January 23, 2013 12:00pm PT by Michael O'Connell, Lesley Goldberg
Fox Pulls 'Ben and Kate' From Schedule, Ditches Tuesday Comedy Block
Fox is putting Ben and Kate, and the idea of a two-hour Tuesday comedy block, on hold.
The freshman comedy, which opened to resounding critical approval in the fall, is being taken off the schedule immediately, to be replaced by back-to-back original episodes of lead-in Raising Hope starting Jan. 29.
Raising Hope will double up on Jan. 29, Feb. 5 and Feb. 26, airing its one-hour season finale on March 28. Starting on March 12, Hell's Kitchen will air at 8 p.m. Tuesdays, leading into the New Girl and The Mindy Project -- neither of which will see any changes because of the move.
From creator Dana Fox (What Happens in Vegas), Ben and Kate is semi-autobiographical comedy an an even-keeled woman (Dakota Johnson) and her more eccentric older brother (Nat Faxon). Lucy Punch, Echo Kellum and Maggie Elizabeth Jones also star.
Despite good buzz, Ben and Kate never was able to bring in the same ratings as its Tuesday comedy block neighbors. After a so-so premiere of a 2.1 rating with adults 18-49 and 4.2 million viewers, the series quickly dropped. Season to date, it's averaging a 1.4 rating with adults 18-49 and 2.9 million viewers. And unlike other Fox comedies, its DVR growth has been modest, rising only 21 percent in the key demo after seven days of time-shifted viewing.
Ben and Kate received an order for an additional six episodes in October, bringing its total to just 18. At the time, the lack of a full back-nine order was said to accommodate its creator's recent maternity leave. Fellow freshman The Mindy Project, alongside New Girl and Raising Hope, will produce and air 24 episodes by season's end.
In November, John Quaintance (Whitney, Perfect Couples) and David Feeney (2 Broke Girls, Love Bites) were upped to co-showrunners on Ben and Kate after the departure of original EPs Garrett Donovan and Neil Goldman. The latter duo, who have a two-year overall deal with Ben and Kate studio 20th Television, cited creative differences at the time of their exit.
As for Raising Hope, the steady performer will have completed 68 episodes when its third season concludes in March. The end of the third run also coincides with the expiration of creator and showrunner Greg Garcia's current contract with 20th Television. He leaves for a three-year deal with CBS Television Studios that has already resulted in two pilot orders, making the future of Raising Hope murky.
The fate of Fox's two-hour comedy block also remains up in the air after the upcoming run of Hell's Kitchen, but Fox Entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly told reporters during the Television Critics Association's winter press tour that he was dedicated to the network's Tuesday night comedy block. “Our shows weren’t rejected, they were never really sampled,” he said of disappointing ratings, noting that comedy is a genre that requires the kind of patience that the broadcast business no longer allows. Unlike dramas, which can demand a certain level of active viewing, there’s not as much “urgency to view” with comedy fare, he noted.
Meanwhile, Fox's lone unscheduled midseason offering -- half-hour comedy The Goodwin Games -- recently had its episode count cut to just seven.