As recently as two weeks ago, FOX president Kevin Reilly said there was nothing that could be done in-season to fix the flagging fortunes of his Tuesday comedy lineup, and that “we’ve just gotta play through” from then until May.
But several more weeks of ratings data for the night in general changed that opinion, as today FOX announced that “Ben and Kate” is being pulled from the schedule immediately, and that the four-sitcom bloc will be going away by March, with “Hell’s Kitchen” leading into survivors “New Girl” and “The Mindy Project.”
“Ben and Kate” has consistently been the lowest-rated of the four comedies, and has been viewed as damaging “New Girl” at 9. So it’s gone, though FOX insists the remaining episodes will air at some point. In the meantime, FOX will double up on “Raising Hope” episodes on Jan. 29, Feb. 5 and Feb. 26, and air “New Girl” repeats at 8:30 on Feb. 12 (the night of the State of the Union Address) and Feb. 19. The “American Idol” semi-finals pre-empt the whole Tuesday lineup on March 5, and then beginning March 12, a new season of “Hell’s Kitchen” takes over at 8, leading into “New Girl” and “Mindy.”
As a reward to “Raising Hope” for this double-duty, the show’s hour-long season finale will get to air after “Idol” on Thursday, March 28 at 9.
I watched “Ben and Kate” intermittently over its brief life, enjoying certain parts (particularly everything involving Oscar Winner Nat Faxon and Echo Kellum together), but never really feeling like it transcended my initial assessment of it as a show that was likable but only occasionally laugh-out-loud funny. The failure of the Tuesday comedy bloc was one of many things to go wrong for FOX this season – if anything, FOX’s overall struggles probably kept “Ben and Kate” on the air a month or two longer than it otherwise might have lasted.
Reality shows can be iffy lead-ins for sitcoms (“Dancing with the Stars” didn’t do much for “Happy Endings,” but “Goon” has cratered without “The Voice” in front of it), but this is at least FOX making an effort to protect “New Girl,” and maybe see if “Mindy” is salvageable.