then than they do now, and NBC simply could not afford to keep 30 Rock in the 8 pm hour after Community if they wanted to keep it around as anything other than a sacrificial lamb. 

Outsourced probably could have done good enough to warrant a second season if it stayed at 9:30 pm all season long, and realistically speaking, Parks and Recreation wasn’t going to get canceled even if it aired at 10:30 pm. In a way, NBC’s scheduling may have cost them an excuse to renew an additional sitcom. After all, Outsourced was actually NBC’s most successful new sitcom that season, the others having been pulled from the schedule. However, new series orders Whitney and Up All Night obviously sounded more promising to them than another season of Outsourced, and NBC retreated back down to two hours of comedy in fall 2011. 

Even if Outsourced stayed behind The Office all season long and did well enough to get a renewal, the 10:30 pm ratings demonstrates it would just be delaying the inevitable: Outsourced really could not stand well on its own. Without the intention of keeping a three hour comedy block, there was no room for a second season of Outsourced.

Share this

Related Posts

Next Post »