NBC on Wednesday formally made the expected announcement that it will bring back rookie comedy 30 Rock for a second season, and the same result is now expected for fellow freshman Friday Night Lights.
“That one’s next,” says NBC entertainment president Kevin Reilly.
A source close to the producers of the show also says they have been given quiet assurances that the tea leaves look positive for a second season.
Despite the 30 Rock pickup, a sophomore season for Friday Night Lights may not be formalized until closer to the network’s May 14 upfront presentation in New York City.
“It’s a similar debate [as 30 Rock], but a little trickier from a scheduling standpoint,” says Reilly. “Where we can put it on our schedule just becomes more complex.”
As for 30 Rock, the Tina Fey comedy has been one of NBC’s best-lauded new shows, despite failing to capture ratings worthy of its buzz and quality. It is averaging a 2.7 rating/7 share in adults 18-49, though it consistently retains more than 80% of its lead-in.
Reilly says it was those modest ratings that kept the network from announcing the second season before this week.
“Creatively the show is a no-brainer, but the ratings have been frustrating for all of us,” he says. “We unfortunately are in a ratings business. It created some pause, but when push came to shove, we have a great show and we believe it will be a part of our future.”
And while Reilly has long said he hopes it will grow a la its new lead-in, The Office, he attributes the sluggish ratings to scheduling.
“Time period, time period, time period,” he says of the reason the show hasn’t caught on despite garnering honors such as Alec Baldwin’s Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards.
The show debuted in the fall Wednesdays at 8, a timeslot Reilly says “is very tough for us, so those episodes went virtually under the radar.”
It was then moved to Thursdays at 9:30, up against brutal competition including CBS’s CSI and ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy.
Reilly also notes that Scrubs may not have been the best lead-in for the show, which is why the network has moved 30 Rock up a half-hour to 9 beginning April 12.
“There was some evidence that Scrubs while a qualitatively good match is not demographically necessarily the best flow for the show.”
NBC will continue to air 30 Rock through the summer, but Reilly is not expecting that to lead to a big groundswell.
“I don’t think that will have a huge impact,” he says. “You’d hope you get some sampling.”