ABC just can’t catch a break this season. After its new fall drama Lucky 7 tied NBC’s Ironside for the lowest-rated series debut this season with a 1.2 in adults 18-49, the network’s new limited series The Assets opened with a 0.7 at 10 PM last night. That would be the lowest-rated in-season drama series debut on the Big 4, eclipsing NBC’s Do No Harm (0.9), and is a ratings threshold that normally triggers cancellation, as was the case with Lucky 7. However, maybe in anticipation of calamity, ABC reclassified the eight-part Cold War series to a mini-series in the run-up to the premiere. And in its defense, The Assets does not hail from ABC’s entertainment division but ABC News as it is based on real-live events and didn’t get any marketing. The spy series — which is in the vein of FX’s The Americans but with no sexy Russian operatives — was preceded by the two-hour season premiere of ABC’s The Taste, which only did a bit better, 1.2, down 43% from its 8-10 PM series debut last season on Tuesday. Shockingly (or not), that was still good enough to beat NBC’s Thursday comedy block from 8-10 PM, which included the season premiere of Community.
NBC‘s veteran Community launches its Season 5 on January 2 with back-to-back episodes from 8-9 PM before moving to its old 8 PM Thursday slot. The season will mark the return to the helm by series creator Dan Harmon, who was sacked by the network before last season for bad behavior but then asked back when the show slipped — as even its hardest of hard-core fans would admit. There have been a couple of teaser trailers out there this week. Here’s the latest, darkest one — is the Harmon touch evident here do you think?
UPDATE: NBC Cancels ‘Welcome To The Family’ & ‘Ironside’, Gives ‘Sean Saves The World’ Script Order, Sets Premiere Dates For ‘Community’ & ‘Chicago PD’
UPDATE, 1:55 PM: I’ve learned that NBC‘s other new Thursday comedy awaiting word on its fate, Sean Saves The World, has received an order for 4 additional scripts. While the series posted a 1.1 in adults 18-49 last night, same as freshly cancelled Ironside, it does build on its Welcome To The Family lead-in (0.9 last night), and NBC brass have been encouraged with the show’s creative direction. The third new NBC comedy, The Michael J. Fox Show, has a 22-episode order.
PREVIOUS 13:35: NBC has pulled Ironside and Welcome To The Family three weeks into their freshman runs. Welcome To The Family is gone effective immediately, while Ironside will air one more episode next Wednesday before falling off the schedule. Beginning October 30, repeats, Dateline and specials will air in Ironside’s 10 PM berth until January 8, when Chicago Fire spinoff Chicago P.D. will debut in the slot that successfully launched the mothership series last season. On Thursdays, NBC will air a mix of back-to-back Parks And Recreation episodes and various specials for the next two months, with veteran Community launching its fifth season on January 2 with back-to-back episodes from 8-9 PM before moving to its old 8 PM slot, with current occupant Parks And Rec sliding to Welcome To The Family‘s 8:30 PM period beginning with the January 9 episode, the show’s 100th. Ironside and Welcome To The Family have been among NBC’s lowest-rated series on the air. In their most recent airings, Ironside logged a 1.1 in 18-49, flat with the previous week and the same as Sean Saves The World, while Welcome To The Family was up a tenth to a 0.9. Here is a rundown of NBC’s plans for the two time periods:
EXCLUSIVE: What happens when you put one of the stars with the largest cult following, Firefly‘s Nathan Fillion, on one of the top cult shows, NBC‘s Community? We’ll find out later this season when Fillion guests on the upcoming fifth season of Community. When Annie (Alison Brie) and Professor Hickey (guest star Jonathan Banks) team up to navigate Greendale’s corridors of power, they must contend with Bob Waite (Fillion), the politically savvy head custodian who’s not afraid to get his hands dirty but is smart enough to wear rubber gloves. Fillion is a fan of Community who has visited the set of the NBC show, including posting this photo with Community cast members last year with the caption, “It’s my #community dream come true!” This marks a return to comedy for Fillion who got his break on ABC’s Two Guys And A Girl before entering the Joss Whedon universe with Firefly, Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Serenity. ICM Partners-repped Fillion currently stars on the ABC crime drama Castle, now in its sixth season.
