LOS ANGELES — As NBC executives start to figure out what shows deserve to come back next fall, its Tuesday night dramedy “Parenthood” is starting to quietly make a case for a second season.
The 10 p.m. EDT program, which is NBC’s second attempt to turn the hit Steve Martin movie into a TV series, beat “The Good Wife” in the coveted 18-49 demographic Tuesday. It was the first time since “Parenthood” premiered a month go that it beat a new episode of the CBS freshman drama head-to-head in that category. Last week, a new “Parenthood” beat a repeat of “The Good Wife.”
In terms of viewers, it is still no contest. “The Good Wife” had 12 million watching on Tuesday, compared with 6.3 million for “Parenthood,” according to Nielsen.
The ratings for “Parenthood” have been all over the map since its March 2 premiere, but the last few weeks have seen some stabilization. Helped by heavy hype during NBC’s Olympics coverage, the show launched with 8.1 million viewers and a 3.1 rating in adults 18-49 (each rating point in that demo equals 1.3 million viewers). It dropped the following two weeks, hitting a low of 5.8 million viewers and a 2.3 in the demo on March 16.
Some may have been ready to throw in the towel on “Parenthood” at that point, but it rebounded on March 23 with 7 million viewers and a 2.7 in adults 18-49. Perhaps fans of “The Good Wife,” which was in repeats that Tuesday, checked out “Parenthood” and now some are starting to stick around. Although “Parenthood” has not matched the numbers of two weeks ago, the show is performing at the same level as it was in week two and is doing particularly well with women.
Of course, the bar for success is lower at NBC than at other networks because of its struggles. A decision as to whether the show, which features Peter Krause, Lauren Graham and Craig T. Nelson, will make it to a sophomore season is not expected any time in the immediate future. NBC ordered 13 episodes and has seven more to get through. If “Parenthood” can maintain or improve on its current performance, though, odds are NBC will bring it back. It doesn’t hurt that NBC has had a very tough season and anything that shows the slightest sign of clicking with viewers will get a long look.
There will be a little bit of schadenfreude for NBC if “Parenthood” can continue to make a dent on “The Good Wife.” At January’s Golden Globe Awards, that show’s star, Julianna Margulies, took a swipe at NBC’s ill-fated strategy of putting Jay Leno on at 10 p.m. when she thanked CBS President Leslie Moonves and entertainment chief Nina Tassler for “believing in the 10 o’clock drama.”
Who knows, NBC might have to thank them one day too.