Having spent the week celebrating the surprise, yet heavily qualified and likely short-lived victory of Revolution, NBC was offered a swift reminder that it is NBC last night, with all its Thursday night comedies returning to low ratings that confirmed to the network that electronics are still functioning and not being used to watch NBC. Once considered the flagship of its sunken flotilla, The Office kicked off its final season with its lowest-rated premiere ever, falling 46 percent from last year's premiere revealing who would take over for Steve Carell, and pulling in just 4.32 million viewers who watched said revelation, stuck with the frustratingly meandering season that followed, and then gave it another chance anyway. That the premiere promised a sharper, funnier direction for The Office's final year may be an example of too little, too late—though it's still doing better than Parks And Recreation, which dropped 19 percent from last year's premiere to just 3.52 million viewers, despite not pulling any such shenanigans.
Should you be looking for context in which to couch your disappointment with this, here are two relevant details: 1.) The Parks numbers represent a 48-percent fall from Whitney in the same time period. To repeat: Nearly twice as many people watched Whitney in that time slot last year, and were likely disappointed that they could not do so again this year. And 2) Not only did Fox's "We Paid For Britney Spears And We Are Going To Maximize That Investment, Damn It" theme night on The X Factor (9.85 million) and Glee (7.42 million) win the evening overall, every single NBC comedy was easily bested by reruns of The Big Bang Theory and Two And A Half Men. We would also hazard a guess that more people spent the night staring wistfully at American flags, though of course, no one compiles those numbers.
The network's only real "winner" of the night was Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update Thursday special, which managed to score 5.16 million viewers—except that only 1.6 of those were 18-49, the show is just temporary filler concocted to capitalize on the sudden surfeit of Mitt Romney jokes, and its success is every bit as ephemeral and insignificant. And its lead-in certainly didn't help the shows that could desperately use it like Up All Night, which managed only 3.14 million viewers—a third of the Big Bang Theory's rerun audience—and a 1.3 adult rating, suggesting it may take more than the addition of a laidback bearded comic relief brother (who was apparently there the whole time, just waiting to be beardy and laidback!) to fix its problems. Basically, once it's forced to go up against new CBS episodes, NBC may finally push to measure the success of shows not in standard ratings but in sympathetic Internet comments.