With shows now getting a long afterlife on the internet, and other shows getting picked up by streaming services after cancellation, it is now harder than ever to define a television hit.
Just ask Amy Poehler and Mindy Kaling, who are responsible for two network comedies some might call hits, and others might label as failures.
Amy Poehler starred in and executive produced “Parks and Recreation,” which ended its seven season run on NBC earlier this year, always under the threat of cancellation due to low Nielsen ratings. Meanwhile, Mindy Kaling created and stars in “The Mindy Project,” which was cancelled by Fox back in May but will have a second life on Hulu.
While the ratings might not be on their side, both Kaling and Poehler know that their shows were still hits.
“I think that networks are in a tough position right now, where they have shows that a lot of people watch — much more than cable shows that are considered “hits” — but they’re not allowed to call them hits because they’re up against an old system.” Poehler said in an interview with Vulture while discussing Disney and Pixar’s “Inside Out.” “They have millions and millions and millions of viewers, but the number attached to those viewers is now considered a pejorative number.”
Kaling pointed out that during its final season, “Parks and Recreation” had “the highest ratings of virtually any other show” on NBC, yet it always seemed like common knowledge that it suffered from low ratings.
Yet, Nielsen ratings, which first came about long before the internet, are barely the only factor now in making a TV show a hit nowadays. Becoming part of the culture is also crucial.
“If you were on cable, you would have had a fraction of that number, but because it’s Zeitgeist-y, it would be considered a hit there.” Kaling told Vulture.
Kaling could be referring to a show like “Mad Men” which, despite never being a ratings juggernaut, had a huge impact on the way people dress. In addition, “Community,” which was cancelled by NBC, moved over to Yahoo in response to its fan base, which is so passionate that a documentary called “Harmontown” was made partially about them.
Despite not being on cable, “Parks and Recreation” was an Emmy-nominated hit and quotes from the show such as “Treat Yourself” have become immensely popular catchphrases, while merchandise covered in Ron Swanson’s face isn’t too hard to find.
Meanwhile, “The Mindy Project” amassed a big following of fans and critics alike who took to the internet to support Kaling and her show after it was cancelled.
However, Kaling doesn’t look at her experience on network TV as completely negative.
After all, NBC’s “The Office,” where she was a star and writer, first made her famous.
“The plus side of being on a broadcast network, though, is that many, many more people see the show. And that has helped me in my career, certainly.” Kaling said.
Mindy Kaling and Amy Poehler currently star in “Inside Out.”
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