‘Bent’ Out of Shape

New NBC comedy buckles under the weight of Wednesday night

NBC night found very little to laugh about Wednesday, as the network’s newest comedy offering debuted to historically poor ratings.

The premiere of Bent averaged just 2.75 million viewers and a 1.0 in the adults 18-49 demo, making it NBC’s all-time lowest-rated in-season comedy debut. A second episode drew 2.38 million viewers and a 0.8 rating at 9:30 p.m.

To put Bent’s failure in context, the series opener performed even more poorly than NBC’s much-derided Paul Reiser Show, which drew 3.31 million viewers and a 1.1 rating on April 14, 2011.

Bent premiered in one of the most ruthless time slots on broadcast TV, squaring off with Fox’s American Idol, ABC’s Modern Family and CBS’s Criminal Minds. In the 9 p.m. slot, Idol averaged 17.2 million viewers and a 5.1 in the demo, per Nielsen live-plus-seven-day data.

Even a repeat episode of Modern Family draws a crowd, and last night’s was no exception. “Lifetime Supply” originally bowed on Jan. 4 to 14 million viewers and a 5.7 rating; Wednesday night’s rerun averaged 5.63 million viewers and a 2.0 in the demo.

Bent was also defeated by a Spanish-language broadcast. In the 9 to 10 p.m. slot, Univision’s Abismo de Pasión averaged 3.45 million viewers and a 1.4 rating.

Produced by Universal Television, Bent stars Amanda Peet as a single mom who hires a ladies man/recovering gambling addict to renovate her home. Jeffrey Tambor also stars. NBC last May ordered six episodes of Bent

The show has received many notable favorable reviews, largely for the chemistry between Peet and co-star David Walton. Bent also has one of the strongest comedy back benches on broadcast TV, thanks to supporting players like Tambor and J.B. Smoove.

Earlier in the night, NBC’s WhitneyAre You There, Chelsea? block rallied somewhat in the face of second-run episodes of ABC’s The Middle and Suburgatory. Whitney averaged 4.18 million viewers and a 1.6 in the demo, up from a 1.4 a week ago, while Chelsea drew 3.47 million viewers and a 1.4., up from a series low of 1.1 on March 14.

NBC closed out the night with yet another low-rated installment of its newsmagazine Rock Center With Brian Williams; having moved to 10 p.m. to make way for the Bent block, the show drew 3.02 million viewers and a 0.7 in the 18-49 demo.

Before the season shudders to a halt in May, NBC will bow one final scripted series in Best Friends Forever. The comedy will debut on Wednesday, April 4 at 8:30 p.m., leading out of the reality strip Betty White’s Off Their Rockers

Thus far this season, NBC has canceled four freshman series (The Playboy Club, Free Agents, Prime Suspect, The Firm) and renewed two. The Peacock on Thursday gave an anticipated second-season order to its Broadway drama Smash, a renewal which came on the heels of the decision to return its Friday night horror/procedural mashup, Grimm

Smash premiered on the Monday after the Super Bowl, averaging 11.4 million viewers and a 3.8 in the demo. Through seven episodes, the musical is averaging 7.7 million viewers and a 2.6 rating, making it the most successful scripted series on NBC.