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.)
In my decade covering American television I can’t think of a year when more projects that started as also-rans, or came back from the dead, or barely made it to pilot, or overcame major recastings, went on to land series orders. And some of them are among next season’s most buzzed-about new shows. It feels like almost all pilots that had recastings — once an ominous sigh for a project’s future — went to series, and those that went through hardship on average fared much better than their non-problematic counterparts.
When a pilot script is passed on by the network that developed it, in 99.99% of the cases that means the end of the road, with the script headed to the writer’s drawer as its final destination. But in the case of Mindy Kaling’s medical comedy The Mindy Project, a pass by NBC where it was developed led to a pilot pickup at Fox, where the project quickly emerged as the network brass’ darling and landed on the fall schedule in the plum post-New Girl time slot.
Like rejected scripts, dead pilots also hardly get resurrected. Sci-fi veteran Rockne S. O’Bannon wrote Cult for the 2005-06 development season when he landed a pilot order at the WB but the project became a casualty of the UPN/WB merger and the pilot was never made. Six years later, O’Bannon’s updated Cult script got a pilot order at the CW, the pilot was shot and took another step forward, landing a midseason series order.
It took Will & Grace creators David Kohan and Max Mutchick about as long to get a comedy inspired by their real-life straight man-gay man friendship on the air. The idea’s first incarnation was at CBS during the 2006-07 development season and the second at ABC the following season. Both times, Kohan and Mutchick’s scripts went to pilot starring Jay Mohr and Brian Austin Green (CBS) and Alan Tudyk, Josh Cooke and Ty Burrell (ABC). Both times Kohan and Mutchnick felt there were script, casting and other issues. The two had moved on when last year CBS approached them about revisiting the idea but getting it right this time. The result is Partners, which also went to pilot.
After testing the waters for an all-comedy block on Tuesday this spring, Fox as expected is making it a permanent feature next season with Raising Hope and New Girl returning as a 8 PM and 9 PM anchor, respectively. Also as expected, Mindy Kaling’s new office comedy, which had been groomed as a companion to New Girl, will launch behind the Zooey Deschanel half-hour. (It has been renamed from It’s Messy to The Mindy Project). Sandwiched between Raising Hope and New Girl is new adult sibling comedy Ben And Kate. With Tuesday taken over by half-hour comedies, musical dramedy Glee, which anchored the night for the past two years, is relocating to Thursdays to air after The X Factor results show in the fall and American Idol results in midseason. This marks a reunion of sorts as Glee‘s preview and first season aired behind the Idol performance show on Tuesdays. The series that is airing after Idol‘s results show now, midseason drama Touch, will relocate to Fridays, paired with another paranormal drama, departing Fringe.
In addition to the two new comedies on Tuesday, Fox is introducing a new drama series in the fall, medical drama The Mob Doctor, which is taking over the Monday 9 PM slot currently occupied by Fox’s departing medical drama House. Fox’s other newly picked up drama series, Kevin Williamson’s The Following starring Kevin Bacon, will also premiere on Monday but in midseason. Per Bacon’s deal, the series will film 15 episodes a season, making a midseason launch a logical option. Also held for midseason is a second new comedy series about siblings, The Goodwin Games. After being benched for sports in the fall, veteran Cops is slated to return for its 25th season in midseason, which is when Fox’s new animated Saturday late-night block is also eying a launch.
Here is the schedule with synopses of new series:
8:00-8:30 PM RAISING HOPE
8:30-9:00 PM BEN AND KATE (new)
9:00-9:30 PM NEW GIRL
9:30-10:00 PM THE MINDY PROJECT (new)
THE GOODWIN GAMES (new) joins in midseason.