Thursday, April 05, 2007

Check the gloating at the door

I started the season loving Studio 60 and with mixed feelings about 30 Rock. I'm ending it happy about the news that NBC renewed 30 Rock, and while I mourn NBC's cancellation of the pre-Christmas Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, I can't summon any sadness over the cancellation of the post-Christmas, creative crash-and-burn Studio 60.

But there's an interesting factor in the fates of the two behind-the-scenes-of-an-SNL-like-show shows: Studio 60 kicked 30 Rock's ass in the ratings.

Now, by "kicked ass," you have to imagine a 98-pound weakling beating up a 70-pound weakling. Or, to be specific, an 8.5-million weakling beating up a 5.8-million weakling. That's the overall audience for each show, and it's Studio 60 with the bigger numbers.

Those ratings come from Lisa de Moraes of the Washington Post, who points out that Studio 60 also won the ratings race in the 18-49 age bracket advertisers love, and the two shows are equally (un)popular with upscale viewers.

So what's with NBC's announcement about how happy they are with the newly renewed 30 Rock's potential? As de Moraes says sarcastically after quoting NBC's praise-filled Kevin Reilly, "it's barely worth mentioning that NBC Universal 2.0 owns 30 Rock but not Studio 60 - that's owned by Warner Bros."

That's got to be a huge factor, maybe the deciding factor, though I think she's simplifying. I'd guess the 60-minute drama is far more expensive to produce and therefore the studio and network aren't seeing as large a return on the investment. I also assume NBC has more promising dramas to fill its schedule than promising comedies, and that they took into consideration Studio 60's creative floundering and 30 Rock's creative solidification. Studio 60's ratings went into a nosedive, so that plus the critical praise and awards to the half-hour show speak in favour of 30 Rock having more potential to grow, à la The Office, rather than crash and burn, à la ... Studio 60.

But the fact remains: in viewers, 30 Rock did not triumph over Studio 60. So while I'm not mourning the loss of Studio 60, I can't stomach the crowing about 30 Rock winning the battle of the behind-the-scenes series just because it's a better financial investment for NBC.