Question: Back in the early '80s, Hill Street Blues was moved from one night to another and sometimes went missing before it found an audience. Someone had faith in Blues. After Blues found success, it ushered in a period of quality drama and, with Bill Cosby's help, took NBC to the No. 1 position in the ratings. With quality programs on NBC like Studio 60 and Friday Night Lights getting critical acclaim but not finding an audience or a working time slot, what will it take for quality programs to find a champion to keep them on the air for more than a few episodes? NBC's ratings haven't been this low since its inception, and they're still dropping. They have nothing to lose by keeping these quality programs on the air, yet they put on reality programs like The Real Wedding Crashers, which drop the rating points even further. Quality programs are like fine wines: It takes time for them to mature, while garbage will always remain garbage. What will it take for NBC to take a stand on quality?
Answer: Without being an apologist for NBC, I think it's fair to say that by giving 30 Rock an early renewal, building the modestly rated but critically acclaimed "Comedy Night Done Right" Thursday lineup, nurturing Heroes and keeping Friday Night Lights on for an entire season, NBC has taken a pretty clear stand on quality. The network is rebuilding, but it's a slow and sometimes painful process, which includes taking occasional detours into the dark side. The network has already been humbled by the lousy numbers for Wedding Crashers, which you know they knew was crap, though probably thought would be at least a commercial success. (Thankfully, it wasn't.) But I'm getting a little weary of reading people beat up on NBC for dropping Studio 60. The show started strong creatively, but didn't sustain, and by the time Jordan and Danny spent two episodes locked on the rooftop, its charms had long evaporated. NBC left it on longer than many others would have. (Imagine if CBS had developed it. It would have been gone by November.) I would love to think NBC will find its way back to prosperity and popularity with critically championed underdogs, the way it did with Hill Street and Cheers — though it took The Cosby Show to truly put the network over the top. I'm not sure what it's going to take this time, other than, as Dewey notes, patience.