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NBC to premiere 'Last Comic Standing 3' August 31, bumping 'Average Jane' to midseason


By Wade Paulsen, 07/12/2004 

Another reality show is trying to follow in Survivor's footsteps and make the switch from summer replacement to year-round entertainment.

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NBC has announced that a third edition of Last Comic Standing, the reality show focused on comedians competing through their performances, has been approved and added to the network's fall schedule. The new edition will debut on Tuesday, August 31 (two days after NBC wraps up its Olympic coverage), at 8 PM ET/PT and will continue in that time slot, apparently bumping the time period's previously announced Average Jane edition of the network's Average Joe franchise to midseason status.

Kevin Reilly, President, NBC Entertainment, said, "Last Comic is truly one of the summer's success stories and it resonates because it provides competition, fresh faces and laugh-out-loud comedy. We decided that rather than wait until next summer, this hot show has proven to be popular enough to merit a prime spot on our Fall lineup."

In making the announcement NBC noted that Last Comic Standing has delivered some of this summer's best ratings results, including series records of 10.4 million overall viewers and an Adults 18-49 4.8/13 rating/share with its June 9 telecast -- that week's top non-sports program on any network in Adults 18-49. The network also bragged that Last Comic Standing ranks high among one of its favorite demos -- rich folks. According to the network, Last Comic is among the most upscale reality shows on television, with a top-10 ranking in the representation of homes with incomes of $100,000-plus in its 18-49 audience.

While NBC is correct that the second season of Last Comic Standing got off to a good start, there's a reason that the network referenced ratings figures from the program's initial early June broadcasts in its Last Comic 3 announcement -- namely because the subsequent episodes of the program haven't come close to matching those of the initial selection shows. For example, by Last Comic's last June broadcast (June 29), its ratings had dropped to a 3.8/11 rating/share in Adults 18-49 and only 7.8 million viewers overall.

Whether the ratings of Last Comic's more recent episodes are down due to the loss of viewers resentful over the show's surprisingly public broadcast of its final selection judging scandal or simply due to increased summer programming competition, one thing is clear -- NBC and CBS seem to have sharply differing theories on the possibility of summer ratings returns being an indicator of future fall programming success.

In their first head-to-head matchup, last week's reality premiere tandem of CBS' Big Brother 5 and The Amazing Race 5 defeated Last Comic Standing among total viewers, households and Adults 25-54, as well as tying it among Adults 18-49. Yet unlike NBC, CBS thinks so little of the fall ratings potential of The Amazing Race (which first premiered as a Fall program in September 2001) that it has scheduled the show into the reality-TV "Death Valley" of Saturday nights solely for cost-reduction purposes.

Only time will tell if Last Comic Standing will prove worthy of NBC's confidence ... and if the show can improve upon a talent-selection process that even its own judges called "crooked and dishonest".

Last Comic Standing is hosted and executive produced by actor-comedian Jay Mohr (the bad guy in Jerry Maguire). Now in its second summer season, the series provides a new spin on reality television as it features the nationwide talent search for professional and non-professional comedians (both male and female). Once the selection process is narrowed to 10, after the final rounds of the national search held in New York and Las Vegas, the program follows the comedians as they live together in a house and compete for the "ultimate prize" -- an exclusive talent contract with NBC.

In 2003, Dat Phan was voted by America to be the "Last Comic Standing" in the debut series. Since he won, Phan has become the headlining act at comedy clubs nationwide and recently made his acting debut.

In summer 2004, veteran producers Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz of Magical Elves joined the show as executive producers. Cutforth and Lipsitz's credits include the third season of Project Greenlight and Bravo's upcoming series Project Runway.

Last Comic Standing 3 is a Peter Engel Productions in association with Giraffe Productions and NBC Studios. Peter Engel, Barry Katz, Jay Mohr, Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz serve as executive producers.

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