NBC’s Bob Greenblatt Not Rushing To Cancel Low-Rated ‘Playboy Club’ Or ‘Free Agents’

There have been rampant rumors this week that NBC is cancelling underperforming new series The Playboy Club and Free Agents. It’s because the shows have logged 2 and 3 low-rated airings, respectively, dropping double-digits week-to-week. Also in danger is the network’s Prime Suspect, which opened with a disappointing 1.9 18-49 rating last week, and sophomore Harry’s Law, stuck at a 1.2 in 2 airings. But I’m told NBC won’t be pulling any new series this week since NBC chairman Bob Greenblatt wants to give all freshmen more time to send a message to the creative community that he will give their shows on NBC every possible chance to succeed. (And those are not even shows he had developed.). That is a departure from traditional network MO in the case of fall shows with such underwhelming launches. Last year, Fox’s Lone Star and ABC’s My Generation were cancelled after 2 airings each. They drew a 1.0 and 1.1 demo rating, respectively, just before they were pulled. This week, Free Agents and The Playboy Club posted a 1.0 and a 1.3. But Greenblatt comes from the cable world, where series are given a season-long run to find their footing before a decision on their futures is made. In the realities of the broadcast business, keeping a high-end drama or comedy on the air at a 1 demo rating level for more than a couple of weeks is prohibitive. But, since viewers are still sampling shows and tweaking their viewing patterns for the new season, NBC is willing to wait for that process to settle before sacking the biggest underachievers.

NBC’s Greenblatt showed similar patience in mid-season with low-rated new comedy Perfect Couples, though The Paul Reiser show was canceled after 2 episodes as the widely panned comedy started at 1.1 rating and dipped to a 0.9 in the second airing. Historically, there have been a number of shows, including Seinfeld, Cheers and House, which started off very low but went on to become mega hits. As for Playboy Club, there has been a lot of speculation that the new Brian Williams prime time magazine might be eyed as a replacement in the Monday 10 PM slot. While the new program is not quite ready yet, making it unlikely that it can be summoned up right away, it appears its premiere will be well before the original mid-season target date.

Comments (102)

  • This article would be great if both shows were performing just a tad better, though the ratings would be huge disappointments regardless, with just a smidge higher rating, one might think giving them time might save them
    unfortunately both programs are beyond saving
    you cant bounce back from a 1.0, NBC is not the CW
    cancel it, put whitney reruns instead (shudder) and let the writing staff get a job somewhere else

    Comment by Andrew — Thursday September 29, 2011 @ 11:16pm PDT  
    • Exactly. All this is doing is delaying the inevitable.

      Then again, if Greenblatt canceled everything on NBC with awful ratings they’d be airing almost no shows.

      Comment by velouria — Thursday September 29, 2011 @ 11:30pm PDT  
      • Agreed. The cancellation is inevitable. More likely they just don’t have a good solution to plug their schedule so they are using “giving the shows a chance” as cover until they do.

        Comment by J — Friday September 30, 2011 @ 7:22am PDT  
    • It’s a shame. The Playboy Club is a well-done dramatic narrative. Why are American audiences too stupid to watch good content? There’s only so much out there! I just don’t want this to lead to more reality programming on NBC.

      Comment by Max — Friday September 30, 2011 @ 11:05am PDT  
      • Agreed! I am so not the audience for this show, but it is well-done and -cast (Cibrian is the exception) and underrated.

        Comment by E — Friday September 30, 2011 @ 1:16pm PDT  
      • I love Playboy Club-it is probably too expensive for NBC who can probably get away with a much cheaper and worse Real Housewives clone

        Comment by Barb — Saturday October 1, 2011 @ 10:38am PDT  
      • The first episode was good, the 2nd one, not so much :(

        Comment by benjitek — Monday October 3, 2011 @ 1:13am PDT  
    • just cancel PLAYBOY CLUB already and move up one of the mid-seasons. it’s terribly acted. pretty actresses but they can’t act at all. boring.
      they should move up Awake, Grimm, or Smash.