The difference between making Adult Swim’s new animated half hour Rick And Morty, and making NBC’s live-action comedy Community at Sony, is that Adult Swim exec vp Mike Lazzo is “a bona fide genius, especially in the world of network executives,” Dan Harmon said this afternoon at TCA Summer TV Press Tour 2013. Harmon came to the tour today to talk about Rick And Morty, the comedy about a genius inventor grandfather and his less-than-genius grandson that Harmon is doing with creator Justin Roiland. But Harmon is best known for creating and exec producing Community, for being sacked from the show last season because of his behavior, for being brought back to the show for its fifth when the fourth one tanked, for saying that watching the fourth season of Community was like “being held down and watching your family get raped on a beach,” and then issuing a mealy-mouthed apology.
“[Lazzo] has the autonomy and the humility and the mental power to actually take a script, recognize it as what it is, a document, read it and then tell you what his reactions are to it as an individual,” Harmon continued, answering the which-place-is-better question. “He never says ‘I don’t think people are going to like this’. He never branches out into the business of speculating into the biomass for which we are creating this opiate. He never says ‘people are going to react this way’ and he never confuses the script for the final product,” Harmon said. Then he added: “On the NBC side, it’s even better.”
Although Community creator Dan Harmon offered up few reveals about the cult comedy show’s fifth season at its Hall H Comic-Con panel today, he used the platform to champion the fans to demand a sixth season and a movie with the Twitter campaign #SIXSEASONSANDAMOVIE. “I created a machine that eats pain and craps joy. The people in this room gave us five seasons. It’s about legacy and six seasons and a movie,” exclaimed Harmon to the throng of screaming fans. “Nobody wants to not fail more than me,” Harmon told moderator Chris Hardwick, “I don’t consider these the last 13. I will do everything I can to get us the sixth season.”
Still undetermined is when Community will air on NBC next spring. As far as new storylines, Harmon — who didn’t brainstorm any during his time off — only said, “We need to re-establish these characters. I don’t want to plan too hard. We’re taking a different approach in the writers room, and we’ll be done shooting by Christmas.” Harmon also mentioned that he wouldn’t undo the story arcs laid out in Season 4 in an effort to maintain the show’s “organic spirit” and apologized again to fans for his snarky podcast remarks slamming Community’s recent run.
Fox Searchlight snapped up the coming of age dramedy The Way, Way Back from Descendents Oscar-winners Nat Faxon and Jim Rash in a whopping $10M Sundance deal. Ahead of the pic’s July 5 release, here’s a just-released “audition” reel of Will Forte and Rash’s Community co-stars Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi, and Yvette Nicole Brown trying out for the film:
UPDATE: Dan Harmon took to Twitter and his blog to apologize for the “very un-Community” comments in Sunday’s podcast rant. He offered a mea culpa to the show’s fans, its crew, and the writers on the fourth season that Harmon was absent for: “I’m sorry I pooped on your work.” Harmon also apologized for using language that “dehumanize[d] the developmentally disabled” and for “using the word ‘rape’ in a comedic context.” Harmon’s now back at work on Community Season 5.
PREVIOUS, MONDAY PM: At Sunday’s taping of his Harmontown podcast, returning Community creator and exec producer Dan Harmon unloaded on the show’s fourth season, which carried on under writers David Guarascio and Moses Port after NBC replaced Harmon as showrunner last year. “It’s very much like an impression and an unflattering one,” he said. “It’s 13 episodes of ‘I’m Dan Harmon!’ I’m going back to work tomorrow morning and I’m just like, do I talk like that?” Harmon, who is heading back for Season 5 with writer Chris McKenna, compared catching up on the Guarascio and Port-led fourth season to “flipping through Instagram watching your girlfriend blow a million [people].”
After several weeks of negotiations, Community producer Sony Pictures TV just confirmed that there are deals in place for series creator/former showrunner Dan Harmon and former co-exec producer Chris McKenna to returning as executive producers for Season 5. Harmon will once again take the reins of the show as showrunner. The studio is not saying that the 13-episode fifth season will be the cult comedy’s final installment, though that’s what I’ve been hearing. Harmon announced his return to the show via Twitter a week ago. He was replaced as showrunner by David Guarascio and Moses Port in May 2012. As I reported, Guarascio and Port had a one-year deal and were approached about coming back but opted to move on.
