Sunday, November 23, 2008

Reality ratings are down!

Couldn’t happen to a nicer genre.
Audiences are starting to prove they are SMARTER THAN A FIFTH GRADER (which has lost half of it’s coveted 18-49 demographic) and the verdict is NO DEAL (down 29%). SURVIVOR EDITION 382: CATALINA is off 10% and even DANCING WITH THE FRINGE OR GERIATRIC STARS is down 9% (but at least Cloris Leachman didn’t break a hip). Across the board, reality shows are slumping. Maybe if the craze hadn’t gotten so far out of hand that there’s now an Emmy category for best Reality Show Host that wouldn’t be the case, but still – America has voted… and they want the genre off the island.

So what shows are doing well instead. Scripted shows. And more to the point –

COMEDIES.

Hold off reading sitcoms their rites. TWO AND A HALF MEN kicks ass, 30 ROCK is up 23% (even though this is far from their best year so far), HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER and BIG BANG THEORY are making dramatic gains as well. There’d be even more success stories if there were more than six comedies.

And you can sell those shows into syndication and make a handsome profit long into the future. What is NBC going to do with four seasons of THE APPRENTICE now that we all know the outcomes, the challenges are dated and musty, and half the contestants are currently serving time for insider trading?

Media analysts are quick to explain this phenomenon. There’s a glut of reality shows, people need escape from the collapsed economy, and Misty May-Treanor is not a great dancer.

But the bottom line is this: SITUATION COMEDIES are back even though they never went away.

Get going on that spec OFFICE and original pilot about USC film students trying to break into Hollywood.

Sitcoms (in some form) will still be around long after all the Bachelors and Bachelorettes have been divorced and Ryan Seacrest has come out.

We all have a lot to be thankful for this year.

29 comments:

Thomas said...

"Two and a Half Men" should really change its name. That kid is getting awfully big.

sephim said...

If this is indeed the case, I think enough time has passed to be able to write my spec for M*A*S*H - THE NEXT GENERATION or maybe even AFTER AFTERM*A*S*H.

And they say writers have ran out of ideas.

Mark said...

YES, YES, YES...

Best news you have ever delivered Ken.

Like I have written here before, it's time you, Phil Rosenthal, James L. Brooks and Norman Lear re-enter the business and kick some Hollywood Ass.

And read a few of our specs...

Mark

Claude said...

Hi Ken:

Can you please let us know what specs, besides OFFICE, are being read now? Were any other shows mentioned during the panel at your most recent Sitcom Room Seminar?

Thanks a bunch,
Claude

Amanda said...

Oh, goodness. I fear for the number of USC film school students taking that advice seriously.


And - I kind of love GARY UNMARRIED.

Jimmy said...

Lumping game and quiz shows into the same pot as reality shows shows a lack of knowledge about game shows. Can you really compare a structured game like Password, Cash Cab, or Who Wants to be a Millionaire with crap like Fear Factor and Survivor? No.

For ten years I have been a volunteer "expert" of game shows on allexperts.com. I have received about a half dozen questions about reality shows and I am quick to point out to the people writing these questions that Dancing with the Stars is no more a game show than the Rachel Maddow show is. However I have received scores of questions about actual game shows. So I think the vast majority of the population would never mistake a quiz or game show for a show whose sole purpose is to humiliate participants by not celebrating their accomplishments like game shows do, but instead taking great pride in "voting them off" as reality shows do.

KEN LEVINE said...

Not to get hung up in semantics but game shows are competitions. Shows like SURVIVOR and AMERICAN IDOL are also competitions. Stunts that SURVIVOR contestants are asked to perform might as well be stunts that BEAT THE CLOCK contestants have to perform.

Other specs mentioned at the seminar: 30 ROCK, HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER. Surprisingly, they weren't keen on BIG BANG THEORY spec. And surprisingly, there were very few spec EARLS out there.

sephim said...

Hey Jimmy, is WHEEL OF FORTUNE a game show? Exactly how structured is random chance anyway? Or is the wheel rigged as many have suspected? Is there not a level of humiliation suffered by contestants when obvious puzzles are answered incorrectly? Are these people not "voted out" by their own lack of intellect? If game shows increased the intelligence of the people that watched, and if they did I'm pretty sure the core audience would just switch over to Nascar or the "Shiny Things" channel, then maybe they'd not be lumped in with "reality" shows.

I think the last "reality" show I enjoyed was season one of The Joe Schmoe Show - probably because one random guy was pretty much just handed $100,000 and at least it had the balls to let everybody know it was scripted.

D. McEwan said...

How is WORST WEEK doing? I confess it's kind of growing on me even if the set ups often trumpet themselves in advance. (Please. That wedding cake was so doomed.)

In large part it's the lead, Kyle Bernheimer. He is tremendously likable, and offbeat sexy. Of course, bringing in Fred Wilard as his dad didn't hurt. Bringing in Fred Willard NEVER hurts.

Lizbeth said...

