'Parenthood' Becomes Another Victim of NBC Marketing

It's the show you make sure to watch every week. You DVR it, watch it on Hulu, or even make an appointment to watch it when it airs (how very early 2000's of you!). But you start to hear rumors. Maybe it will get canceled. Maybe this will be its last season. You don't understand, it's being reviewed well! How could they do this to you?

You slog through the next season, feeling unsatisfied. There might be some unfinished questions, or it just may not feel like the same show anymore. 

Then, a ray of hope appears. The show has been restored! But in the meantime, you've lost some interest in the show, and you doubt if things will ever be the same.

If you've ever watched NBC, you're probably familiar with this feeling. The network has always wished that it could take a time machine back to the '90s, when it was making broad comedy shows that resonated with a wide audience. Instead, in the past few years, it's had the unfortunate (or fortunate, for people who like good television) luck of picking up television shows that become critically acclaimed, but only watched by a smaller, more devoted audience. 

NBC has no idea what to do with these shows. They don't market them well, and sometimes, hardly at all. They stick them into slots that no one watches, and if they don't do well, they'll move them into even worse slots. 

Parenthood is familiar with this process. The show was barely spared from the brink of cancellation with a truncated, 16-episode fourth season. The show's star Craig T. Nelson has been pretty vocal about NBC's treatment of the show in the past, and he continued to stand by his opinions at the Television Critics' Association’s summer press tour on Saturday, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The actor stated that he felt that NBC was not effectively marketing the show.

“You get associated with a show that you love and that you believe in … and you get frustrated with the fact that it doesn’t seem to get honored in the way that you feel it should be,” Nelson said.

But the show is on more solid ground with the network now, with an order for a 22-episode fifth season and a new premium spot on Thursday nights. NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt told reporters on the press tour that the change in heart was due to the response from audiences, and he regrets giving the show a shorter fourth season.

“Once we got through the 16 episodes, I kept hearing from people, ‘Oh, I wish it wasn’t ending’ and ‘It’s too quick,’ ” Greenblatt said. 

“It’s one of the best shows on television, and I wish it had more of that acclaim.”

Does this seem like deja vu? Community fans will certainly say so. After being moved from the 9:30 p.m. to the 8:00 p.m. time slot, NBC put the show on hiatus, brought it back, and then fired its creator — that saga has been pretty well documented by the show's rabid fans. Now the show is back with creator Dan Harmon at the helm, but many fans left the show when Harmon was fired. 

NBC also held on until the last minute to renew Hannibal, a show that's gained plenty of critical acclaim along with a devoted fanbase (despite premiering midseason in the 10 p.m. slot, aka "The Death Slot").

NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke said the show's renewal was to "send a message to the community and the creators that we would support a show like that."

Right now, the network needs to send more messages like that. Its emphasis as of late has been on big, broader comedy shows with recognizable stars, but the network has overlooked the TV classics it has (kind of accidentally) cultivated over the years. True, it's a good strategy for the network to invest in shows that are a safer bet, but it also needs to focus on the devoted audiences of some of its riskier shows. There's only so much an audience can take before it abandons a show — just take a look at disgruntled Community fans.

Fortunately, it seems that Parenthood is safe from being jerked around by NBC (well, for now at least). In the meantime, creator Jason Katims is staying positive.

"We’ve definitely had our struggles and frustrations along the way, but I feel so positive about it now.”

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