March 13, 2014
Facebook/New Girl

Freaks and Geeks. Arrested Development. Party Down. Over the past 15 years, the TV landscape has seen numerous sitcoms with critical accolades and intensely loyal fans get canceled because their audiences just weren't big enough.

But if you're worried about the future of buzzy but relatively low-rated comedies like New Girl, The Mindy Project, or Brooklyn Nine-Nine, rest easy: According to Vulture's Josef Adalian, networks — which are increasingly concerned with buzz over ratings — are shifting toward "small-but-good" comedies with fans they know will stick around:

At a time when even broad, old-school sitcom stabs are striking out (NBC’s Sean Saves the World, Fox’s own Dads), and in an era where there hasn't been a blockbuster sitcom success since Modern Family, networks may need to start figuring out how to survive in a world where niche appeal may be their best option: Better a small, highly devoted fan base than an indifferent audience the same size. "You can’t count on there being another Big Bang Theory," one longtime network development suit says. "You need to bring back what people are responding to, and stick with those shows." Last year, after NBC unveiled a slate of generic family comedies to replace The Office and 30 Rock, and Fox unleashed Dads, comedy snobs worried about a future without broadcast comedies they could embrace. But Fox's new philosophy, combined with NBC's January decision to stick by Parks and Recreation (and probably Community) gives reason for optimism: If ratings aren't ever going back up, then maybe doing smart, niche comedies is the best bet to keep network comedy alive.

Read the rest of this smart piece at Vulture. Scott Meslow

7:39 a.m. ET
Sajjad Hussain/AFP/Getty Images

Volkswagen plans to offer generous compensation to up to 600,000 U.S. customers who own diesel vehicles involved in the German automaker's emission-test cheating scandal, the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung reported Sunday. The paper quoted veteran compensation mediator Kenneth Feinberg, head of the VW claims fund, as saying that the company still had not decided who would be offered cash, vehicle buy-backs, fixes, or new vehicles. VW on Friday postponed release of its 2015 earnings as it tried to determine the full cost of the scandal. Harold Maass

7:27 a.m. ET

Former president George W. Bush made his first public appearance campaigning for Jeb Bush in New Hampshire and South Carolina on Sunday — in a Super Bowl ad. Crowdfunded by the Super PAC Right to Rise, Bush's 30-second spot aired locally during the second half of the game between the Broncos and the Panthers, The Associated Press reports.

"I know Jeb. I know his good heart and his strong backbone," the former president says, adding he believes the younger Bush has the experience and judgment to keep America safe.

Good results in New Hampshire and South Carolina's primaries are critical for Jeb Bush, who was all but forgotten in the Iowa caucuses. He currently holds 9.7 percent of support in the Granite State according to RealClearPolitics, which places Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Marco Rubio, and Donald Trump ahead of him.

Watch the ad, below. Jeva Lange

7:19 a.m. ET
Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was widely mocked for repeating the same attack on President Obama verbatim four times during Saturday night's Republican debate, even after being called a speech-memorizing lightweight by Gov. Chris Christie (N.J.). The flub has taken a toll on his poll numbers, according to a survey Sunday by New Day for America super PAC, a group supporting the campaign of Gov. John Kasich (Ohio). In the group's poll of 500 likely New Hampshire voters, Rubio notched 10 percent, putting him in fourth place behind Donald Trump (35 percent), Kasich (15 percent), and Jeb Bush (13 percent). In most New Hampshire polls before the debate, Rubio was in second place, Politico reports.

Christie and Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) are tied at 8 percent in the poll, which has a margin of error of ±3 percentage points. If verified in other polls, the numbers suggest a quick end of Rubio's post-Iowa ascendance in the GOP race. "It's one of the most dramatic drops I have ever seen in 48 hours," says Matt David, chief strategist for the pro-Kasich super PAC. "A rock doesn't do it justice." Peter Weber

6:41 a.m. ET

U.S. and British intelligence have identified a second member of a quartet of brutal Islamic State prison guards and executioners known by former Western prisoners as the "Beatles" because of their British accents, The Washington Post and BuzzFeed News report. The leader, "Jihadi John" (Mohammed Emwazi), is believed to have been killed in a U.S. airstrike in November 2015, but the whereabouts of the second identified member, Alexanda Kotey — either "Ringo" or "George" — are unknown.

