The future has arrived
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.