Sun Setting on NBC’s ‘Miami’

Mar 8, 2004  •  Post A Comment

It looks like goodbye for “Good Morning, Miami.”

While NBC hasn’t officially canceled the show or released any of the actors, all signs point to the show not being renewed for next year, despite a ratings performance that is on par with any of NBC’s freshman sitcoms.

For instance, Constance Zimmer, who plays Penny on the show, has been cast in the CBS pilot “Cooking Lessons,” though she is contractually bound to “Miami” until June. Usually, a producer won’t risk casting an actress under contract unless it is pretty certain the actress’ show won’t return. “Cooking Lessons” and “Miami” are both produced by Warner Bros. Television, which declined comment.

Then there’s the lawsuit that “Miami” executive producers Max Mutchnick and David Kohan filed against NBC last December over the license fee for “Will & Grace,” which they also created. That lawsuit included a charge that NBC threatened to cancel “Miami” if Mr. Mutchnick and Mr. Kohan filed the lawsuit.

What is clear is that “Miami” wrapped production on its 18-episode season Feb. 12 and the sets have been put into storage. It hasn’t aired since Dec. 18 even though NBC has nine more episodes. The success of “The Apprentice” on Thursday night caused a shuffle that left “Miami” the odd man out.

Asked whether the lawsuit influenced the decision to take “Miami” off the air, Jeffrey Zucker, NBC president of entertainment, news and cable, said, “Absolutely not.”

Mr. Zucker said he was pleased with the creative direction of the show, but freshman sitcom “Happy Family” retained more of “Frasier’s” audience than “Miami” did so the network felt it was the stronger show.

“Right now our schedule is quite strong,” Mr. Zucker said. “As a result, we don’t have a time slot for [`Miami’]. We have the same issue with [freshman drama] `Miss Match.”’

Mr. Zucker said a renewal decision won’t be made until n May. Will “Miami” return next year? “I wouldn’t rule anything in or out at this point,” he said.

“Miami” was the highest-rated freshman comedy in adults 18 to 49 last year, despite being a favorite whipping boy of TV critics who said it only achieved that feat because it had a comfortable home on Thursday nights.

However, Mr. Zucker has always been a vocal fan of the show, often telling TV critics to take another look at the show.. Mr. Zucker’s support was the main reason “Miami” earned a renewal and a 9:30 p.m. Tuesday time slot after “Frasier.”

Asked Friday whether he is still a supporter of the show, Mr. Zucker said, “`Miami’ is a good show and right now we don’t have a time period for it.”

While “Miami” didn’t light the ratings world on fire this year, its ratings were respectable. In its first seven episodes on Tuesdays, it averaged a 3.7 Nielsen Media Research rating and 9 share in adults 18 to 49-the demographic on which NBC measures its performance-usually finishing No. 2 or No. 3 in its time slot.

A case could be made that “Miami” should have a chance for renewal, given that its ratings are higher than the season-to-date averages (excluding repeats) of all the freshman sitcoms NBC has rotated through Tuesday night. “Happy Family” is averaging a 3.1 rating, “Whoopi” a 2.9 and “Tracy Morgan Show” a 3.0.

On the flip side, each of those shows has aired in at least two different Tuesday time slots, with some of them going up against Fox’s “American Idol,” which “Miami” never faced. “Miami’s” 18 to 49 audience retention out of “Frasier” was weaker at 86 percent than other “Frasier” lead-outs this season, including “Happy Family” (90 percent retention) and “Scrubs” (97 percent).

NBC gave the show a vote of confidence when it moved it to Thursday nights following “Friends.” However, it only aired twice in that time slot before being yanked. for “Apprentice.” With “Miami’s” ratings performance mixed, sources close to the show contend it had a chance for survival-until Mr. Mutchnick and Mr. Kohan filed their lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed on Dec. 11, the same day “Miami” moved to its more high-profile Thursday time slot. The suit claims that the studio did not get the highest license fee possible for “Will & Grace’s” renewal from the network because both are owned by the same parent company, cutting Mr. Mutchnick and Mr. Kohan-as profit participants-out of millions of dollars.

NBC Studios vehemently denied the charges in a countersuit filed against the duo last week in Los Angeles Superior Court. NBC Studios contends in the lawsuit that it bent over backward to make sure Mr. Mutchnick and Mr. Kohan were getting a fair renewal deal. NBC Studios went so far as to hire an outside consultant to research what “Will & Grace’s” fair market value was and invited Mr. Kohan and Mr. Mutchnick or their representatives to participate in the negotiations, which NBC Studios was not required to do, the countersuit said.

According to the countersuit, which includes 64 pages of supporting documents detailing the negotiation process, Mr. Kohan and Mr. Mutchnick rejected NBC Studios’ repeated attempts to get their input in the negotiations because they “always secretly planned to sue NBC Studios.”

NBC Studios’ countersuit accuses Mr. Mutchnick and Mr. Kohan of breach of contract and fraud and asks for damages.

In Mr. Mutchnick and Mr. Kohan’s original lawsuit, they indicated that they feared retribution against “Good Morning, Miami” for filing the lawsuit. According to the lawsuit, in November, “A senior NBC executive called a senior executive at Warner Bros. and threatened that NBC would not support shows from persons who sued it. … By its threat, NBC conveyed that it would fail to adequately promote, disadvantageously schedule and/or ultimately cancel `Good Morning, Miami’…”

Regardless of how the suits ultimately are resolved, one thing is clear: The bridge between Mr. Zucker and the show’s creators is on fire.

It is not illegal for a network to cancel a show because its creators are suing the network, and NBC has little incentive to continue a contentious relationship on a show that isn’t a huge hit or to consider buying a new show from its creators in the future.

Mr. Zucker would not comment on the status of his relationship with Mr. Mutchnick and Mr. Kohan.

Despite suing NBC, sources said, Mr. Mutchnick and Mr. Kohan wanted to return to “Will & Grace” as showrunners next year. However, Mr. Zucker said the duo had not approached NBC about coming back and the network is very close to naming a showrunner for next year.

“Will & Grace,” NBC’s second-highest-rated sitcom in adults 18 to 49 with a 7.6 rating/19 share season-to-date, is in its sixth season and is already locked up for a seventh season next year.

Mr. Mutchnick and Mr. Kohan are also executive producers of a new CBS sitcom, “The Stones,” which debuts March 17.

Mr. Mutchnick, Mr. Kohan and their representatives could not be reached for comment.