Though it has produced all 22 episodes of the show’s full-season order—and will presumably air the remaining seven somewhere at some point—NBC has effectively canceled The Michael J. Fox Show today, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Both Michael J. Fox and Sean Saves The World have been pulled from the network’s post-Olympics schedule, in favor of new episodes of Hollywood Game Night airing in the 9 p.m. hour. Community and Parks And Recreation will lead in to Hollywood Game Night, with Parenthood also staying put at 10. This will be the first time the NBC Thursday night lineup hasn’t featured at least four comedies since the heyday of The Apprentice.
NBC actually won a bidding war with several other networks for The Michael J. Fox Show in the summer of 2012 by promising the show a 22-episode, straight-to-series order. It was seen as the centerpiece of the network’s attempts to build a family comedy night on Thursdays, with Sean Saves The World and the long-departed Welcome To The Family joining it and Parks there. Needless to say, the night was largely disastrous, with Welcome To The Family pulled after only a handful of airings and Sean and Michael drawing ratings in the key demo in the 0.6 and 0.7 range. (By contrast, the eternally struggling Community has stabilized at a 1.1, which makes it look like a hit in comparison.) Creatively, Michael J. Fox Show was largely fine, but it did nothing to distinguish itself over its first season, coming off too often as a weak-sauce Modern Family clone. The network may be contractually obligated to air the remaining Michael J. Fox episodes—reports conflict on this—but it could always just dump them on Saturdays or, depending on the language of the contract, Hulu.
The cancellation is another blow to the attempted comedy empire of NBC president Robert Greenblatt. Though Greenblatt has made many smart moves in terms of the company’s sports, reality, and drama holdings, comedy has largely eluded his grasp. He had hoped to push beyond niche comedies like Parks, 30 Rock, and Community by going broader, but all of his efforts so far have failed, while Parks has essentially been renewed for a seventh season and Community seems likely to join it for a sixth. Greenblatt still has three more trips to the plate this TV season, with the upcoming About A Boy and Growing Up Fisher, both scheduled for the Tuesday after the Olympics, and the yet-to-be-scheduled Bill Lawrence multi-cam Undateable (which, based on this news, seems fairly likely to spell either Community or Parks sometime in April). But the network’s upcoming development slate is much heavier on the quirky single-camera comedies that typified NBC’s output before Greenblatt became network president, which may suggest all involved have decided to burrow into the niche and hope a 1.1 in the demo will be enough. Meanwhile, The Michael J. Fox Show bears the brunt of the network’s sins.
UPDATE: Vulture reports that NBC is looking for a place for The Michael J. Fox Show on the schedule after April 3. So who knows anything anymore? But, as always in situations where a network yanks a low-rated show from the air unceremoniously, the proper response to, “It’s not canceled yet!” is “C’monnnnn!”
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