Last year, "Community" creator Dan Harmon was controversially fired, and in February, the fourth and final season premiere got just 4 million viewers. According to Nielsen, that's worse than a rerun of ABC's "Shark Tank" reality show.
But the night of its premiere, "Community" gained two worldwide trending topics on Twitter, something the ratings darlings have never done. Similar critically acclaimed shows with devoted fans get poor ratings, including "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad."
Even NBC's "30 Rock" had a dismal Nielsen score, but it stayed on the air for seven seasons. “It’s more about the social media zeitgeist of the program,” Jackie Kulesza told Wired. Kulesza is a senior vice president at Starcom USA, which buys advertising time.
Nielsen still only measures what people are watching on a conventional television. Now the ratings company is developing a new system that will take all other streaming platforms and devices into account, as well as viral activity on Twitter, who they announced a partnership with in November.
In the meantime, other outlets are picking up where network executioners leave off. Netflix brought back cult favorite "Arrested Development," and Amazon is crowdsourcing script selection. Last May Amazon Studios announced anyone could upload pilot scripts and get feedback from users, and Amazon selected 25 of those shows for development.
HBO's hugely popular "Game of Thrones" delivers complex plot and exposition during sex scenes, which is something new. Jason Kehe at Wired speculates that even if sex sells, "sexposition" could be used to make TV smarter.
In one scene, a major character delivered a five-minute monologue while two women had sex in the background, and other shows are apparently envious. “Nobody gets to talk for two pages about power!” says Julie Plec, executive producer of "The Vampire Diaries."