Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Open Letter to Current Showrunners
Here’s my point: After a fairly long dry spell situation comedy has had a recent resurgence. Thanks in part to THE BIG BANG THEORY and MODERN FAMILY, networks have once again embraced the genre. Unfortunately, the new comedies are all doing horribly. Some are already cancelled. Others have had their production orders reduced drastically. Every week we read that this sitcom or that sitcom has hit all-time lows. A few have even dipped below a one share. A one share! That is almost unimaginable. Clearly, the audience is rejecting sitcoms in the form they’re currently in. Fox continues to cling to NEW GIRL and THE MINDY PROJECT despite dreadful ratings. CBS has the most success programming comedies but even their moderate hit shows plummet when removed from cushy time slots.
A hit comedy is a) a cash cow, and b) a rating juggernaut. You can seemingly rerun them forever because audiences will cheerfully watch episodes they’ve seen before, even multiple times. But if year after year everything fails, at some point the networks are going to say, “How long can we keep making Edsels?”
My point of view: Not only are most of these shows not funny. They don’t even try to be funny. I’ve heard showrunners say they don’t want jokes or they don’t want the audience to suspect a joke is coming. I’ve ranted on this before. Showrunners somehow feel that doing jokes is selling out in some way. And I maintain that GOOD jokes result in laughs. And comedies need to be funny – certainly funnier.
I’ve maintained that irony and self-awareness and endless pop cultures and quirkiness do not substitute for laughs. And it’s not that I’m just lobbying for more one-liners and zingers. If you can get laughs by putting your characters in hilarious situations that’s great. But what I’ve seen repeatedly these days are tepid, soft, mild shows that go for smiles at best.
So again, I ask – what am I missing? Seriously. I’d say it was an age thing if these new comedies were getting big numbers with Millennials, but they’re not. And trust me, I’m not one of those disgruntled comedy writers sitting in a back booth at a deli saying, “That’s why experienced people like me should be running shows.” I don’t want to run a show. I really don’t. I want to watch and enjoy and laugh at your show.
So I would sincerely like to know your thinking. I invite any current showrunner to email me. firstname.lastname@example.org. Why don’t comedy writers want to write comedy anymore? I’d really like to know. Thanks much.