As New York Magazine noticed, NBC's recent schedule changes have pushed the critically-beloved but ratings-challenged comedy "Parks and Recreation" off the airwaves, at least for the next few months to come. Aside from two weeks in November in which NBC will air a "Parks and Recreation" Halloween episode and an election episode (Pawnee bureaucrat and show heroine Leslie Knope is currently up for a recall), the show's 8:00 p.m. time slot will be filled by special event programming. It is slated to return Jan. 9 at 8:30 for its 100th episode.
While this could simply be NBC trying to use more ratings-friendly programming to bring more viewers to its new Thursday comedies in the 9 p.m. hour "Sean Saves the World" and "The Michael J. Fox Show," fans of "Parks and Recreation" are fearing the worst. Is this is a sign that the show's lack of ratings success is finally catching up with it? What else could be next?
1. "Parks and Recreation" will return in January as if nothing has happened. The schedule changes could have been less about NBC's concerns about "Parks and Recreation" and more about its desire to capitalize on the massive success of "The Voice," which brings in 10-15 million viewers each week. Even with its beleaguered viewership (3.2 million last week, compared to the 17.6 million won by its time slot rival "The Big Bang Theory"), "Parks and Recreation" is the only veteran comedy currently left on its Thursday line-up and star Amy Poehler will be getting extra attention when she and Tina Fey host the Golden Globes. NBC won't want to give up its Thursday night comedy reputation entirely if "Sean Saves the World" and "The Michael J. Fox" don't prove to be the hits the network is hoping for.
2. This is the start of a "Community"-like saga. When "Parks and Recreation" returns, it will be joined by "Community," another Thursday NBC comedy that had a cult following that never translated into major ratings. With rumors of mismanagement, "Community" creator Dan Harmon was replaced by new show runners for Season 4, only to return for the upcoming fifth season. Members of its original cast have either left or dialed back from the show. In the turmoil, the show's fourth season was delayed and moved to Fridays. Season 5 has it returning in mid-season but at least back to Thursdays. If "Community" can regain its footing, "Parks" can perhaps win over the continued faith of the network. On the bright side, "Parks" doesn't appear to be plagued with the internal dramas that "Community" has suffered. However, it also is losing some key cast members – Rashida Jones and Rob Lowe – this season.
3. This is the beginning of the end for "Parks and Recreation." Ask fans of "Up All Night," "Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23" and "Bunheads" –all delightful little shows that failed to find big enough of following and were axed: There are many ways a network can kill a show. Sometimes it's schedule shuffles like this ("Parks and Rec" fans should really panic if it's moved to Fridays). Sometimes it's refusing to renew a show after an exhausting silent game. Sometime it's cancelling a show in the middle of its run and – if fans are lucky – posting the leftover episodes for streaming online. The last hope is that Netflix will swoop in for a save and revive a canceled show, a la "Arrested Development." But here's hoping it doesn't come to that.