A few months ago, we told you that NBC had pretty much given up on a trio of series still sitting on its mid-season shelf — Love Bites, Friends with Benefits, The Paul Reiser Show — and that if said shows aired before the summer, it would be with virtually no fanfare. Well, NBC decided to give Paul a try, and as we predicted, the network put very little marketing muscle behind it, quietly scheduling it between Community and The Office last night. We'll give you one guess how that turned out.
Per Nielsen, a mere 3.3 million viewers checked out the return of the Mad About You star to prime time; among adults under 50, the sitcom attracted a 1.1 rating in the 8:30 p.m. half hour. How bad is that? Well, it appears to be the lowest-rated regular season series premiere ever for an NBC comedy. Also: Several repeats of Family Guy on TBS this Monday earned a higher rating in the 18-49 demo, while Monday's Pawn Stars on History drew about twice as many viewers as Paul. We will not be surprised if NBC quickly subs in repeats of The Office, so get your Sad About You jokes in while you can.
The super-low numbers for Paul shouldn't be read as a complete rejection of Reiser. In addition to pretty much zero promotional support, and the fact that NBC's overall low ratings make it impossible to bring viewers to a new series without substantial off-air marketing, Paul also had a super-low lead-in, courtesy of Vulture fave Community. The Greendale gang had their least-watched episode ever (3.5 million viewers, a 1.4 among comedy lovers under 50.) Series creator Dan Harmon put a positive spin on the numbers via Twitter this morning: "Congratulations to the 8 people that watched last night's Community. We're officially the most intimate viewing experience on television!" (Deadpanned cast member Yvette Nicole Brown in response: "We're up to EIGHT?! Now that's rocking!!!")
Not all the news was bad for NBC Thursday: Will Ferrell's arrival (and the pending departure of Steve Carell) gave The Office a big boost. The series averaged 7.7 million viewers and a 3.9 rating among adults 18-49. That's up 15 percent from the show's last original in March. The Office was the top-rated scripted series on TV last night; American Idol was tops overall with 21 million viewers (or 7 times as many folks as watched The Paul Reiser Show.)