Do you know why TV shows get canceled every year? Well, yes, sometimes it’s because they’re bad and often it’s because the network that airs them isn’t doing an adequate job promoting them — but it’s also because of us, the viewers who are zoning out in front of, say, Jersey Shore when there’s so much excellent television we could be watching. The good news is that network execs renewed quite a few great but low-rated shows, and you’ve got the entire fallow summer season to catch up through Netflix, Hulu, etc. in time to drive up their viewership numbers when they return and help secure them yet another season after this one. After the jump, learn how you can be a hero just by watching TV.
No one needs to tell the Internet that Community has spent each of its three seasons at risk of cancellation — or that it’s one of the best sitcoms of all time, or that no one knows whether Season 4 will even be worth watching, now that Dan Harmon is out as showrunner. But the fact remains that if the series is going to have a chance of making it to Season 5, it needs to increase its audience in a big way. For one thing, NBC already hedged its bets by picking up Community for only 13 episodes. Then, it pushed the show off the Thursday-night comedy line-up to Friday, alongside Whitney. And finally, May’s season finale attracted only 2.48 million viewers. So, if you haven’t checked in to Greendale Community College yet, use this summer to breeze through all three seasons, which are worth your time whether or not the Harmon-less version turns out to be worth saving.
Parks and Recreation
The good news is that NBC seems to be putting more stock in Parks and Rec than Community. Unlike the latter (and 30 Rock), Amy Poehler’s city-government sitcom has merited a full-season order, and its finale reached a million more viewers than Community’s. Of course, that still means only 3.42 million people were watching that episode, and Parks and Rec averaged only 4.4 million viewers throughout its fourth season. Honestly, we find this a baffling. Community is a dense, allusive, weird show — more people should be watching it, but it’s not for everyone. Parks and Rec, though, is a warm-hearted comedy with lovable characters and accessible story lines. As far as we’re concerned, there’s nothing keeping it from competing with CBS’s schlockiest ratings monsters. Spend a few weeks breezing through the show and we promise you’ll fall for it — and you’ll finally get the Internet’s entirely justified obsession with Ron Swanson.
Some fans of Bored to Death were enraged to learn, back in December, that HBO was canceling Jonathan Ames’ Brooklyn-centric series but renewing Enlightened, despite the fact that the former was doing slightly better in the ratings. To be entirely honest, we liked the shows about equally and would have been sad to see Laura Dern and Mike White’s Golden Globe-winning post-rehab comedy canned after only one season, so we can’t complain about the outcome. But even on HBO, which is famously patient with great shows that aren’t attracting huge audiences, Enlightened is going to have to do better than 210,000 viewers per episode to get a third season. If you’ve got a thing for the kind of flawed antiheroes that shows like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and Homeland have perfected — and can handle a comedy that is frequently just as depressing as it is funny — then be sure to give Enlightened a try.
Spoiler alert: This post is going to be about half NBC shows because, well, NBC is famously great at developing comedies but not-so-great at getting America to watch them. Parenthood is doing significantly better than the Thursday-night Internet darlings, but it’s still only attracting just over five million pairs of eyeballs per episode, and viewership was down slightly in the most recent, third season. Developed by Jason Katims of Friday Night Lights and featuring an excellent ensemble cast that includes Lauren Graham and Peter Krause, this multi-generational dramedy is heavier than Modern Family, but if you’re longing for a TV family to get wrapped up in during its absence, you really couldn’t pick a better one than the Bravermans.
Poor Cougar Town, a good show saddled with a terrible name, wasn’t going to make it to a fourth season on ABC. Courteney Cox’s comedy about a divorcée and her boozy friends lost roughly a third of its audience in Season 3, slipping to only 5.19 million viewers a week. But then TBS swooped in to save the day, picking up Cougar Town for 15 episodes and promising to give it more attention than ABC had. Here’s hoping the new strategy succeeds — and that those who haven’t been watching the show use the summer to catch up before its early-2013 TBS premiere.
Up All Night
OK, last NBC show. Promise. Although Community and Parks and Rec offer more Tumblr-worthy moments, Christina Applegate and Will Arnett’s new-parent sitcom also proved a worthy addition to the Thursday-night lineup — largely thanks to Maya Rudolph’s wonderful supporting performance as Applegate’s narcissistic, sub-Oprah talk-show-host boss. Up All Night fared somewhat better than its neighbors, pulling in an average of 5.29 million viewers in its debut season, although the number dropped from 10.95 to 3.12 between the premiere and the finale. That means the show has a lot of drop-off to compensate for in its short, 13-episode second season. If intelligently written romantic comedy is your thing, then you’ll definitely want to marathon this one before fall rolls around so you can tune in to the premiere.
Three episodes in, we have no idea whether ABC Family will re-up for a second season of Bunheads. What we do know is that the show isn’t faring so well; the premiere attracted only 1.64 million viewers in what The Hollywood Reporter called a “soft debut,” a number that slipped to 1.38 million last week. This makes no sense considering that Amy Sherman-Palladino’s new drama, about a former Vegas showgirl and her disapproving ballet teacher mother-in-law, is off to a fantastic start — and that it’s so much like Gilmore Girls that all five million people who were watching that series at the height of its popularity should really give it a shot, despite its cringe-worthy title.