How CBS’ Comedy Strategy Got Shortchanged by ‘2 Broke Girls’

2 Broke Girls

Eye network's hoped-for Monday anchor fizzled, throwing a wrench in sitcom expansion plan

If you think about it, TV comedy has long relied on what amounts to an apprenticeship program. An established hit helps nurture along a new companion show, which in turn is supposed to go stand on its own, helping the next generation prosper in a “circle of life” kind of way.

For CBS, the baton pass went to “2 Broke Girls,” the linchpin of its strategy to expand the network’s successful Monday comedy block to Thursday nights. But it turns out “Girls” wasn’t up to the task, leaving the network with some interesting questions as it seeks to revive the Monday lineup — or at least buck it up a bit — with the return of “Mike & Molly” on Nov. 4.

Although critics were sort of lukewarm about the show, the ratings for “Girls” were initially solid, thanks in part to its appealing leads, Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs. That emboldened CBS to make the show its Monday centerpiece while moving “Two and a Half Men” to join “The Big Bang Theory” on Thursdays.

Now, “Big Bang” has been an overwhelming success, the kind TV doesn’t see very often these days. And it makes considerable sense that CBS would seek to cash in Thursdays, a night where networks have long relied on last-minute movie marketing money — as well as other ad campaigns aimed at weekend shoppers — to maximize sales.

But that left “How I Met Your Mother” and “2 Broke Girls” as its Monday tentpoles, and the former was heading into the home stretch of its run. (Whether CBS’ discussions regarding a spinoff reflect a stroke of genius or desperation will have to be evaluated at a later date.)

“Girls,” however — which among other things failed to develop a top-flight supporting cast — simply wasn’t strong enough to hold up its end of the bargain. That will put “Mike & Molly” — and the appeal of its star Melissa McCarthy — to the test. Adding to the pressure, the latest addition to prolific producer Chuck Lorre’s quartet of CBS comedies, “Mom,” is actually pretty good — and always better when Allison Janney’s around, with her character getting ample screen time this week, as she reluctantly deals with menopause. So far, though, the new show has been mostly treading water ratings-wise, thanks to its so-so lead-in.

CBS is billing “Mike & Molly,” as “new,” since McCarthy’s character abruptly quits her teaching job and decides she wants to become a writer. It’s pleasant enough, with some genuinely funny moments, while adding a semi-serialized aspect that “Mom” shares. That said, it’s hard to imagine a mild direction change will bring in droves of viewers, even if there’s a good possibility of improving on “2 Broke Girls'” numbers.

CBS thus finds itself in an interesting predicament. The network would be crazy to retreat from the presence it has established Thursdays, with feeble sitcom competition from NBC. Yet that Thursday presence may come at the expense of being able to sustain a two-hour sitcom block Mondays, which gets down to one of those cost-benefit analyses that force people to actually pay attention to what minions in the research, sales and accounting departments have to say.

The lesson of “2 Broke Girls” is, perhaps, that viewers exhibit less patience than they did in the past. In the good old days, if you established a comedy hit it could often coast along on habit and goodwill until you reached five years and syndication. Here, a sort of nagging mediocrity (identified by critics faster than viewers) caught up with the show considerably faster.

Of course, CBS’ comedy challenge is all relative, but it’s hard to see “Two and a Half Men” hanging on too much longer, and “The Big Bang Theory’s” in-demand stars won’t be getting any less expensive. In that regard, CBS could find itself in the situation NBC faced back in its “Must-See TV” heyday — hanging on to its biggest hits while the clock ticks on coming up with something capable of carrying on.

CBS still has some time to find that show, but this much seems clear: Having once been viewed as the heir apparent for the job, “2 Broke Girls” looks too poor to qualify.

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  1. jodi says:

    BRING IT BACK!!!!

  2. lee says:

    absolutely HATE this show …I love comedy…..but this is nothing but cheap attempts at funny one liners that are as annoying as the ba donka donk musical affects

  3. PJ GADDIE says:

    Wait… this show is the best thing on CBS since Charlie Sheen. The problem is that suddenly all he plots disappeared over night…
    What happened to Culinary School, Deke, the affair with the chef..?

    All plot line where scrapped in time for the “relaunch”. Dumbassed move.

  4. Frank W says:

    Since my sleep schedule is erratic, I watch Castle and The Blacklist On Demand because it’s easily available and saves my DVR for one shot programs or movies. Last year it was frustrating to always have to have DVR space to catch CBS shows that weren’t offered (and I hate watching at CBS.Com on my laptop because that’s my work platform), but at least this year, I can catch Person of Interest that way if we forget to record it.

  5. shwirv says:

    WHO THE F WATCHES SITCOMS ON TV?!

    And yes, the caps were necessary. I am befuddled that anyone would care about any of this stuff. What year is it anyway, 1994?

