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"Well that was fast!!" Paul Reiser tweeted on Friday, shortly after NBC canceled The Paul Reiser Show. It was just two episodes in. "Apparently networks like big numbers quickly," he added. "Who knew?"
But the cancellation does seem a little extreme. His show's numbers (3.3 million the first episode and 2.5 million in the second) weren't big enough, quickly enough, to earn even a third airing. Two strikes and... next batter up.
Reiser's show -- which marked his first trip back to series TV since Mad About You -- follows in the footsteps of other series that were quickly during the 2010-11 season after failing to earn large audiences right out of the gate. Fox's buzzed-about drama Lonestar was canceled after just two episodes; ABC's ensemble drama My Generation was scuttled after two airings; and Fox's Running Wilde didn't make it a full season, despite the winning comic pedigree of exec producer Mitch Hurwitz and stars Will Arnett and Keri Russell.
The L.A. Times speculates that Reiser might go down fighting, since he's slated for a Monday night guest spot on The Tonight Show. "Could this be an opportunity for him to ignite a campaign to bring the show back?" asks the Times. But it hardly seems likely that the network would reverse its decision. Critics didn't care for the show, either: In a summary of 22 reviews on Metacritic, it received a score of 38 out of 100, or "generally unfavorable."
"Reiser has made a career out of playing whiny, self-deprecating characters, and his self-titled show is no better," wrote a critic from TV Guide. "The only difference here is he’s playing a version of himself. And while that worked for Matt LeBlanc on Episodes, it doesn’t even come close here."
Obviously, NBC is struggling with this 8:30 p.m. timeslot. It was home to the low-rated Perfect Couples before this, and the network will air repeats of The Office there until the TV season ends. It's also struggling with the 9:30 pm slot, where Outsourced has underwhelmed critics and viewers alike. Could it be that NBC's idea for a six-sitcom night of TV was too ambitious? Four of the comedies -- Community, The Office, 30 Rock, and Parks and Recreation -- have won favorable reviews and enough viewers to allow them to stay put. But filling out those other two time slots has obviously been problematic.
Let's hope NBC has some better options lined up for fall.