The network made it official Sunday and axed "Harry's Law," the drama starring Kathy Bates as a criminal lawyer entering the final act of her career. The executive producer is David E. Kelley, responsible for past hits such as "Ally McBeal" and "Boston Legal."
On paper, the cancellation looked a bit surprising, because "Harry's Law" is NBC's second most-watched drama behind "Smash." "Harry's Law" averaged 8.8 million total viewers this season, compared with 9 million for "Smash," according to Nielsen. And it drew more viewers than "Law & Order: SVU" (7.6 million), which just got renewed for next fall.
The problem? Those "Harry's Law" viewers are older than Madison Avenue wants. The show ranked very low among viewers ages 18 to 49, the demographic most advertisers care about. In fact, its young-adult numbers were beneath those for "Prime Suspect," a cop show that NBC canceled earlier this season, and roughly on par with those of "Off Their Rockers," the Betty White show about senior citizens pulling pranks on younger people.
"It was a difficult decision," an NBC executive said Sunday, quoted by the site Deadline.com. "Everyone here respects 'Harry's Law' a lot but we were finding it hard to grow the audience for it. Its audience skewed very old and it is hard to monetize that."
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Photo: Kathy Bates in "Harry's Law," which was canceled by NBC. Credit: Jordin Althaus / NBC