  6. Jason1976 says:

    In a world of tivo, on demand, internet and other sources of “watch it whenever you like”, the fretting over timeslots seems very antiquated. I can’t remember the last time I turned to a broadcast station to watch whatever happened to be on at the time. While I suppose the core demographic of CBS has different viewing habits (they always have tended to be older), their number 1 hit being “Big Bang Theory” suggests that they should think about broadening their appeal. The days are numbered for the existing broadcast network advertizing model. If they don’t adapt, they will age out along with their current viewership.

  7. michaelnycny says:

    Why would it be a surprise that 2 Broke Girls is failing? It takes about 2 minutes to see that apparently both lead actors are maybe the two worst actors to hit the small screen in the last 35 years. Listen to their deliveries. Then listen to acting in a porn movie. The porn movie acting is ten times better.

  8. Broadwayfan says:

    How trash like TWO AND A HALF MEN has stayed on the air has always been a mystery to me. I guess there’s enough people who enjoy stupid filth. I watch two sit coms; only two. HIMYM and TBBT are high quality writing and acting. I’ll miss HIMYM, but it’s time to go.
    I’d love to see something of quality come along. But, not holding my breath.

  9. vp19 says:

    “Mom” deserves more love; Anna Faris and Allison Janney are splendid actresses with delightful chemistry; it’s a series that grows on you, and is far less inane than the spectacularly vulgar “2 Broke Girls.”

  10. 2 Broke Dudes says:

    We luv to watch…

    Kat Dennings and her two broke girls..

    on

    MUTE

  11. JoMcG says:

    The problem isn’t with the strategy, it’s with the show. They sent in a rookie to the job of a seasoned professional. Even Big Bang wasn’t ready for that in it’s sophomore year… nor were most any of the really good sitcoms. 2-Broke may have had a good freshman season, but in sitcom years it’s still a rookie looking to find it’s legs. I think they knew they were taking a chance… surprise, it didn’t work.

  12. Terry says:

    The problem is the show is the same week after week. Lots of sex jokes, but not funny ones. I gave up after the first season.

  13. You know it’d probably help if you didn’t shorten the name of ‘2 Broke Girls’ to ‘Girls,’ considering that one show is a piece of crap set in Greenpoint while the other is an acclaimed HBO series set in Greenpoint. Just saying.

    • Chrisez says:

      Whoa, Scott, we didn’t know either show was set in Greenpoint — I was born and raised there! We just found the girls too obnoxious and annoying in “2BG”, so we didn’t watch. And we don’t get HBO, so wemay have to get HBO as I understand that is a quality show compared to “2BG.” Thanks!

  14. SFSolstice says:

    They should have left 2 Broke Girls on Monday, but they moved it so those 4 guys in a hot tub could have an easy go of it. Tony Shaloub and his gang ( i CAN’T EVEN RECALL THEIR NAMES) only lasted two weeks – they are the one’s who couldn’t hold up their end of the bargain! I’m not sure why, but the Broke Girls were easier to watch on Monday as opposed to Thursday. Perhaps it’s because my expectations and standards increase at the week moves along. HOWEVER, CAN SOMEBODY DO SOMETHING ABOUT FRIDAY NIGHTS ON ANY NETWORK – IT’S A WASTELAND !

  15. occultology says:

    The two lead girls on 2BG are the only thing the “show” has going for it. And ‘doubledown44’ is totally right on regarding Kat Denning’s character; her “dialogue” seems to be written by some java autospeak machine—we already know in advance what the feeble negative comment is going to be 20 to 30 seconds before it manifests itself. Very little of the “humor” arises from character development or comedic inspiration. It’s just a program built primarily around a laugh track and a demographic. Wit? What’s that? Oh, saying something mean and derogatory now passes for comedy. Two Broke Girls has about as much humanity to it as does a Fema Camp. The plots are about as engaging and interesting as a Bazooka Joe comic strip. But at least the two female leads are pleasant to look at until the bright studio lighting system fries out their attractive visages by the time they have enough episodes for their syndication payday. .

  16. Jake says:

    Two broke girls is unwatchable yet it got high ratings, it’s sad that the far superior — new girl– was on a different network where it would be a bigger bit. Mom though is shockingly good– one of the best new comedies

  17. doubledown44 says:

    I wanted to like 2 Broke Girls, but it was just awful from the beginning. Kat Dennings has talent, but EVERY single phrase she utters on the show is pure snark. I just couldn’t watch it anymore. It was becoming a chore and I had to move on.

  18. Dave M says:

    Two Broke Girls started funny and has flopped…drug and sex jokes are all they do any more. Mom is just plain boring to the point of unwatchable. CBS Monday is a non-watch network at all. Mike and Molly is its only hope. The only good comedy left is BBT

  19. Jim says:

    Those two …Broke Girls…have bods. And Kat Dennings has two.

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