Promos don't ensure prosperity

New NBC shows hyped during past Olympics have been less than golden

The 2008 Beijing Olympics on NBC is the most-watched event in U.S. television history. But even a promotional platform of this magnitude doesn't necessarily mean the upcoming crop of new Peacock primetime series, heavily promoted during the Games, will be ratings champions.

Spots have been running for dramas "My Own Worst Enemy," "Crusoe" and a remake of "Knight Rider"; sitcom "Kath & Kim"; and the nonscripted "America's Toughest Jobs." NBC also has been busy amply promoting the relaunch of "Chuck" and "Life" and other returning shows.

But will the Olympics lead to ratings victory? If recent history is an indication, the answer is no.

Case in point: NBC's 2004 Summer Olympics from Athens was a resounding success in the Nielsen ratings, but only one of the five new NBC shows launched that fall, "Joey," lasted past that first season. The "Friends" spinoff was put out of its misery midway through Season 2. New dramas "Hawaii," "LAX" and "Medical Investigation" and the animated "Father of the Pride" didn't get through the first season.

Four years earlier, NBC's "Ed" premiered right after the conclusion of the 2000 Sydney Games and lasted four seasons. But the small town-based dramedy was never anything more than a marginal success, and NBC's five other new series that fall failed quickly. Anyone remember "Cursed," "DAG," "The Michael Richards Show," "Titans" or "Tucker"?

NBC had a better track record after the 1996 Atlanta Games, with three of its seven new entries — "Suddenly Susan," "The Pretender" and "Profiler" — lasting four seasons. But those shows were never considered hits, and the ax quickly swung on the drama "Dark Skies" and sitcoms "Mr. Rhodes," "Men Behaving Badly" and "Something So Right."

Bottom line: Not even a promo push via the Olympics will help if the show is not worth watching.

Marc Berman is a reporter for Mediaweek.
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