Monday, August 25, 2008

Olympic Ratings and the Fall Season: Michael Phelps as 30 Rock

When Lily and I watched that amazing ABC promo—you know, the one that brought tears to my eyes—she looked at me and went, "Damn. ABC's kind of cleaning up right now."

And, you know, they are, but NBC sure isn't doing much to prove otherwise.

Today, the Peacock Network announced that their Olympic coverage had overtaken the likes of the moon landing, Roots, and the series finale of MASH. First of all, NBC, let somebody else do the announcing. I know you're in a bind over there, but you look like a douchebag, tooting your own horn.

Anyway, people at various media outlets are arguing over whether or not NBC actually has the right to claim such victory, but with an average viewership of 27.7 million per night, it's undeniable that the network brought in a lot of folks.

And they sure did pimp their programming.

My favorite?

Hands down, Dwight's "Centathlon."

The three Office Olympics commercials were fantastic—they had the same "special" Olympics feel as the Nike and McDonalds and Coca-Cola commercials did. (By the way, that McDonalds "The More We Get Together" commercial had me in tears.) Between Michael's endorsement of the women's beach volleyball team and Jim's invention of Slapface, I was oh-so-pleased to see new in-character content from one of my favorite shows.

Unfortunately, that's pretty much where the creativity peaked.

This Comedy Night Done Right commercial is downright irritating:

It also doesn't do a good job at accurately describing how funny and inventive NBC's Thursday line-up actually is. When I catch My Name is Earl, I often find myself laughing out loud in a room by myself. The Office has its weaknesses, but it's mostly quality comedy. And 30 Rock is probably my favorite comedy ever.

All three could use—and deserve—a good ratings boost. I know 30 Rock doesn't premiere until Halloween (why?), but I can't imagine fresh material from Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin, especially somehow related to NBC's Olympic coverage, wouldn't draw in new viewers. I am continually frustrated by NBC's poor promotion of and support for their own series. The fact is, 30 Rock was the 113th most-watched series of the 2007-2008 season, yet it won an effing Peabody Award, the Emmy Award for Best Comedy, two Golden Globes, and three SAG Awards. The Wikipedia article notes, "It is thought that, despite its low ratings in the United States, 30 Rock is kept on the air due to its many award nominations and wins as well as its heavy critical acclaim."

Now, wouldn't it be great if we could keep it on the air because it is highly acclaimed and also has (gasp!) high ratings?

But you know what has to happen for that to happen?

You have to air promos! During high-impact programming! Like—OMFG!—the Olympics!


Instead, NBC aired these all-around promos:


Here's the run-down. The first commercial includes Masi Oka, the fellow who plays Chuck, Greg Grunberg, John Krasinski, Milo Ventimiglia, a guy I don't recognize, a girl I don't recognize, and a second guy who looks vaguely familiar.

The second includes Jenna Fischer, Masi Oka, Chuck, Guy #1, Milo Ventimiglia, Greg Grunberg, Guy #2, the guy who I know as Knowle Rohrer and Mae knows as the guy from Firefly and we both know as the guy who kidnapped Bones in Two Bodies in the Lab, the girl from Chuck, Parminder Nagra, Christian Slater looking like a creeper, Darnell from My Name is Earl, Alison Sweeney, Guy #3, Guy #4, Catalina from My Name is Earl, Linda Cardellini, John Stamos, Rainn Wilson, Guy #5, Guy #6, Angela Bassett, and, finally, Guy #7.

I'm not feeling it.

Here's what I would have done.

First of all, none of these close-ups. ABC got super-creative with their returning shows promo--you just stuck some folks in front of a green screen. Add a little action, people!

Secondly, this is the Olympics. It's actually kind of ironic, because metaphorically, ABC is like China. They're building a resurgence of awesome, and you, NBC, are a lot like America. You used to dominate, but you've slumped a little. It's go big or go home time.

ABC seems to be cleaning up on talent, but I named, off the top of my head, these people over at the Peacock Network:

Brooke Shields
Hayden Panettiere
Maura Tierney
John Stamos
Selma Blair
Molly Shannon
Steve Carell
Alec Baldwin
Tina Fey
Amy Poehler
Kyle Chandler...

You getting my drift? NBC's not lacking for people—it's just a very well-kept secret.

So if this had been my promo series, I would have had, like, Eli Manning (Sunday Night Football) throwing a pass to Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights). I would have put Howie Mandel in there, cracking open a case full of freely-flowing Benjamins. I would have cast Jim and Pam as this network's Derek and Meredith, doing a quick, cute thing where Jim grabs Pam's and kneels in front of her, then quickly pulling back to reveal Hayden Panettiere doing something heroic. Then I would've had John Stamos shirtless. Hey, this network is in 4th place, people.

Instead, NBC used the secondary characters in these promos. I mean, I think Catalina and Darnell are hilarious on My Name is Earl, but where the hell were Jason Lee and Jaime Pressly?

Y'know, we love Greg Grunberg over here, but where was Hayden? Where was Ali Larter?

And don't tell me they were too busy, because ABC got the Desperate Housewives to do it, and you know how those girls are.

Basically, NBC wasted a golden opportunity. Although I hope to be pleasantly surprised, I doubt the Olympics ratings surge will carry over to the fall season. Prove me wrong.

One response to “Olympic Ratings and the Fall Season: Michael Phelps as 30 Rock

Unknown said...

I'm pretty sure the 30 Rock premiere was pushed back so NBC could put election-themed Saturday (well, Thursday) Night Live episodes in it's time slot.