EW reports today that NBC focus groups have trashed the pilot for Amy Poehler’s upcoming Parks and Recreation. EW’s PopWatch then concludes, rightly, that we should not give a crap what a focus group thinks. I haven’t seen the pilot, so for all I know it could actually be a dud, but any TV critic can tell you stories of the steaming piles of entertainment that, we have been assured by excited executives, “tested higher than any drama/comedy we’ve had in years!” Remember how much you loved Emeril, the sitcom? Why not? The focus groups did!
Though I have yet to hear a satisfactory example of how a focus group helped a good and successful program get on the air, networks continue to use them. I suspect it’s for the same reason as so many corporate practices: CYA. If you cast a Food Network star with dubious acting skills in a sitcom and it tanks, hey, it’s not your fault! It was those tourists someone rounded up to go into a screening room in Vegas! Fire them, why don’t you!
To his credit, it looks like Ben Silverman is standing by the show (though he may not have much choice). But let’s hope NBC doesn’t get jittery and start monkeying with it. The Office team has earned the confidence to succeed or fail on their own ideas.