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NBC's 'Harry's Law' faces tough fight for renewal

May 9, 2012 |  9:00 am

David Kelley hopes Harry's Law sticks around
Normally, if you are the executive producer of one of the most-watched shows on a struggling network, you don't have anything to worry about when renewal time rolls around.

But that's not the case for David Kelley, executive producer of the legal drama "Harry's Law," starring Kathy Bates as a crusty shoot-from-the-hip defender of lost causes. Although "Harry's Law" is averaging almost 9 million viewers this season, it is hardly a lock to return to NBC's lineup next fall.

That's because "Harry's Law" has the wrong 9 million viewers. Among adults ages 18 to 49, "Harry's Law" has a rating of 1.4, or 1.75 million people, which is very low by industry standards.

"Word seems to be out that we’re a show for old people," Kelley said.

The show has added younger cast members, but that hasn't helped. Kelley has developed a macabre sense of humor about its performance with the under-50 crowd.

"If we could just more get younger viewers and keep some of our regular viewers from dying we’d be feeling better," Kelley cracked.

So far NBC hasn't said if it is considering bringing "Harry's Law" back. Kelley said the network has told him that "they're liking their pilot development a lot," which, he added, "doesn't speak well for us."

It is no secret that advertisers are obsessed with reaching the 18-49 demographic and NBC needs to get younger.

However, NBC has also made a lot of noise about the importance of older viewers like the folks who watch "Harry's Law."

Last year, NBC got big headlines for a study it did on the value of viewers older than 55, aimed at Madison Avenue. NBC's president of research, Alan Wurtzel, told the New York Times that advertisers who steer clear of older viewers are making a "big mistake" because "you risk not only growth, but at some point you risk your brand.”

Given that NBC is still trying to recover from years of ratings erosion and it has already said older viewers count too, one could argue that a show that has a loyal audience of almost 10 million people ("Harry's Law" has pretty much maintained its numbers despite several schedule shifts) shouldn't be dismissed so lightly. Kelley is hoping that if nothing else "Harry's Law" could be a backup show for midseason.

"There has to be places on everybody’s roster for utility players," Kelley said hopefully.

There is one advantage to being low on NBC's radar, which is creative freedom.

"They kind of let us do what we do. If it were one of their more cherished commodities they might micromanage us more," he said.

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— Joe Flint

Photo: David Kelley. Credit: Katie Falkenberg/Los Angeles Times.

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