NEW YORK -- Looks as if Sean couldn't save himself from low ratings.
NBC has halted production on the freshman sitcom "Sean Saves the World," despite having committed to five more episodes -- a move that means the series has effectively been canceled. The comedy, featuring "Will & Grace" star Sean Hayes as a divorced gay dad whose life is thrown into disarray when his teenage daughter moves in with him full-time, was part of the network's latest heavily promoted attempt to reclaim its comedy dominance on Thursday nights.
But the series has generated meager ratings and very little buzz, debuting to an audience of just 4.4 million and steadily falling to a low of 2.58 million viewers last week and notching a paltry .7 rating in the 18-to-49 demographic (which translates to about 900,000 viewers).
When the news broke, Hayes responded on Twitter with good humor: "Thanks to@SeanSavesWorld actors & crew & @NBC for a wonderful opportunity. Looking forward to Obama's minimum wage increase to $10/hr."
NBC initially ordered 13 episodes of "Sean Saves the World," despite its modest debut, and made a tentative show of support for the series by ordering an additional five in November. Thirteen episodes of the series have already aired, and an additional half-hour installment has reportedly already been filmed. NBC has not said what it plans to do about this last episode, but Thursday's comedy lineup was preempted by the "SNL Sports Spectacular" special.
NBC has not addressed the fate of "The Michael J. Fox Show," its other low-rated Thursday night comedy featuring the star of a beloved former NBC sitcom. Its numbers are not much better than that of "Sean Saves the World," but NBC, betting on Fox's appeal with viewers, made a 22-episode commitment to the project before a pilot was even filmed.
Last week at the Television Critics Assn. press tour, NBC chairman Bob Greenblatt expressed support for both shows but frustration with their low ratings: "Creatively, we think they're good shows, and we're really unhappy that we can't find an audience for them in those time periods. So we're going to still work hard to see what we can do on Thursday nights. It is a real, real uphill battle."
NBC, which also canceled "The New Normal" last year after just one season, has not given up on series about gay families. This week the network announced it had ordered a sitcom pilot produced by Ellen DeGeneres about a pregnant lesbian and her straight male best friend.