We hate NBC for the way it’s treated Community over the years, but if you think about it, the fact that it’s been around for five seasons (with a good shot at a sixth) has gotta say something about NBC. They may not love the show, but they tolerate it as long as it remains quietly in its corner and doesn’t bother anyone. No, the ratings aren’t great, but it has a passionate fanbase, some decent syndication money coming in, and it’s probably NBC’s most popular show on the Internet. So thanks, NBC! You may have treated your baby with abject neglect, but at least you didn’t murder it!
The same cannot be said of the ten other sitcoms that have come and gone on NBC’s Thursday night line-up since the premiere of Community. They’re the real reason Community is still around. NBC hasn’t been able to create another sitcom hit on Thursdays, so they’ve had no choice but to keep Community (and Parks and Recreation). We are the beneficiaries of NBC’s incompetent programming department (and let’s not forget its Wednesday failures Animal Practice and Guys with Kids!) If they’d found one other hit in five years, we might not have Community. If they’d found two hits, we wouldn’t have Parks and Recreation. But NBC is zero for ten, folks! That is impressively bad!
Here’s the ten sitcoms that have come and gone on Thursday night since Community premiered (note that Go On began as a Tuesday sitcom, but ended as a Thursday one).
10. The Paul Reiser Show — One of many attempts by NBC to capitalize on its old sitcom stars, The Paul Reiser Show aired only two episodes. As I recall, Reiser was going for a Curb Your Enthusiasm vibe and even had Larry David on the pilot episodes, which ultimately only served to reinforce what a terrible, pale comparison this show was to David’s.
9. 1600 Penn — The premise itself wasn’t terrible — Jenna Elfman stars as a step-mom trying to win over her step-kids while also serving as the First Lady to Bill Pullman’s POTUS — but the writing was terrible, and though I can occasionally like Josh Gad, his obnoxiousness was turned up to 47 in this show, which made the show intolerably annoying to watch.
8. Sean Saves the World — What if they took Jack from Will & Grace, gave him a kid and a nosy, insulting mother and a job with intense demands, and then you just kind of threw all that out and made it a show about pratfalls? The last episode that I watched of this show (which was maybe the third one), there was literally a five minute sequence in which he attempted to escape through the window in his workplace bathroom without losing the dinner he was trying to bring home to his daughter. I honestly felt bad for Sean Hayes.
7. Welcome to the Family — It’s hard to judge a sitcom based on only three episodes (although, nine episodes aired on a television network in India), but this show was bad. I quit after the second episode, which ended with the two fathers literally punching each other in the balls. I’m seriously not kidding. That was the climax. Exchanging testicle blows.
6. Whitney — Remember how terrible Whitney was at the time, and how much we all hated it? I can’t believe it’s actually better than four other shows on this list. But it is. It survived for 38 episodes, which makes it the longest running show on this list.
5. Perfect Couples — Perfect Couples was the lowest rated show in the history of NBC, until The Paul Reiser show came along (and now, of course, The Michael J. Fox Show and Sean Saves the World regularly get fewer viewers). It wasn’t a good show, but I can’t hate on it too much because it featured Olivia Munn (before we liked her), David Walton, and The Waitress.
4. The Michael J. Fox Show — For all the charm of Michael J. Fox, and the loveliness of Betsy Brandt, this was another show completely undone by its writing. The last episode I recall watching was actually creepy: Michael J. Fox’s character developed a crush on his upstairs neighbor (played by his real life wife, Tracy Pollan) and spent much of the episode not only fawning over her, but trying to c*ck block his boss from sleeping with her. All of this was also done in front of Betsy Brandt’s wife character. It was weird. Michael J. Fox was making a play to sleep with another woman in front of his wife, and that’s hardly family-sitcom material.
3. Outsourced — A bad show with quite a few offensive stereotypes, Outsourced was nevertheless sandwiched into the NBC Thursday night line-up in a way that made it hard to avoid. I ended up watching maybe half of the episodes, and as bad as it was, I have to admit that it had a few amusing moments, mostly involving Diedrich Bader.
2. Go On — Not a bad show, actually. Go On was at times charming and occasionally downright hilarious, although it was the supporting cast that was the highlight of this show. It’s unfortunate that the focus was on Matthew Perry’s character, who would have been an awesome member of an ensemble series. The series actually improved over the course of the season, and though the ratings didn’t pick up, it was still a small surprise to see Go On get cancelled. This show was good enough to be considered perfectly acceptable background watching.
1. Up All Night — Up All Night went through several incarnations over its season and a half, but it actually seemed to get worse the more it tried. The pilot episode was great, and there were actually a handful of good episodes, but the show could never figure out what it wanted to be. When NBC finally decided that it wanted it to be a multi-camera laugh track sitcom, everyone on the show seemed to lose interest and bail, resulting in the show’s death midway through the second season.