EXCLUSIVE: Gillian Jacobs has landed the female lead in MGM’s Hot Tub Time Machine 2, the Steve Pink-directed sequel that stars Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, Clark Duke, Adam Scott and her former Community co-star Chevy Chase. Jacobs has Walk Of Shame in the can, which she stars in opposite Elizabeth Banks and James Marsden, with Film District releasing September 20. Jacobs also will be seen this fall in the Jacob Vaughan-directed comedy Milo opposite Ken Marino and Peter Stormare, following its SXSW premiere. She also has the Thomas Beatty-directed Teddy Bears opposite Jason Ritter and Melanie Lynskey.
As we reported at the time of NBC’s eleventh-hour renewal of Community, there had been interest in bringing back series creator Dan Harmon for what I hear is expected to be the final 13-episode season of the cult comedy. (It is not on NBC‘s fall schedule). I have learned that both Harmon and key former Community writer-producer Chris McKenna have been approached about rejoining the show for its final chapter. Harmon is currently unattached, while McKenna is under an overall deal at NBC sibling Universal TV. McKenna, who served as co-executive producer on the Sony TV-produced Community for its first three seasons, left last May to move to Uni TV. Creator/executive producer Harmon was replaced as showrunner by David Guarascio and Moses Port a couple of weeks later. I hear Guarascio and Port had a one-year deal and were approached about coming back but opted to move on.
NBC faces the task of scheduling six new comedies for next season with only two returning half-hour series: Community, which received an eleventh-hour 13-episode renewal, and Parks & Recreation. The network may just have the right man for the job. This is head of scheduling Jeff Bader‘s first turn at bat after moving to NBC last summer. As a long-time scheduling topper at ABC, he was presented with a similar challenge four years ago when the network picked up five new comedy series and returned two. Like Parks & Rec and Community, those two returning comedies, Scrubs and Better Off Ted, were quirky cult shows and not anchors that could launch new series. What Bader and ABC brass did back then was let Scrubs and Ted be, pairing them together for what became both series’ final season. Then they took four new comedies and launched a new two-hour comedy block on Wednesday. It worked – three of the four comedies are still on the air: Modern Family and The Middle on ABC and Cougar Town on TBS. (The fourth, Hank, was quickly cancelled.)
Bader may take a similar approach at NBC. Like at ABC in 2009, the two returning NBC comedies are workplace, while most of the new series are family or family-esque (Michael J. Fox, Welcome To The Family, The Family Guide, Sean Saves The World, About A Boy). Coincidentally, the last new comedy series this year, Undateable, is a multi-camera show about dating, which was also the case at ABC in 2009 with Romantically Challenged, which was scheduled behind Dancing With The Stars.
In a repeat from last year, NBC‘s perennial bubble comedy Community just snagged a 13-episode renewal. There have been some significant changes on the show over the past 12 months though. When NBC renewed the show last May, it still had creator Dan Harmon as showrunner and Chevy Chase as co-star. Immediately after the upfronts, Harmon was replaced with David Guarascio and Moses Port. Then in November, Chase too departed. The bitter feud between Chase and Harmon was a major factor in destabilizating of the show for a couple of seasons, leading to public outbursts and profane voice messages. Now that Chase is gone, emotions have cooled down and all sides involved have had time to reflect, there is speculation that Harmon may come back, especially if this turns out to be Community‘s final chapter. (I’d heard that, with the show’s future at NBC in limbo, there were a number of suitors clamoring to pick up Community for a final installment.) There are no deals in place but I hear there certainly is interest in bringing Harmon back in some capacity.
It is not a huge bump (8% to 1.3/5 in 18-49, even with the show’s finale last year), but anything helps in complicated negotiations. That is what NBC and Community producer Sony TV are currently going through. The talks include five projects: Community, which looks hopeful for another, possibly shorter and possibly final, cycle; white-hot drama pilot Blacklist and comedy pilot Welcome To The Family, both of which look very good for a pickup; medical drama pilot Night Shift; and comedy pilot Brenda Forever, which is out of contention for fall but there is a possibility for a reshoot.
EXCLUSIVE: Community co-executive producer Andy Bobrow has signed a new two-year overall deal with Sony Pictures TV, which produces the cult NBC comedy, which is on the bubble for renewal. In addition to his work on Community, where he has been for the past three seasons, Bobrow has developed multiple projects for Sony TV, including the script Iceland, which went to pilot at Fox in 2011 with Will Gluck directing and executive producing, and this cycle’s cop comedy script Rookie, which was bought by ABC and also had Sony TV-based Gluck attached as executive producer. In addition to his duties on Community, Bobrow recently consulted on Sony TV’s NBC series Save Me. He is with UTA and attorney Ken Richman.