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November 24, 2014

Problems with Parks and Recreation?

by Joel Keller, posted Mar 23rd 2009 11:36AM
Parks and Recreation
When I first saw the headline from this Nikki Finke report on NBC's Parks and Recreation, the highly-anticipated collaboration between Amy Poehler and the folks who write and produce The Office, I thought the story might be about set tension or significant rewrites or even those ever-so-useful "notes" from the network.

But it turns out that the article was about notes the network got as part of a "Consumer And Market Intelligence Research Summary." Basically, the pilot went through audience testing, and the test audience saw some problems. In the 12-page report (nine of which are charts and graphs, as Finke takes pains to point out), the test audience liked a lot of the pilot, but thought it dragged in parts, was too similar to The Office in tone, that Poehler's character needed to have "more energy and enthusiasm," and that there are "there are no 'datable' men in the cast."

To that, I say: who gives a flying crap?

Look, I'm not trying to defend Parks and Recreation. The pilot may be problematic, and it may end up suffering under the dual expectations from Office fans to be as funny as their favorite show without being exactly like it.

But when was the last time a test audience could be relied on to give good feedback for a show? After all, it's a small sampling of people, many of whom have plenty of time to come to a generic room with a two-way mirror to see screening of a show they've never heard of; how reliable can they be? This reliable: NBC's highest-testing show of 2007 was Journeyman, a good show that didn't get enough an audience for the desperate network to keep it going. And, according to Bill Lawrence, the network's highest-testing show in 2001, the same year Scrubs started, was... Emeril. Let's just say that you need to take this report with a whole shaker of salt.

[via Pop Candy]

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Thomas Porter

I just watched the first 20 Mins. of Parks and Recreation and I do not believe I have ever seen anything as bad as this. BOOOOOORING. What a complete waste of time. What are you people thinking to put something as bad as this on the air. As much as I hate Lost, it is better then this crap. I would suggest that you all go out and get real jobs. WOW really Bad Bad Bad. Tom Porter, Venice Florida

April 16 2009 at 9:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jamie

Poehler's character needed to have "more energy and enthusiasm,"

I havent seen the pilot, but from the promo's and what i've read, thats the point of the character.


"there are no 'datable' men in the cast."
What a pathetic reason to criticise a show.

March 23 2009 at 3:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Lisa

I like Amy P., but this looks like a dog from the get go...sorry but my jaw drops during the promos but not in a good way.

I call it 6 and out...6 eps then off to obscurity.

March 23 2009 at 2:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dave

"But when was the last time a test audience could be relied on to give good feedback for a show?"

It happens all the time, every show, every season.

Without test audience feedback, there would have been no Elaine on Seinfeld and Jeffrey Tambor's role on Arrested Development would have ended after the pilot.

March 23 2009 at 1:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Dave's comment
Vijay

Counterpoint: If CBS listened to a test audience, Archie Bunker would have been your plain-vanilla "nice guy" dad.

Over-reliance on a test audience fails to account for two important things - stories and characters evolve, and group think.

Conclusion? Test audiences are only good as a larger piece of the puzzle. It also takes some ganas, and a bit of a commitment from the network to let a quality show grow.

With Seinfeld, they had the support of Rick Ludwin (head of NBC late-night), who refused to let it die. Thus, it was allowed to incubate for about 5 episodes (incl. the poor-testing Pilot), which allowed it to get a second season, which still was not highly-rated.

With All in the Family, Norman Lear ignored the testing and went with his gut.

March 23 2009 at 2:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
shadowracer

It's that Aziz dude. He's not funny and there's something about him that's just unlikable. I hated the episodes of scrubs he was in. The cast does look pretty weak though. I don't think Poehler can be a leading lady; has she ever played one before?

March 23 2009 at 12:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to shadowracer's comment
EbonyDad

Aziz is hilarious. His work on Human Giant is great.

I am really hoping that NBC lets the show play out for 6 episodes and let it find its way like "The Office". I remember when I saw the first episode of "The Office", and it was ok, but nothing spectacular, but figured I would give it at least 6 shows, and it paid off.

PS - I can't believe that a show was judged by the fact it didn't have a "datable" guy on the cast. Do women really watch a show based off if it has a guy they would date in it?

March 23 2009 at 1:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
OneTheyCallGSK

I've been watching NBC for the last 4 or 5 years nearly every night, and I honestly can't remember Journeyman. x_x.. Wikipedia time, I suppose.

From the commercials I've seen those, P&R looked good, and it was something I wanted to see. I thought the commercials were funny.

March 23 2009 at 12:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ryan

Well the screener audiences for Journeyman was clearly smarter than the general audience that didn't tune in. Man, NBC really really shouldn't have canceled the show. Sigh.

March 23 2009 at 12:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
airtoast

If NBC has confidence in Parks and Recreation, they'll stick with it. If not, they'll change everything around like they did for Knight Rider or Joey (death knell).

Since it is such a high profile new show, I think they'll stick with it and use the same tactics they did with their initial "too big to fail" slow burners "The Office" and "30 Rock." If the ratings aren't measuring up at first, crank up the marketing to 11, play with its timeslot, and give it a long time to find its audience. If only other promising shows were afforded that opportunity as well...

March 23 2009 at 12:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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