      Comment by KennanH — Friday September 30, 2011 @ 2:37pm PDT  
      • One can only watch so many one hour dramas in this day and age who has the time for all of them. The weak will not survive. Truth is, the concept is just ok at best. It’s very one note and the pilot predictable. Annoyingly predictable.

        Comment by TV101 — Friday September 30, 2011 @ 8:59pm PDT  
  • For several years now, NBC has been dreadful in the “find a new show that actually works” category. Playboy club looked bad from the start and Prime Suspect has Maria Bello looking constipated for 44 minutes. Another stinker. The development for this network has been bad for many years now. With the days of domination long gone for this network, NBC may be in need of another internal overhaul.

    Comment by Cheryl W. — Thursday September 29, 2011 @ 11:32pm PDT  
  • It’s sad that the ratings for the playboy club aren’t well. It’s a pretty good show.

    Comment by Son tran — Thursday September 29, 2011 @ 11:32pm PDT  
    • Network TV can’t do this subject matter justice. This is a premium cable type show. The Rockettes might have been a better fit. They’re all legs and Playboy is all the fun stuff after the legs. Nice try NBC…Oh, and the writing sucks.

      Comment by Crabby — Thursday September 29, 2011 @ 11:56pm PDT  
    • The Playboy Club (and Pan Am) are, it seems to me, an attempt to capture the Mad Men crowd. Unfortunately for PC, it is not true to its time period in the way that Mad Men is. There is no way that someone in 1961 would have used the word homeless. They would have called him a bum. That is its undoing, it seems to me.

      Comment by The Lone Fedora — Friday September 30, 2011 @ 4:12am PDT  
      • Oh, and the Mattachines were started in the early 1950′s, not the early ’60s. Mad Men would not have committed such an egregious historical error.

        Comment by The Lone Fedora — Friday September 30, 2011 @ 4:18am PDT  
    • LOL. You must be connected with the show. The Playboy Club is truly awful. And I would love to like it too, but it’s got nothing. It’s better than the revamped Charlie’s Angels, but that’s not saying much. I had to actually force myself to watch the second episode because after the first I just couldn’t get excited about it and after the second it is off the DVR list for good.

      Comment by J — Friday September 30, 2011 @ 7:20am PDT  
  • Isn’t he the next Brandon Tartikoff for NBC? I mean Tartikoff put on some bad shows like Knight Rider. But, he also put on some great programming. NBC’s Prime Suspect, Awake and Smash feel like the type of shows Brandon Tartikoff would have done. I don’t think Playboy Club deserves saving though.

    Comment by Jack — Thursday September 29, 2011 @ 11:38pm PDT  
  • I actually think Free Agents has some promise. It just needs a little tweaking. Hank Azaria is very funny on the show. Reminds me a little of Bob Newhart in his reactions to his situations at times. Bump that up, bring in his family life. If not, then let it go. But who knows what NBC would replace it with.

    Comment by TV watcher — Thursday September 29, 2011 @ 11:40pm PDT  
    • I agree. Free Agents has potential and should be given room to grow. Playboy should be yanked now. A comedy can find its way given time, but that kind of drama is what it is.

      Comment by Sam — Friday September 30, 2011 @ 9:12am PDT  
      • Totally agree.
        Free Agents is slowly finding its voice and Hank Azaria is great. Don’t like the chick though (making a squished face is NOT funny).

        Playboy Club is just atrocious.

        Comment by TVwatcher — Friday September 30, 2011 @ 10:52am PDT  
    • Hank Azaria will never successfully headline a TV show. The audience has already rejected him a number of times. The whole comedian-with-the-overpumped-body angle was the death of Joe Piscopo’s career, too.

      Comment by Miffy — Friday September 30, 2011 @ 10:01am PDT  
    • Free Agents does need some tweaking, but it’s better than Whitney and the New Girl.

