Pierce: 'Community' fans need to get over themselves

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

NBC is trying to take its comedies in a new direction. Instead of shows like "The Office," "Parks and Recreation" and "Community," the network is hoping to air shows people will actually watch.

Great plan, poor execution.

NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt referred to a comedy transition, saying he's "trying to broaden the audience and broaden what the network does. Those Thursday comedies, which the critics love and we love, tend to be a bit more narrow than we'd ultimately like as we go forward."

In other words, "Office" and "Community" fans, get over yourselves. NBC hopes to once again become a broadcaster instead of a narrowcaster. And it hasn't been that since the days of "The Cosby Show," "Family Ties," "Cheers," "Mad About You," "A Different World," "Frasier," "Friends" and "Seinfeld."

Under past administrations, NBC decided that traditional, multi-camera sitcoms — the ones that built "Must-see TV" — were outdated. Viewers had seemingly tired of the format that had ruled TV since "I Love Lucy" — performing episodes like a play in front of a studio audience that actually laughed.

Those NBC execs had nice little successes, complete with critical praise and Emmy Awards, for filmed shows such as "The Office" and "30 Rock." What they didn't get were big ratings.

I don't mean to burst anyone's bubble, but "The Office," "30 Rock" and "Parks and Recreation" have never been mainstream successes. NBC only wishes it could get the same audience that CBS gets for its — wait for it — traditional, multi-camera sitcoms such as "The Big Bang Theory" and "Two and a Half Men."

And "Community"? Forget about it. We don't know yet when it will return, but the fact that it's returning at all completely ignores its continual ratings struggles.

Don't get me wrong. I like those NBC sitcoms, too. But I recognize that network television is a business that depends on getting a lot of people to actually watch your shows.

NBC is trying to have it both ways this season. It added two filmed comedies — "Go On" and "The New Normal" — and they're both doing OK. It added two multi-camera sitcoms, canceling one ("Animal Practice") already while the other ("Guys With Kids") is struggling badly. Multi-camera "Whitney," which will replace "Animal Practice" on Wednesdays beginning Nov. 14, didn't fare well last season.

And NBC killed the Dane Cook sitcom "Next Caller" before it ever aired. (Having seen the pilot, I understand why.)

Still, it's not the strategy that's wrong, it's the shows.

That's the hard part. It's not the format, it's the shows. Maybe NBC will figure it out. Eventually.

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.