If launching drama series in midseason is hard, launching comedy series in midseason is daunting. Fox’s Surviving Jack was the latest example, debuting to a 1.3 in 18-49 and 5.1 million viewers at 9:30 PM last night despite mostly positive reviews based on the standout performance of star Chris Meloni. Surviving Jack followed American Idol (1.9), which, in its switch to half-hour result shows, tied last week’s series low. For comparison, at 8 PM, with no lead-in and scathing reviews, Fox’s fall comedy Dads premiered to a 2.1 fast national demo rating in September. American Idol and The X Factor have never been compatible lead-ins for comedies. The previous comedy series to launch behind Idol was the 2011 Breaking In, which opened with a 3.5 demo rating but on a 7.3 Idol 18-49 lead-in (Yes, Idol was pulling in that kind of numbers only three years ago) for a 48% retention. Surviving Jack‘s was 68%. At 8 PM, Hell’s Kitchen (1.8) was up a tenth from last week’s fast national.
Fox’s new Surviving Jack, about a dad and his relationship with his son in the ’90s, is based on Justin Halpern’s autobiographical book, I Suck At Girls. Halperin also created CBS’ comedy $h*! My Dad Says — also about his relationship with his father — based on his book that was, in turn, based on his Twitter feed. TV critics attending a Q&A about Jack at TCA this afternoon noted the similarity between the two comedies and asked what went wrong with the CBS one. “It was really bad,” Halpern said. “You’re aware you created that show,” joked Bill Lawrence, who exec produces Jack with Halpern, Patrick Schumacker and Jeff Ingold. “Yes, and I put the blame squarely on Patrick,” Halpern joked. The CBS sitcom, he said, was “very much the wrong tone.” The dad character, he said, did not live well in a multi-cam sitcom world where it’s all about setup and punch lines. On a single cam, “the comedy comes more organically,” he said.
EXCLUSIVE: Rachael Harris is is set as the female lead opposite Chris Meloni in Fox’s midseason comedy series Surviving Jack. The single-camera project, from Warner Bros. TV and Bill Lawrence‘ Doozer, is based on Justin Halpern’s book I Suck At Girls. It centers on a father, Jack Dunlevy (Meloni), and his teen son Frankie (Connor Buckley). Harris plays the Alpha-Mom, Joanne Dunlevy, who has decided to go back to law school, somewhat reluctantly leaving the care of her kids to her brash husband. The role was recast after being played by Alex Kapp Horner in the pilot. (you can watch the series’ trailer below) Harris recently starred opposite David Spade in the ABC comedy pilot Bad Management, which was in serious contention for a series pickup. She also recurs on USA drama Suits and did an arc on Fox comedy New Girl.