When a network cancels a new show, as NBC just did with Allegiance after only five episodes, it’s safe to say that there has been a serious misfire somewhere in the programming department. Just three months after ending its signature Thursday night comedy lineup, which reigned for almost four decades — choosing to go “serious” on Thursdays — NBC has been forced to scramble just to save its ratings on the night.
The CIA spy drama starring Hope Davis may have suffered from comparisons to the similarly-themed and critically acclaimed FX basic cable thriller The Americans. Or perhaps mainstream network audiences seeking light sitcom fare just didn’t have any appetite for a grim drama about a CIA recruit forced to inform on his own family.
Whatever the reason, Allegiance opened to just a modest 5 million viewers and a dismal 1.1 rating among the coveted 18-49 year old demographic group that advertisers see as their target. And it was all downhill from there.
The fifth episode of Allegiance, which aired this week, pulled in just 3.36 million viewers for NBC, causing the network bosses to lose patience and start shuffling the Thursday schedule around the hit crime drama The Blacklist, which airs in the 9 p.m. time slot.
NBC moved another new, but also struggling drama, The Slap — about the reaction of a group of parents after one adult slaps a friend’s child — to the 10 p.m. slot where Allegiance had been scheduled, in apparent hopes that a lead-in from The Blacklist will give the show a boost in the viewership department.
The Slap has been performing barely better than Allegiance in the ratings, garnering just 3.87 million viewers for this week’s installment. But while Allegiance had eight episodes left to air, The Slap — based on a 2008 Australian nove,l which also spawned a TV series in that country — was never planned to run more than eight episodes.
Meanwhile, NBC looked to bolster its key Thursday night franchise by adding a new spinoff of its tabloid news magazine Dateline series to the 8 p.m. slot vacated by The Slap. The new Dateline series, subtitled The Real Blacklist, will focus on “larger than life” stories of “conspiracy” and other crime.
NBC had its Thursday night glory days in the mid-1990s when its lineup of “Must See TV” included the now-classic sitcoms Friends and Seinfeld. But NBC’s Thursday comedy dominance began as early as 1982 with such runaway hits as Cheers, Family Ties and The Cosby Show.
Most recently NBC aired 30 Rock and The Office on Thursdays, but when those two shows ended their runs, the network decided to move to a drama-based Thursday night — without much success outside of The Blacklist as the NBC decision which cancels Allegiance indicates.