Last Monday's episode of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip pulled a 4.8 rating and an 8 share, representing 6.4 million viewers. Pretty piss-poor numbers by most television ratings standards and the lowest ratings the struggling series has seen yet.
The Sorkin/ Schlamme series has been on a rocky road with audiences since its premiere, but despite the critics saying it's doomed at every turn, the show refuses to die.
First, despite critic acclaim, the series premiered to low numbers. Critics claimed that a high-brow series about the behind-the-scenes life of a Saturday Night Live-like sketch comedy show would be lost on non-industry type audiences. Perhaps they were right, but the show continued anyway.
The next week, when the ratings dropped 30% from the premiere, critics were pointing fingers, making up explanations and foretelling that the show was against the ropes.
Then when S60's time slot was replaced by "Friday Night Lights" for one week, critics said that the end was nigh and the show was doomed. Instead, NBC ordered three more scripts. Critics then said, "well yeah, but it's only three more episodes. It's not a full ride. It's still doomed!"
We wrote in November how Fox News Columnist, grudge-holder and wanna-be soothsayer Roger Friedman said that cancellation was "Imminent".
But despite the speculation by so-called "professionals" in the industry, instead of the show getting kicked to the curb, NBC picked up the series' back nine episodes, giving it a full season run.
Which brings us to the present. This week, the show is "on hiatus" to make room for the Paul Haggis series "The Black Donnelly's" which NBC moved up in the calendar. Some say the final 6 episodes of S60 might only air on NBC's website, but NBC states that the series "will return to the schedule later this season on a date to be determined." This, of course, has analysts (geek speak for people who get paid to watch TV) suggesting that this is REALLY the end of the road for Sorkin and company.
Here's the deal: The show ranks fourth over all network shows in median income in the 18-49 demo at $66,000. Which means that while it's not as popular as Sorkin may want it to be, it's still being watched by the people that buy the products being advertised on the show. This means its making money for NBC. And we all know that in the television industry, it's more about money than popularity that keeps a series alive.
I have been a loyal follower of the show from the start. I've been critical of some episodes and argued that it looks at times like Sorkin is using his B-team of writers for connecting the dots of the story arcs. I'm a little embarrassed at some of the silly, just-for-laughs plot points that seem to get thrown in to keep the show light and I am pretty tired of the Matt/Harriet arc the writers have been forcing down our throats. There needs to be more to the show than who kissed who or who likes who or what silly pratfall the director is going to do next. The show does have substance, but not much. There are moments of real entertainment in there, but they are surrounded by campy, out-of-character " bits" that seem to be there just for comedic relief. The show is still finding its legs. But has it taken too long to gain the audience it needs to keep going?
My money is still on the idea that the show will run its full season and then be gone. Sorkin will run back to the solitude of his mansion to brainstorm the next thing he can sell to the networks and the television-watching audience will continue to be subjected to cop dramas, sit-coms, bad singing and reality shows until someone comes up with something better.
And the only thing the networks can currently think of to improve themselves is to put everything in high definition, leading most critics to the old saying, "you cant polish a turd."
So is Studio 60 doomed? We don't know. We're still watching, but we're not holding our breath.