Kotey, 32, was raised in West London by a Cypriot mother; his Ghanian father died when Kotey was a toddler. He reportedly converted to Islam in his 20s, after falling in love with a Muslim woman with whom he had two daughters, and he is believed to have become radicalized at the same mosque attended by Emwazi, or through a London-based Islamic extremist group known as the London Boys. Kotey left England in 2009 as part of an aid convoy to Gaza organized by British politician George Galloway.

The quartet of Britons earned a reputation as one of the cruelest groups of ISIS guards, subjecting their prisoners to torture and mock executions. Britain's Home Office said through a spokeswoman that she could "neither confirm nor deny" Kotey's identity and role in ISIS. The "Beatles" are responsible for executing seven British, U.S., and Japanese hostages, plus 18 Syrian army troops. Peter Weber

4:01 a.m. ET

Stephen Colbert had the unenviable task of doing a live show after the Super Bowl on Sunday night, and he kicked it off by throwing a football around the world, and out of the world, with some help from the magic of television. His first pass was to a passel of U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan, and then he tossed the ball to Scott Kelly in the International Space Station. Finally, he threw the football to President Obama in the White House, who, even though the segment was pre-taped, knew who won Super Bowl 50.

"All the Super Bowl winners for the next 50 years are written on the back of the Constitution," Obama explained. "That's the plot of National Treasure 3." Colbert protested, "Sir, there is no National Treasure 3." To which Obama replied: "Ha — that's what you think. There will be. The script is on the back of the Declaration of Independence." Touché. Watch below. Peter Weber

2:06 a.m. ET

It took five decades, but Betty Morrell, 82, finally tracked down her 96-year-old birth mother after stumbling upon a key piece of information online.

Morrell was adopted as an infant, and told that her biological mother died during childbirth. She waited until her adoptive parents died before trying to find her birth mother, and since it was a closed adoption, information was scarce. Morrell was finally able to determine that she was born in Utica, New York, in 1933 to a 13-year-old ward of the state named Lena Pierce. Her name at birth was Eva May.

Morrell's granddaughter, Kimberly Miccio, 32, spent years helping her grandmother search for any details on her birth family, and in September, she finally found on the name of a distant relative, who put her in touch with Pierce's daughter, Millie Hawk. "I had found my baby sister, who's 65," Morrell told The Associated Press. "We just clicked. It was like we had known each other all our lives." It turns out, she also has three other sisters and two brothers, and Pierce is still alive and living in Hallstead, Pennsylvania.

Hawk said when she told her mother about Morrell, "she just sat down in a chair and cried. She said, 'My Eva May, they found her?' It was just so emotional." Morrell flew up from Florida with Miccio to meet her newfound family, and there were tears, Pierce said. "It sure was a joy to finally meet up with her," she added. "It's kind of hard when you have a child that you get separated from. I never wanted to give her up." Morrell and Hawk now talk all the time, and they're already planning their next visit. Morrell told AP that people searching for their birth families should keep hope alive: "I say absolutely don't give up. There's always something that will link it. It's a lot of work. It took me 50 years." Catherine Garcia

1:41 a.m. ET

The premise of James Corden's carpool karaoke ride with Elton John, released online Sunday night, is that he needs somebody to help him drive to work in the Los Angeles rain, because L.A. drivers are a mess when there's any precipitation. So naturally, once John was in the car, Corden drove with his hands off the wheel, belting out Elton John's greatest hits, sometimes dressed up in silly costumes. But he did get John to talk about what it's like to be Elton John, including not having a cellphone (though he does have an iPad).

Sir Elton and Corden started out with "Your Song," which John and Bernie Taupin wrote in 1970. After John put music to Taupin's lyrics, he told Corden, "we both realized that this was a huge step forward in our songwriting. We never looked back from that song." Corden noted that John has had "some amazing looks over the years," and John said that he dressed up in part because he was told he's not a very good dancer. Also, "I was never a lead vocalist, not like Bowie or Jagger — I was stuck at a piano," he said. "And I wasn't, you know, a sex symbol, and so I had fun with my outfits. And I just went for it." And he's not done. John told Corden that when he hears a young artist that inspires him, he vows to push on. Which he can do, because he has the energy of a 20-year-old, the 68-year-old John said. "Once you stop, you die." Watch the singing and talking below. Peter Weber

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