Has NBC found a new way to manage its struggling shows? It just might have with the way they are handling three Thursday night comedies. NBC has announced that "Community" and "30 Rock" will be returning for shortened seasons consisting of 13 episodes. No official announcement has been made about "Parks and Recreation," but it seems likely that it will have the same fate. It will definitely be the final season for "30 Rock," and it could prove to be the final one for the other shows, as well. But by adopting this strategy, NBC has effectively put the shows on notice without cancelling them. Even though three quality sitcoms seem to be approaching their end, this was probably the smartest move NBC has made in a long time.
First, at least the shows will be coming back. These are three of the smartest shows on TV. All three feature great casts and stellar writing staffs. The majority of people out there probably expected "Community" to be axed after it was put on hiatus in the middle of the season. Many also expected "Parks and Recreation" to bite the dust because of its less than impressive ratings. Meanwhile, "30 Rock" is approaching the point where its freshness isn't what it once was. These were the cases that could have been made for cancelling all three, but that didn't happen. Fans can look forward to at least a few more episodes of these shows. To some degree, this lets them go out on their own terms.
Another possible good thing is the mentality that less is more. Shows on cable typically run seasons consisting of 10-13 episodes. By most accounts, those shows are wildly successful compared to the shows on NBC. By having fewer episodes, the quality of these programs should improve. Basically, there is less chance of the comedy feeling stale. That might prove to be big for "Community" and "Parks and Recreation." The shorter season could help them enough to warrant seasons in the future.
Most importantly, this is smart for NBC as a network. For too long, NBC has lagged in fourth place among the major networks. Despite having some quality shows, the ratings just haven't improved. NBC really had no choice but to shake things up, and they managed to do it without killing three shows that they have shown a lot of faith in over the years. Ordering three seasons accomplishes two things. First, the network has more money that it can pour into other shows. Second, it has some more time slots to work with as it tries to develop new programming. NBC had to do this because it couldn't survive by keeping the status quo.
In reality, this is the best possible scenario for everyone involved. The shows have new life and a chance to continue to grow. The fans get at least 13 more episodes of their favorite shows. The network gets a chance to climb out of a hole and restore its image.