Friday, March 1, 2013

Can Donald Trump Save NBC ?

NBC, the network that once gave us "must-see TV", is now giving us "who's watching?" TV.
The Peacock's numbers have been so bad in 2013 that Spanish-language Univision boasts more viewers.

A new Thursday evening drama called "Do No Harm" about a doctor with split personalities earned the distinction of being the lowest-rated new drama of all-time, with an 0.7 rating among viewers 18-49. The show was cancelled after only two episodes, replaced by reruns of "Law and Order". It seems like eons ago when NBC's Thursday night line-up offered viewers "Cheers", "The Cosby Show" and "Seinfeld".

Both new and returning shows are flailing mightily. "1600 Penn", a sitcom about a fictitious first family was promoted heavily and its debut episode was repeated days after it's premiere in an effort to give the show the widest audience possible. Despite a familiar cast including Jenna Elfman and Bill Pullman, the sitcom is on the brink of cancellation.

So is Matthew Perry's latest post-"Friends" effort "Go On"  a comedy about a bereavement support group. Mining laughs from grieving characters, no matter how motley a crew, is an uphill climb.

Returning "Community" has an avid, but miniscule viewership. It replaced "30 Rock", which, for all its Emmys, failed to generate buzz for its series finale.

Even long-running "The Office" is quietly marching along to its final episode without a countdown or any discernible buzz.

Can "The Apprentice" help NBC get some of it's mojo back ?

It's probably too much to ask of any one show to lift a network, but at least Donald Trump will bring some much-needed swagger back to the Peacock.

"The Apprentice" is one of the few water-cooler shows not on Showtime. Each episode inspires subsequent debate and buzz by Billy Bush, Wendy Williams, the cast of the View, and all the 7 o'clock entertainment shows.

It's directly because of 'Apprentice'-rub that Arsenio Hall is back on late-night and Pierce Morgan has Larry King's old job on CNN.

Have we seen it all before ? Yes. But following a season of "The Apprentice" is kind of like following a season-long pennant race in baseball : you're invested and you care who wins. This, despite the train-wreck recasting of Gary Busey and LaToya Jackson.

So, can Donald Trump save NBC from its ratings malaise ? On Sunday nights he will.