TV ratings are an unfortunate measure of success.
They're based on what I believe to be a flawed Nielsen system, and are used far too much in deciding which shows get the axe and which stay. Now I understand that television is ultimately a business, but there should be a balance between creativity and a grab for ratings.
I got the disconcerting news Monday that NBC's midseason schedule did not include "Community," the best-written show currently on TV. Yet on the same network, "Whitney," which watching is comparable to putting bamboo shoots underneath my fingernails, received a green light, as did a show featuring the unfunny Chelsea Handler.
I can't bash NBC too much, as they've kept "The Office" on the air for eight seasons and stuck with "Scrubs" for seven years, but their recent moves are spellbinding. They likely benched "Community" for low ratings, yet it's hard to put up stellar ratings when no advertising is done and the time slot is pitted against a top-five comedy like "The Big Bang Theory."
I have seen more advertisements for "Whitney" in the past two weeks than I have in the past three years for "Community." Yet this is often the fate for some of the best, most creative shows, as networks struggle to find perceived audiences and the right time slot. "Sports Night," "Pushing Daisies," "Arrested Development," "Police Squad," "Flashforward," the list goes on of fantastic shows gone too soon.
Part of the blame can likely be shifted to the Internet. With the advent of Hulu and similar sites that show episodes after the fact - not contributing to any TV ratings - shows that cater to my generation and younger tend to suffer in the ratings. Younger people are more likely not to stay in and watch TV nightly, relying instead on Internet sources. This explains why "Community" and "Chuck" flourish on web popularity polls but not in the ratings.
Luckily, NBC hasn't cancelled "Community" and merely has postponed the rest of the season to a new spot. Hopefully, that new spot will yield some solid ratings, proving the show's mettle.
Yet even if it doesn't, it still is more creative and innovative than most of what's on TV, which is more important than anything Nielsen could ever measure.
Zach Kukkonen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.