It comes down to economics as usual. ABC just pulled Pushing Daisies, Dirty Sexy Money, and Eli Stone because they're not getting big enough audiences to cover the production costs on these high concept shows stocked with big name stars.

So yes, it would seem like the perfect opportunity for some well-crafted sitcoms to make a strong comeback. They're cheaper to make and as you said Ken -- can have a much longer shelf life than Dancing with the Stars.

Let's just hope this means we get some innovative and creative comedies next fall and not a whole slew of junk.

Paul Duca said...

"Bringing in Fred Willard NEVER hurts"...oh, that's so naughty, Dough...:)

gottacook said...

If the time is indeed ripe for a sitcom comeback, there are plenty of good shows that didn't flourish when they were first aired, for one reason or another, that might make it today. Nothing against building up a new show from a spec script, but there must be a few short-lived but worthy sitcoms that might be successfully revived, as ABC hopes to do with CUPID (a show I never watched). Of course, any such attempt should involve the creator of the first version of the show, as ABC is doing.

Tom Quigley said...

I've decided to put all the skills and tools I employed in The Sitcom Room to good use -- and come up with the best damn YES, DEAR spec the world has ever seen...

See ya in a half hour when I'm done...

Joe said...

Me?

I'm working on a script about USC film students trying to break into Hollywood when they realize the door is locked. THEN they discover that NYU film students have gotten there first and finally, some UCLA kids accidentally set off the alarm.

Jack Scribe said...

I haven't watched a reality show for years - I agree that competiton shows are separate. However, after the euphoria subsides, you need to address the 500 lb. whatever in the room - a pending strike AND advertisers pulling back commitments.

Karen said...

Does this mean I DON'T have to get the other half of my MFA and teach ungrateful undergrads? Please God.

Joe said...

If someone were to have, say, an MBA...would it help if some of the "B" were to, oh-I-dunno, fade a bit so it looks like an "MFA?"

Would it help if I, er, I mean "they" looked totally befuddled with financial jargon?

Just askin'.

Joe Pontillo said...

This is welcome news for those of us stuck working in reality TV while wishing we were on scripted. Any chance of a transition team helping us grab up those jobs on sitcoms as we begin to lose our reality jobs?

Steven said...

That news just made my day.

GregC said...

Sitcoms, huh? Does that mean we'll finally see the American IT CROWD series that I've heard so little about?

Kristin said...

Glut of reality shows is right. TERRIBLE reality shows at that. What Lost did for scripted dramas, perhaps shows like 30 Rock can do to revive comedies again. This year there were even fewer new shows, let alone comedies.

I write fiction and the 'comedies are dead' mantra has been in force there, too. It's all vampires and suspense.

Joe said...

Ooh. I'd love to see a reality show about vampires. Think of it! Every week, someone gets a wooden stake through the sternum or a blast of sunlight or something.

That's Nielsen gold, baby.

Steve Peterson said...

The reason for this sea change is due to a little known psycho-social phenomenon called Presicerebesis -- the result of which is that the functional intelligence of an individual is averaged with that of the president of their country.

VP81955 said...

Looks like I may have to dust off and update my scripts for a series about a young sitcom writer who'joins the staff of a sitcom about a witch. The twist is...he himself is (secretly) one!

Verification word: "caconati." A cliquish group of folk who make assorted noises. (Let's hope they're not also eunuchs...then you'd have "caconati castrati.")

Anonymous said...

are you seriously happy because someone else is doing badly and that's good for you? that's pathetic. you're grown ups, you need to stop looking at everyone else before you act. That Charlie Sheen might seriously suck, but at least those aren't whinning and blaming the reality shows for their crap.

jbryant said...

VP: If those noisy eunuchs work at a mid-West radio station, you'd have "Caconati Castrati in Cincinnati." Just in time for the sitcom renaissance.

sephim said...

VP81955, burn those scripts, they already did that premise in the movie version of BEWITCHED and I think everybody can agree how big a mistake that was.

You know, hiring Nicole Kidman.

VP81955 said...

VP81955, burn those scripts, they already did that premise in the movie version of BEWITCHED and I think everybody can agree how big a mistake that was.

This has one advantage over that mishmash: It's Ephron-free.

A year or two back, I posted the six episodes I had written at simplyscripts.com. They're still there, if you want a feel for what the series would have been like:

http://www.simplyscripts.com/scripts/underyourspellep1.rtf
http://www.simplyscripts.com/scripts/underyourspellep2.rtf
http://www.simplyscripts.com/scripts/underyourspellep3.rtf
http://www.simplyscripts.com/scripts/underyourspellep4.rtf
http://www.simplyscripts.com/scripts/underyourspellep5.rtf
http://www.simplyscripts.com/scripts/underyourspellep6.rtf

They end at underyourspellepX.rtf, with X being 1-6.

Verification word: "dusness," which sounds like an American version of "gormless." (Is it possible to be "gormful"?)

Joe said...

The correct term is "Gorm Challenged."

-J.