How long can ‘Chuck’ hold on?


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In announcing that the ratings-challenged critical darling ‘Chuck’ was returning for a third season, NBC Entertainment Co-Chairman Ben Silverman credited Newark Star-Ledger TV critic Alan Sepinwall for rallying a grass-roots movement to save the show.

Does that mean Silverman gets to fire Sepinwall if ‘Chuck’ flops?


Seriously, while the network’s decision to bring back ‘Chuck’ may have been the feel-good story of the upfront season, odds are that it will end badly. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday about the 13-episode, midseason renewal, Silverman said, ‘Our core audience and the online community ... drove people to demand that ‘Chuck’ be picked up.’

We’ve seen this story before. A show has a small but loyal following. Critics rave. The network starts believing the hype and brings it back, thinking now it will become the hit it deserves to be. Then reality sets in when the show delivers an even smaller audience than it previously had and lands on the dust heap. CBS’s ‘Jericho’ and Fox’s ‘Arrested Development’ are two of the most recent examples of programs given mouth-to-mouth when it was time to pull the plug.

Even if NBC’s heart is in the right place, its mind isn’t. ‘Chuck’ won’t return to the airwaves until probably March, 10 months after its season finale. Talk about killing whatever tiny momentum for the show there is now. And it’s coming back in the same time slot, where it has routinely finished fourth in viewers and adults 18-49. If NBC really wanted to save ‘Chuck,’ it would bring it back in the fall and in a better home rather than the same one in which it has under-performed for two seasons.

Does that mean networks shouldn’t take chances on quality shows like ‘Chuck’? Of course not. But if after two seasons, lots of promotional pushes, including a 3-D episode hyped during NBC’s Super Bowl coverage, the viewers still are not coming in droves, maybe it’s time to reevaluate. NBC and all programmers need to remember that Internet noise and Twitter tweets often seem louder than they really are.

— Joe Flint