If only Last Comic Standing hadn't lost the Emmy....

Proving that Fox doesn't have the market cornered on foolish scheduling decisions, NBC has decided that, with only next week's final episode left to air, it will cancel its struggling Last Comic Standing 3 series effective immediately.

Viewers interested in learning the results of last week's final performance showdown, featuring two comics from Season 1 against two from Season 2, will be forced to watch a three-episode marathon of another struggling NBC series, the animated adult-oriented comedy Father Of The Pride, this Tuesday, October 12, from 8-9:30 PM. At some undisclosed point in the marathon, the Last Comic Standing 3 winner will be announced.

On his personal website, Last Comic host and co-executive producer Jay Mohr revealed that he was told yesterday morning -- after the final performance episode had aired, and probably just after NBC executives finished looking at the show's continuing poor performance in the overnight ratings -- that the final episode had been scrapped from NBC's schedule.

The people who will be most hurt by NBC's decision are not Mohr and his fellow producers but rather the final four comics: Dave Mordal (the online favorite during Season 1, who was booted in a showdown with Season 1 champ Dat Phan just before the end), Rich Vos (third in Season 1), John Heffron (the Season 2 champ) and Alonzo Bodden (the favorite of Season 1 runnerup Ralphie May, who also claimed to the AP that "the show has jumped the shark" -- perhaps because he did so much worse the second time around).

Although Tuesday's next-to-last episode represented the final competition performances of the remaining comics, the finales of the previous two versions of Last Comic Standing generally included recaps of the performances and some new material, including the return of the already-vanquished challengers. Thus, the finale is more than just a reunion ... and also includes the announcement of the winner. Nevertheless, NBC decided to pull the plug at once.

It appears that the purpose of this NBC antic is a final desperate attempt to get viewers to tune in the widely-panned but well-connected (and very expensive) animated flop Father of the Pride, which is drawing only slightly better ratings than Last Comic Standing 3. Although Father of the Pride is aimed at adults, its main strength has been among children (whose parents must be ignoring its TV-14 -- not suitable for children under 14 -- rating).

Father of the Pride's one-week "fill-in" role in the 8PM "family hour" (its new The Biggest Loser series is scheduled to air in the time period beginning the following week) will give NBC a chance to see if the show can draw even more children (despite its inappropriateness for them) -- hoping that they'll bring their parents along to watch -- without appearing to be targeting the show at children in violation of so-called "network ethics."

Why might NBC be this desperate? Perhaps because the 2004-05 season appears to be shaping up as an unmitigated disaster for NBC. According to the latest Nielsen ratings, NBC has lost its traditional perch atop the all-important Adults 18-49 demographic, dropping all the way to third behind both CBS and ABC (yes, perennial also-ran ABC!) and also ranks third in total viewers behind them. In fact, the only show that NBC placed among last week's Top 10 shows in the Adults 18-49 demographic was The Apprentice 2, and it didn't manage a single Top 10 show among total viewers.

Adding to NBC's so-far-dismal fall has been the merely-OK performance of Joey, its much-hyped Thursday night Friends spinoff, as well as the declines in ratings for shows ranging from new series such as Hawaii to former powerhouses like Law & Order (which is being clobbered by CBS's CSI: NY) and Fear Factor (both of which may be hurt by to the competition from repeats airing in syndication.) We shall see whether NBC's decision to alienate the loyal viewers of Last Comic Standing helps it improve.

According to Jay Mohr, the entire reason that a "battle of the best" Last Comic Standing 3 show was even being aired was that NBC "said that they simply didn't have enough shows for the fall slate and needed a quick fix." With moves like these, it's easy to see that not having enough shows in the pipeline is far from NBC's only prime-time problem.