It’s the end of the road for Fox‘s freshman comedy Ben And Kate, at least for the foreseeable future. Like with The Mob Doctor, Fox is not saying that the comedy has been cancelled, just pulled from the schedule indefinitely, which basically means cancelled. The series is currently filming Episode 15 of its 19-episode order, which it will complete. After a long ratings struggle, Fox also is ending the two-hour Tuesday comedy block, at least for now. On March 12, reality staple Hell’s Kitchen will take over the Tuesday 8 PM hour, leading to New Girl and The Mindy Project. The network brass hope the move will give the two comedies a boost the way Glee helped New Girl and Raising Hope last season.
John Quaintance and David Feeney have been elevated to executive producers and co-showrunners on Fox‘s freshman comedy Ben And Kate. They will co-run the series with a creator/executive producer Dana Fox. They succeed Garrett Donovan and Neil Goldman, who departed over a month ago. Gail Lerner, who came on board following Donovan and Goldman’s exit to lend senior-level support several days a week, is staying on.
Fox brass have said they would be patient with the network’s new Tuesday comedy block, and they are proving it today with back orders to modestly-rated freshman series The Mindy Project and Ben And Kate. Mindy Kaling’s The Mindy Project, which has higher ratings as it follows anchor New Girl, has been given a full-season order with a back-nine-episode pickup. In its second outing, the workplace comedy, which gets a sizable DVR bump, logged a 1.9 adults 18-49 rating in Live+same day.
Dana Fox’s Ben And Kate has received a six-episode back order. It most recently posted a 1.6 demo rating at 8:30 PM. Fox has new comedy The Goodwin Games on tap for midseason, which was part of the reason for Ben And Kate‘s six-episode order. The comedy recently underwent a showrunner change, with executive producers Garrett Donovan and Neil Goldman leaving. Gail Lerner has since come on board to land senior-level support several days a week. “Ben And Kate and The Mindy Project have everything we want to stand for in comedy: smart writing, hugely appealing casts and comedy that feels contemporary and real – which is why we’re confident they will continue to build on what is already an appointment comedy night for young, influential audiences on Tuesdays,” Fox chairman Kevin Reilly said.
It may be the DVR effect, impact of cable or the Internet, but it is kind of depressing seeing a whopping seven programs on the Big 4 broadcast networks post a 1 rating among adults 18-49 on Night 10 of the new season when viewer excitement is supposed to be still high.
Fox’s all-comedy Tuesday block continues to struggle. The addition of Raising Hope as 8 PM anchor didn’t help as the comedy opened its third season with a 1.7/5 among adults 18-49. That was down 45% from the series’ second season premiere behind New Girl last fall. It was also down 19% from Raising Hope‘s debut in the Tuesday 8 PM slot last spring when Fox tried out a two-hour comedy block. New Fox comedies, Ben And Kate (1.6/5) and The Mindy Project (1.9/5) both crumbled in Week 2, down 24% and 21%, respectively, from their modest premieres. The big dropoff for critical darling The Mindy Project is especially concerning as the show followed New Girl. In one of the brighter spots on last night’s ratings report, New Girl (2.8/7) matched its season premiere rating from last week, avoiding the proverbial “second-week slump.” Ben And Kate‘s dropoff mirrored that of its lead-in (down 25% from last week when Fox aired a new New Girl at 8 PM.)
Ray Richmond contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.
It isn’t every TCA session that features an Oscar-winning screenwriter on the panel promoting the new comedy series he’s starring in. But that’s where Nat Faxon found himself this morning, doing his best to draw attention to the forthcoming single-camera Fox comedy Ben And Kate on which his character helps his sister raise his niece. Of course, the first question out of the box was, essentially, what a guy who won an Academy Award this year for adapted screenplay for The Descendants (shared with writing partner Jim Rash and Alexander Payne) was doing slumming it as an actor on a sitcom? “I literally got this (role) the day after I won the Oscar,” Faxon admitted. “I don’t necessarily think I’m going to be handed acting roles because of something I did in the writing field.” Interjected Ben And Kate creator-showrunner Dana Fox: “Let me clarify. We locked (Faxon) in before he had a chance to realize he’d made a huge mistake.” And what’s it like having an Oscar-winning scribe starring in your show? He was asked if he ever stops by the writers room with his Oscar and asks if they’d like help. “Every single day, I’m like, is there anything you’d like to change?” Fox says, “and Nat is just like, ‘Oh no, you did a great job.’ I’ve asked him to just show up with his Oscar one day but he won’t do it.”
In what has become a TV industry standard, Fox will preview new comedy series Ben And Kate and The Mindy Project in advance of their fall primetime debuts. The previews will be on Facebook and other online sites — including Yahoo, Hulu, AOL, MSN, Fox.com and Xfinity — and via participating cable, satellite and telco distribution partners on both VOD and online platforms from August 27 to September 9. The series premiere September 25. Last year, Fox successfully previewed New Girl on iTunes, VOD, airplanes and Hulu and in hotels for two weeks, resulting in big premiere numbers for the comedy starring Zooey Deschanel.
20th Century Fox TV is finalizing deals with Everybody Loves Raymond veteran Mike Royce to serve as showrunner on another family comedy, NBC’s midseason single-camera half-hour 1600 Penn, and with Community executive producers Garrett Donovan and Neil Goldman for the same duty on Fox’s fall single-camera comedy Ben and Kate. The gigs stem from Royce and Donovan & Goldman’s overall deals with the studio. Both pilots were written by scribes with no TV series writing experience. 1600 Penn was co-written by actor Josh Gad and former White House speechwriter Jon Lovett, with input from director Jason Winer; Ben & Kate was written by feature writer Dana Fox. Royce recently worked on a single-camera comedy project for 20th TV, the Fox pilot Little Brother.