Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip is on the outs...maybe for good.
Aaron Sorkin's much hyped new series, once touted as the wunderkind of NBC's fall schedule (and originally slotted to take on Grey's Anatomy and CSI, no less), has been yanked from its Monday time slot a week early to make way for the organized-crime drama The Black Donnellys.
After scoring its lowest ratings yet this week (and that's saying a lot, considering it airs after the actual freshman highlight of NBC's season, Heroes), Studio 60 will be benched a week earlier than planned, starting Feb. 26. The show had been slated to run through February sweeps. No return date has been set.
Taking its place will be The Black Donnellys, which was originally set to premiere Mar. 5.
Because of its early start, the incoming mobster series from Oscar winner Paul Haggis could also benefit from an extra week of having Heroes as its lead-in, before the average-Joes-equipped-with-extraordinary-abilities drama takes several weeks off after a Mar. 5 cliffhanger.
Studio 60, with its top-notch cast led by Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford (and hefty $3 million-plus-per-episode production budget), has struggled to find an audience all season, topping out at 13.4 million viewers...with its Sept. 18 premiere. Close to 3 million pairs of eyes had tuned out by week two.
Things went downhill from there, with even a so-called special Christmas episode attracting only 7.3 million.
Despite its ratings woes, however, NBC gave Studio 60 a full-season, 22-episode pickup in November, and Sorkin tweaked the series, about the behind-the-scenes drama at a Saturday Night Live-style sketch comedy show, to focus more on the various romantic story lines in recent episodes.
Still, this week's installment managed a scant 6.9 million viewers, giving the Donnelly brothers the cue to step up.
Created by Crash scribes Haggis and Bobby Moresco, The Black Donnellys follows four Irish siblings—Tommy (Jonathan Tucker), Jimmy (Tommy Guiry), Kevin (Billy Lush) and Sean (Michael Stahl-David)—who are fiercely loyal to each other but end up answering the door when the mean streets of New York come a-knockin'. A wannabe gangster known as Joey "Ice Cream" (Keith Nobbs) narrates the series, which is loosely based on Moresco's experiences growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen neighborhood.
The series' pilot is currently available from Netflix, where the 1,414 users who bothered to rate the episode gave it 3.4 out of five stars.