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Tuesday, January 29, 2013
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‘New Girl’ And ‘Mindy Project’ Fail To Deliver For Fox, Face Uncertain Futures

By Carson Blackwelder
Television Contributor

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Ratings slips seem to be affecting many series this season, but none so much so as those on Fox.

Last week’s New Girl saw a slight uptick in the ratings, bouncing back from a series low of 1.9 in the key adult demo, whereas The Mindy Project remained steady at an already low 1.5 rating.

New Girl, starring Zooey Deschanel as the titular character, and The Mindy Project, a freshman show from The Office’s (NBC) Mindy Kaling, have been doing fair this season — but just fair.

Why is it that these shows, which are so well paired, aren’t bringing in the ratings this year?

New Girl and The Mindy Project are adorable representations of their “adorkable” leading ladies and exhibit a bubbly charm, yet that hasn’t been enough to keep viewers tuned in. This season has proven to be a creatively successful second for New Girl and a shaky first for The Mindy Project, and the combination of both has led to a rather rough bout of Tuesday night comedies for Fox.

Fox already pulled freshman sitcom Ben and Kate from the Tuesday schedule, and while New Girl is still sporting semi-solid ratings, The Mindy Project is definitely still a toss-up for renewal.

Where did these shows go wrong? Let’s take a look:

New Girl

New Girl began charming audiences last year, and its first season led to five Emmy nominations and a Television Critics Association Award nomination for Outstanding New Program.

It seems that from the very first episode, fans have been enamored by Deschanel and her gang of guys (Max GreenfieldLamorne Morris and Jake Johnson).

The pilot saw an astounding 10.28 million viewers and a 4.8 rating in the adult demo — though the series has yet to bring in those numbers since. In fact, the season one finale saw that number cut in half: 5.61 million viewers and a 2.8 rating. Sure, it’s usual for the audience to decrease after a series premiere, but that’s a steep fall.

Nevertheless, the season two premiere witnessed another slight tick downward, bringing in 5.35 million viewers while keeping a 2.8 rating, and the most recent episode attracted 4.05 million viewers and a 2.2 rating.

Although these are still decent numbers — and vastly superior to The Mindy Project’s figures — it’s difficult to see potential in a series that’s on a downward slide.

It’s almost a given that Fox will renew this quirky show, but it wouldn’t hurt if the final episodes of the season attracted more viewers.

Perhaps viewers got too tired of Jess’ “adorkable” tendencies and stopped watching halfway through the first season. I can admit her childish actions became grating, but the series stopped focusing solely on her and grew into so much more by following her group of friends. Season two is continuing this trend, and it’s a shame viewers may think otherwise.

Tuesday night at 9 p.m. is one of the toughest TV timeslots as well. Not only is New Girl going up against NBC’s Go On, but it’s also having to compete with ABC’s Happy Endings. Neither of these shows is a ratings hit, but they both most likely lure some audience members away from the Fox comedy.

The Mindy Project

Hype was through the roof this summer in anticipation of Kaling’s venture, but in all honesty, the result has been rather lackluster.

This disappointment may be due to the fact that before the show even premiered, Kaling was already billed as the “New New Girl,” adding pressure to the series and overshadowing the authenticity of Kaling’s genius.

The Mindy Project debuted to a modest 4.67 million viewers and 2.4 rating, and it most recently pulled 3.05 million viewers and a 1.5 rating — making it evident that not all New Girl fans, especially the younger set, have taken a liking to Kaling.

Given the tight bond the shows hold, being female-centric and occupying the same hour, it’s expected they’d share the same audience. Instead, whereas New Girl sees an adult demo of 2.2 to 2.8, The Mindy Project draws close to half of that.

Apart from unfulfilled expectations, The Mindy Project suffers from a lack of focus, as episodes never quite work and characters are often left with nothing to do. The cast still hasn’t gelled, which, when achieved, helps set most comedies apart, and the show has gone through several behind-the-scenes changes. It remains to be seen if these alterations will help The Mindy Project hit its stride, but viewers may not stick around long enough to check.

Whatever happens, Fox will undoubtedly make some changes to gain viewers. At the recent Television Critics Association winter press tour, Fox entertainment chair Kevin Reilly said, “We all screw up — just look at my fall.”

Of course, this screw-up isn’t quite as charming as those of New Girl and The Mindy Project’s protagonists, and Reilly will work hard — and maybe cut more ties — to ensure it won’t happen again.

How do you feel about this funny girl pairing? Sound out in the comments below!

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