The TV Column: Premiere of NBC comedy ‘Go On’ gets a post-Olympics win

August 9, 2012

More than 16 million of the 30 million-ish people who were still watching NBC’s London Olympics about 11 p.m. Wednesday stuck around to see the ad-free unveiling of the network’s new Matthew Perry comedy, “Go On.”

For comparison’s sake: The biggest crowd that NBC persuaded to watch the unveiling of any of its new comedies last fall was the 11 million who caught the much-ballyhooed Lorne Michaels comedy “Up All Night.”

The “Go On” premiere — in which in which “Friends” alum Perry plays a grieving widower sportscaster in mandated group therapy (yes, really, it’s a comedy) — scored a bigger audience than any new comedy launch last fall except for CBS’s “2 Broke Girls.”

“2 Broke Girls,” you’ll recall, premiered right after CBS killed off Charlie Sheen’s character and trotted out a sometimes nekkid Ashton Kutcher on “Two and a Half Men.” “2BG” averaged just less than 19 million viewers that Monday night in September.

Among 18- to 49-year-old viewers who are NBC’s ad sales currency, “Go On” logged a 5.6 rating. (That means 5.6 percent of the country’s audience in that age bracket watched.)


Matthew Perry, center, stars with Sarah Baker and Brett Gelman in “Go On,” whose NBC premiere drew big numbers. (Jordin Althaus/NBC)

Last fall, the best NBC comedy launch rating in that age bracket was also “Up All Night,” whose 3.7 rating was considered a solid unveiling.

Maybe the best news for “Go On” — and NBC — is that the episode’s second half retained 84 percent of the first half’s audience, despite the late hour and the very large Olympics lead-in. Which suggests that a large chunk of the people who stuck around liked what they saw.

NBC suits have given “Go On” one of their network’s very best time slots this fall: Tuesday at 9 p.m., immediately following the singing competition series “The Voice.”

Because the late-night preview of “Go On” aired without commercials, Nielsen will not include it in NBC’s average for the night, the week or the TV season.

KGB comes to Falls Church

FX has greenlit a series about KGB agents posing as travel agents who live in the Washington area during the Reagan administration.

“The Americans” stars Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys as the agents, who are known stateside as Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings. Their arranged marriage has produced two children; Mom and Dad run a travel agency in Falls Church.

Noah Emmerich plays their new neighbor, Stan, who — in one of those unfortunate coincidences — is an FBI agent.

When we last met on this subject, last December, we reported that “The Americans” was created by Joe Weisberg; he worked at the CIA for about 3 1 / 2 years, after which he wrote the novel “An Ordinary Spy.”

Weisberg’s TV credits include TNT’s sci-fi drama “Falling Skies” and FX’s “Damages.”

Graham Yost, exec producer of FX’s “Justified,” is also an exec producer on the new drama.

In making Thursday’s announcement, FX President John Landgraf claimed that these character perspectives have “never [been] explored on a U.S. television series,” adding: “We’re equally excited to welcome Graham Yost’s talented young Padawan Joe Weisberg as Creator/Showrunner” (a “padawan” being a Jedi apprentice).

Now that FX has greenlit “The Americans” to series, this Jedi apprentice will take the inevitable “notes” — not just from the network and the studio, but also from the CIA.

“Anything I write about intelligence has to be vetted,” Weisberg explained to the TV Column back in December, when FX ordered a pilot to be shot. The vetting is done, he said, by the agency’s Publications Review Board, which also vetted his novel — a thriller about two CIA case officers.

TV’s monkey busine$$

Ashton Kutcher makes $700,000 per episode for his role in helping salvage “Two and a Half Men.” But Mark Harmon “only” makes $500,000 an episode for starring in the country’s most popular scripted series, CBS’s “NCIS.”

David Letterman makes $28 million a year to host CBS’s flagship late-night show. But Judy Sheindlin makes $45 million annually as star of TV’s most popular syndicated series, “Judge Judy” – in case you were wondering why news talent is migrating at such a clip to the wonderful world of daytime syndication (Katie Couric being the latest example).

All this according to TV Guide’s annual Who Earns What list.

Lucy Liu will make $125,000 for playing Sherlock Holmes’s sidekick/sober coach Watson on “Elementary,” CBS’s update of the Arthur Conan Doyle stories.

But Crystal the Monkey, who steals every scene in NBC’s new comedy series “Animal Practice” — and who will soon be known as The Monkey Who Saved NBC — makes just $12,000 per episode.

Crystal, of course, does have to split that sum with her handler. (And speaking of Handler: Chelsea Handler makes $8 million a year for headlining E! Entertainment’s late-night show “Chelsea Lately.”)

Assuming “Animal Practice” gets a full-season order when it officially launches in September (NBC is “previewing” the first episode, sans commercials, this Sunday after the Closing Ceremony of the London Games), Crystal still will make less in an entire TV season than the $350,000 Ellen Pompeo makes chewing scenery in just one episode of “Grey’s Anatomy.”

Despite Crystal’s paltry prime-time per-episode salary, “Animal Practice” writers took it upon themselves to tweet Thursday that the TV Guide list “has created a lot of uncomfortable tension between the crew & one member of our cast. . . . Thanks, @TVGuideMagazine.”

When it comes to TV news on-air talent, we all now know that Matt Lauer makes about $21.5 million a year which, according to TV Guide, is slightly less than the $25 million that NBC late-night star Jay Leno makes annually.

Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly, meanwhile, pulls in a cool $15 million a year — $1 million a year less than Comedy Central star Jon Stewart, according to TV Guide magazine.

Noticeably missing from the list are the Simon Cowell and Oprah Winfreys of the TV industry. The magazine decided not to go there because although Simon, for instance, makes loads more money than anyone on the list, it was impossible to separate out how much he’s paid to appear on Fox’s “X Factor” to berate aspiring singers, and how much of his stupid-money TV income is the result of his owning the “X Factor” franchise in the United States and abroad.

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