NBC’s final round of freshman scripted series for the season debuted to disappointing ratings Thursday.
The Andy Richter sitcom “Andy Barker, P.I.” and the Jeff Goldblum drama “Raines” both posted lower ratings than their time period averages.
The numbers mean NBC will likely maintain its fourth-place position in the 18 to 49 demographic for the season. The network is up slightly compared with last year yet is still struggling to regain its footing.
With an original “Scrubs” as its lead-in, “Barker” earned a 2.4 rating among adults 18 to 49 from 9:30-10 p.m., according to preliminary Nielsens. That’s down 8 percent from the average performance of usual time period occupant “30 Rock.”
“Raines” earned a 2.9, down 41 percent from what “ER” has averaged in the 10 p.m. slot this season.
“They were OK premieres, they weren’t off the charts,” said Mitch Metcalf, executive VP of programming, planning and scheduling for NBC. “‘Barker’s’ retention of 86 percent was solid … and by the time ‘Raines’ moves into its regular time period on Fridays, it should transport pretty well.”
NBC’s attempt to refresh reruns of its popular comedy “The Office” didn’t seem to spark much added interest. Thursday’s one-hour “newpeat” episode, which blended two half-hour episodes and added new footage, averaged a 2.8, the same as the show’s prior repeat average.
The entire night was overcast by competition from the first round of NCAA basketball on CBS and ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy,” as well as being the first week of daylight savings time, but the factors were not so overwhelming as to change the story of NBC’s Thursday night performance.
NBC has a few more bites at the premiere apple this season. Improv show “Thank God You’re Here” premieres Monday, April 9. Reality series “The Wedding Crashers” also has an as-yet-unscheduled premiere coming up. The network hopes to get momentum on some reality shows to roll into the summer.
Among the unscripted projects NBC is preparing is a reality series called “Age of Love.” The network closed a deal for a pilot, but is keeping quiet about the details out of concern over copycat formats. Sources said the show involves a group of women age 39 and up competing for the attention of a single bachelor.
Shari Anne Brill, VP and director of programming at Carat USA, said that despite the current stumbles NBC has “planted a lot of good seeds” this season.
“Their comedies are appealing, even though they play to a niche audience,” she said. “Their game show formats have been doing really well for them in the 8 p.m. hour. And they’ve got ‘Heroes.'”
NBC still hopes to grow “30 Rock,” which is likely to be renewed despite modest ratings, as well as the critically beloved “Friday Night Lights.”
“Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” seems unlikely to make a return, while its Monday night replacement “The Black Donnellys” has drained viewers with each episode.
This fall NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly will have another chance to put NBC in the top three. He is expected to continue his strategy of giving critically acclaimed properties time to grow into hits, as he did with “The Office.” Earlier this month NBC announced it had re-signed Mr. Reilly to a new multiyear contract.
Chris Pursell contributed to this report.