Anyone who’s ever spent any amount of time reading Nikki Finke’s essential Deadline Hollywood Daily site understands that, of the myriad “personal vendettas” she engages in, the one person she really has it out for is impeccably eyebrowed NBC wunderkind (and Vulture hero) Ben Silverman. We’re not quite sure exactly what fueled their rivalry to begin with, but Finke just took their fight to a new high (or new low, depending on your perspective) with a blog post that ran at the crack of dawn on Monday morning. You see, someone leaked the results of market research that NBC Universal conducted on the new Amy Poehler Office-spinoff-that-isn’t-really-an-Office-spinoff, Parks and Recreation, to Finke. And, needless to say, the results were not pretty. Looks like someone brought a gun to a knife fight!
As anyone who has ever attended a focus group or seen The TV Set will understand, most people who show up to focus groups are only doing it because their lives are terribly boring and they could use an extra $50.* Therefore, the things that tend to pop are not instances where subtlety reigns, but rather the kinds of moments that appeal to people who still watch AFV week in and week out: case in point, this bullet that was included in the report:
• Highest positive spike comes from Leslie [Amy Poehler] falling into the pit.
And although the report also contains other potentially damaging criticisms (the show is too “predictable” and “slow,” Amy Poehler is “too serious” and “too low-key”), the whopper of a takeaway from the focus groups is that the show’s male leads — including Aziz Ansari and Paul Schneider — are too “sleazy” and not likable enough. “Because there are no ‘datable’ men in the cast, there is little ‘romantic tension’ or ‘interesting relationship potential’ in the show,” the research report states. Ouch!
Or so one might think. While Finke certainly succeeded at slamming Ben Silverman, NBC, and one of the network’s most prized projects in their development pipeline, she failed to properly contextualize the results she read in the twelve-page report with basic information like when and where this group (or was it groups?) was held or what the demographic makeup was of this group(s). Also, while she is very up-front about the fact that the group(s) was shown a “rough-cut pilot,” the way she spins her story is to question whether the show “can get fixed in time” for its April 9 debut, never acknowledging that focus-group research can often run totally in contradiction to how things will play in the “real” world.** Consequently, she took a fair amount of heat from her commenters, including someone purporting to be famed comedian Jeff Garlin, for running these reports and conducting a sabotage campaign on a show that she (presumably) has not even seen.
While we cannot say with any definitive measure whether Parks and Recreation is any good (because, duh, we haven’t seen it yet), we can tell you this: This battle between Finke and Silverman is only going to get uglier. And, therefore, we think it definitely deserves a show of its own. Or, at the very least, a TV movie. Get Ryan Reynolds and Dianne Wiest to sign on the dotted line, and watch the ratings soar!
*Speaking of which, if anyone is looking for extra focus-group participants, both Lane and I lead terribly boring lives and could really use an extra $50.
**Ben Silverman said as much in an interview he conducted last night with frequent NBC mouthpiece Entertainment Weekly: “All of the research we do around initial rough cuts is negative. If you had seen the initial research on all of ours and our competitors’ successful shows, it tends to be like that.”