On the same day Nielsen ratings showed that CBS' "Late Show with David Letterman" is breathing down the neck of NBC's "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" with its best ratings since 1995, NBC abruptly turned off the laugh track on reality show, "Last Comic Standing." The press should take notice.
Weirdly, NBC won't show the last episode of "Comic" when in theory the winner of that reality show -- pitting comedian against comedian -- should result in higher ratings. In reality, NBC needs to crank up the chuckles real soon or the network will have more drama on as well as off their airwaves.
And there are fewer laughs for Leno as well. Leno and Letterman are only separated by less than 1 million viewers now. For the first two weeks of the season, Letterman has averaged 4.64 million viewers nightly, up 10 percent from the same period a year ago. Leno, meanwhile, is down 6 percent with 5.59 million viewers.
Even better, "Late Show" is up 14 percent with adults 18 to 49; "Leno" is down 13 percent. This comes days after NBC said it would replace Leno in 2009 with Conan O'Brien.
In pulling "Comic," NBC may have had an itchy trigger finger. The last episode of "Comic" would have aired in a less valuable, non-sweep period. But "Comic" was doing nothing to help expensive new animated show, "Father of the Pride" as its lead in on Tuesday night. Total viewers for "Comic" steadily dropped to an unfunny 5 million viewers from a high of 8 million when the show ran in the easier summer period.
NBC needs to protect its pricy investment in "Pride" and with producer DreamsWorks since the studio is also producing a now questionable reality boxing show for NBC, "The Contender," with the king of all reality media, Mark Burnett.
The good news for "The Contender" is that real market research has come back in the form of poor numbers from Fox's reality boxing show, "The Next Great Champ" - you know, the show DreamsWorks said Fox stole.
Now DreamsWorks and NBC can save their money and instead produce, "The Complainer, " a reality show about whining and fighting TV executives.
Now that's comedy!