Wednesday, January 18, 2012
This year’s sitcom notion de jour is the crude girl – a female lead who is crass and edgy and hateful (within the bounds of network acceptability so adorably hateful). They’re jumping on the feature bandwagon. BAD TEACHER, YOUNG ADULT, and whatever that goofy thing was with Julia Roberts showing her tart and cynical side (that no one believed for a second).
TV comedy has sure come a long way from Mary Tyler Moore and Elizabeth Montgomery to Whitney Cummings and Chelsea Handler.
CBS was first out of the box with 2 BROKE GIRLS. This show has the advantage of funny likeable Kat Dennings and its time slot. 2BG is the perfect complement to TWO AND A HALF MEN. Penis jokes segued neatly into vagina jokes.
FOX hedged their bet with NEW GIRL. Zooey Deschanel is more quirk than snark.
And despite the full-court print and on-air press, WHITNEY has not caught on. In fairness, the show has gotten better and personally I really like the boyfriend. But this is not a hit despite NBC giving it a full-season order. They gave OUTSOURCED a full-season order last year.
Networks play around with numbers. For example: last week -- WHITNEY (2.1/5, 6.1 million) was down 9% from the debut of UP ALL NIGHT in the same time period in September but up 11% from WHITNEY’S most recent Thursday telecast December 8. Up 9%, down 11% -- significant numbers except you’re talking about 5 and 6 shares. Big difference in being up 9% if you start at a 19 share than a 5.
And then last week ARE YOU THERE, CHELSEA? premiered. Here’s how committed to the frat boy with tits concept NBC was: They picked up the series, then replaced three regular cast members and changed the title. Now that alone doesn’t spell doom. Shows get redeveloped and recast all the time and quite frequently the changes are big improvements. They were in this case. But it’s a warning sign. And it must really irk those creators of the other NBC pilots that didn’t get picked up in favor of…elements of a Chelsea Handler project.
Why does this happen you might ask? Sometimes it’s because the network really wants to be in business with a person. This year it’s Chelsea Handler. I wouldn’t be surprised if she doesn’t have peacock feathers coming out of her ass. But if in three years the trend is virginal Christian girls, Chelsea couldn’t get on the NBC lot if she were in the presidential motorcade. Who remembers Margaret Cho?
NBC paired CHELSEA with WHITNEY, which makes complete sense since they share the same sensibility. The all Chlamydia hour. But it’s almost impossible to launch a new show behind another new show. Especially one that starts with a 5 share. Plus, it’s on at 8:30. This is not 8:30 subject matter. So why don’t they schedule WHITNEY/CHELSEA for 9:00? Because they would be up against MODERN FAMILY and would get slaughtered. And guess what? AMERICAN IDOL is back.
CHELSEA did okay in its debut. And by okay I mean 2.3/6 in adults 18-49, and 6.4 million total viewers. That’s better than the FREE AGENTS’ debut in the fall (1.3/4, 3.9 million), but who are we kidding? Those are low numbers. It’s like substituting a ballplayer with a .167 average over one hitting .083 and thinking you’ve solved your lineup problem.
And let’s see how they do tonight in their second week. I hope okay. I'm friends with several of their writers and wish them well.
How similar is this to 2 BROKE GIRLS? The pilot stories are THE SAME. Midwest girl thinks slut slept with her boyfriend. Only the cave of wonder jokes are different.
DON’T TRUST THE B—IN APARTMENT 23 premieres in April. But ABC is launching it behind MODERN FAMILY at 9:30 so yes, the network doesn’t think it’s good enough to debut in mid-season, but they are still willing to give it a decent shot. Yet there is the compatibility issue. A lot of families gather together to watch MODERN FAMILY. Imagine them ten minutes later watching a guy jack off. That’s a Waltons Moment to be sure!
And all the while, COMMUNITY and COUGAR TOWN remain on the shelf.
Like all trends, this one will run its course. There will be one or two winners and next year it’s onto something else. But the networks might be worried. I’m sure they figured that yes the zeitgeist changes from year to year but they always had vagina jokes. You can’t miss with vagina jokes. And now if vagina jokes are getting a 5 share, then truly, what is left for broadcast television?
Wanna take a guess on which network will be the first to show one?
By Ken Levine at 5:54 AM