Community Creator Dan Harmon Mocks TV by the Numbers' "Renew-Cancel Index"

Categories: Broadcast TV

Written By

February 6th, 2010

Damn Twitter and it's 140 character limits!  I definitely want to see the rest of the URL Update: full URL was:

TVbytwosetsofnumberstranslatedtocolorcodesubjecttochangependingTVdecisions.com

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I was off of Twitter yesterday so it wasn't until this morning that I saw a tweet from my friend Jennifer Godwin (of E! Online's Watch With Kristin) that she'd interviewed Community creator and showrunner Dan Harmon and there would be a special treat for us.  So I sent back something that prompted the above tweet from Mr. Harmon.

I'm pretty sure Bill will think that's as funny as I do.   For the record, while I'm a staunch supporter of the renew-cancel index methodology when it comes to one hour dramas, there are a couple of issues with it (that are generally well-documented at this point, but perhaps could be better documented):

1.) it kinda sucks when it comes to being useful at predicting outcomes for marginally rated sitcoms

2.) results are "point in time"

The Index Just Plain Doesn't Work Well For Sitcoms

The index just plain doesn't work well for predicting fates of the lower-rated sitcoms. Of course it works well for predicting high-rated sitcoms, but that doesn't change the fact that it's lousy at predicting outcomes for sitcoms that aren't high-rated.

Any combination of renewal or cancellation of the lower-rated CBS sitcoms Accidentally on Purpose, Gary Unmarried and The New Adventures of Old Christine is possible.  Though my (and I believe Bill's) take is that CBS won't likely renew all three, that thinking isn't influenced much by the math of the index.  If Accidentally on Purpose has similar rating to Gary Unmarried in the Wednesday 8:30pm spot, you might be able to accurately predict what CBS announces in May, but it won't be because the index aided you much.

As for NBC,  I'm not sure how useful the index is at all this season, for either the one hour dramas or the sitcoms.  That has nothing to do with the methodology behind the index, but the methodology behind NBC.

I'll give Dan Harmon credit for consistency.  I'd seen some mocking from him before, but now that Bill has changed the status of Community to "Likely to be renewed" (and the color coding to green), he's still mocking!

Bill's logic for the status change is if they already renewed Parks & Recreation, how can they not renew Community which has a more difficult timeslot and better ratings (for the season) than Parks & RecreationNote: in Thursday's final numbers both shows had a 2.3 adults 18-49 rating.

Though I agree with Bill's thinking (it's logical) I'm not sure how logic driven NBC is at this point.  The status change for Community is driven by a renewal for Parks & Recreation.  And while I wasn't surprised to see that renewal, the lack of surprise had little to do with what Parks & Recreation's season-to-date 18-49 ratings looked like compared to NBC's average.

The Index Is Point In Time

Because of its point in time nature,  the index is far more useful later in the season than earlier.  It's like seeing the Denver Broncos win their first six games, but, alas for Broncos fans it's a 16 game season.   After week six, Denver,  Minnesota, Indianapolis and New Orleans were all undefeated.  But only three out of those four teams made the playoffs.  The standings were quite useful, even after only six weeks but they weren't perfect at predicting who would make the playoffs.

It's pretty much the same with the index.  The index isn't aimed at pissing off  TV fans (or showrunners) any more than the NFL standings are aimed at pissing off Detroit Lions fans.  Just like the NFL season, as the TV season progresses, things change -- both the ratings for individual shows and the averages for the networks they air on.  So there are constantly changes during the season, and corresponding color coding changes.  Usually these changes are purely based on math, but particularly with the sitcoms other factors come into play.

Just like ESPN is going to continue to post sports standings from the very beginning of the season, we're going to continue to do the same with the Renew-Cancel Index.   And just like sports standings, it will continue to change a lot from the beginning of the season to the end of the season.

Unlike the sports standings though, it's color coded! :-)

We're always open to suggestions, but for now I'm still leaning towards the shorter TVBTN.com than moving to TVbytwosetsofnumberstranslatedtocolorcodesubjecttochangependingTVdecisions.com.

 
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