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Fall brings many things. Leaves that carpet the ground in gloriously warm shades. Temperatures that finally give us a needed break between summer and winter. And, TV shows that come and go in the blink of a twitchy eye, like many freshman NBC comedies.
The numbers for NBC’s new comedy Truth Be Told were pretty miserable, even for a series premiere. The show garnered a dismal 2.6 million viewers, which is terrible for one of the Big Four networks. It’s also the lowest viewership number for any of this season’s series premieres across genres for each of those networks. The ratings are so bad, it’s believed that Truth Be Told had the lowest ever in-season debut in NBC’s history, according to Variety.
The show premiered last Friday, and woe to any who liked it. The numbers do not bode well for a long continuation of the series. Truth Be Told is a sitcom with a pretty standard two-couples-from-different-backgrounds-figure-stuff-out premise. Mitch (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) and Tracy (Vanessa Lachey) live next door to their friends Russell (Tone Bell) and Angie (Bresha Webb). Which is just classic sitcom. How else are they supposed to have wacky misunderstandings and burst into each other’s homes with comedic news and whatnot?
Honestly, I’m not surprised that most people didn’t tune in for this one. As much as audiences might stay away from heavy genre shows, or anything that seems too different, I do believe that most want something at least slightly new in our television shows. We want to be challenged a little, even by a show we watch while slumped on the couch and vegging out after a hard day of living life.
This is sorta sad news for NBC, too. How many recent comedies can you name from the network that got your juices flowing and your belly busting with guffaws?You’re probably going to say that The Office, Parks and Rec, Scrubs, Community and 30 Rock were the more recent stand-outs. And, obviously, they were. But, that’s a total of two and a half hours of comedy programming from the network that used to dominate the field. Remember "Must See TV”? No? Well, that was a long time ago now.
Anyone with a recollection of the 1980s through the early 2000s remembers the comedy greats from the network. They had Cheers, The Cosby Show, Frasier, Friends, Family Ties, The Facts of Life, Seinfeld and The Golden Girls. Hell, even Blossom and ALF managed four seasons each. The list of their comedic achievements runs pretty long. So, what happened?
I bet NBC would blame streaming and the increasing dominance of cool cable shows. I’m sure that plays a part in it, but I also think it’s a bit of a cop out. My impression is that when networks start to worry about advertising dollars and what shows give them the biggest bang for their production buck, they get scared. And fear equals the desire for maximum safety in choices. Safety leads to blah-standard shows like Truth Be Told; programs that don’t offer the audience anything to sink their teeth into. And we need something that grabs us, we’re not going to watch in droves for years at a time if the show doesn’t wake us up and give us something that has the possibility to be different.
Maybe NBC will learn from the Truth Be Told mistake, or, maybe they’ll keep going until no one counts on them to launch a really inventive sitcom again. That will certainly lower the chances that any maverick comedy that comes along on the network will get any traction at all. Truth Be Told might be destined to fail, but that doesn’t mean other shows should have to suffer because of it.