      I can’t comment on the Playboy Club… perhaps I’ll clear it off my DVR before wasting any time…

      Charlie’s Angels is practically unwatchable, Prime Suspect… I liked the pilot, but not sure if Bello was the best choice (and why is the character’s last name so difficult to pronounce?)

      Comment by ras the exhorter — Friday September 30, 2011 @ 7:11pm PDT  
  • Also, don’t forget that Tartikoff had almost no hits prior to 1984.

    Comment by Jack — Thursday September 29, 2011 @ 11:43pm PDT  
  • I saw Prime Suspect. Maria looked terribly old and tired.

    Comment by Ryan — Thursday September 29, 2011 @ 11:44pm PDT  
    • You’re on crack. She looks gorgeous and beautiful — sorry if she’s not 22, perhaps you should switch to the CW.

      She does need to lose that hat, though.

      Comment by heh — Friday September 30, 2011 @ 8:55am PDT  
      • She doesn’t look old, she looks strung out and exhausted. Just watching her makes me feel like garbage, out of sympathy I guess.

        Comment by Cash — Friday September 30, 2011 @ 12:27pm PDT  
    • Granted that the one-sheets for SUSPECT looked insipid but the show itself is good. Make that very good. The dialogue is witty, and Bello’s character is smart and real and fallible. Vulnerable too. Unlike most “bad ass” TV heroines, SUSPECT acknowledges that even a woman who is in very good shape would get her “bad ass” handed to her in a fight with a male fugitive, which is what happened in the pilot. This nod to reality was very un-PC and therefore unexpected from the Peacock network. (I bet they didn’t like it).

      Comment by Classic Liberal — Friday September 30, 2011 @ 3:29pm PDT  
  • Playboy Club and The Event are examples of edgier shows not always being good,

    Comment by Jack — Thursday September 29, 2011 @ 11:44pm PDT  
    • How is The Playboy Club remotely edgy? It is the opposite if anything.

      Comment by j — Friday September 30, 2011 @ 7:23am PDT  
    • “The Event” was edgy? “Playboy Club” is edgy?

      Comment by Christopher — Friday September 30, 2011 @ 9:26am PDT  
  • The gloves are off Bob. You picked those two garbage shows. He better pray Smash hits or it’s just more of the same. I mean now he’s picking up Western projects. You can’t program like this is Showtime. Showtime has no viewers at all.

    Up All Night is a fail too. Week 3 with a 2.1 demo. Big names, but no matter. They’ll keep it on because it’s NBC, but seriously, this schedule has been a disaster.

    Comment by brick — Thursday September 29, 2011 @ 11:51pm PDT  
    • Hi, Jeff Zucker!

      Comment by hehheh — Friday September 30, 2011 @ 8:56am PDT  
  • This is good news. I just hope he can weather the storm. Most of these shows will never find their way but when one does it will make it all worthwhile.

    We also have reached a point where people don’t invest in shows that might get canceled which means any show that does not start strong is dead. The network tv biz has turned into the movie business.

    I actually enjoyed tpc and free agents enough to watch them but their imminent demise has had me postpone it. Maybe now i will give them another shot.

    I have seen more than a few shows use their first six episodes or so to find their way and hit on their show success formula.

    Finally pilots can be problematic. Breaking bad and Dexter both had bad pilots in my opinion especially relative to the amazing shows they are. Had they run on network tv they might have dropped enough in week 2 to never see a week 3.

    I know Greenblatt is not doing this but I would love for NBC to give any new series a minimum of six episodes to prove itself. It may cost them money in the short run but could be hugely beneficial in the long run

    Comment by Aeiouy — Thursday September 29, 2011 @ 11:53pm PDT  
    • These are excellent comments. Let us remember the lessons of Hill Street Blues and Cheers. Both of these shows started off very badly, but Brandon Tartikoff insisted on keeping them on, and they both really took off in the second season. Perhaps lightning can hit twice.

      Comment by The Lone Fedora — Friday September 30, 2011 @ 4:16am PDT  
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