Warning: Here comes a rant. Hide the children.
Just caught a NY Post article from the end of November (okay, I don’t usually read the NY Post, especially if there’s no A-Rod scandal). It’s by Robert Rorke and it’s entitled DOES ANYONE KNOW HOW TO FIX NETWORK COMEDIES?
In the article he claims the new crop of sitcoms did not catch on because they’re not funny. I don’t disagree with him. But the problem comes when trying to answer the question he poses – does anyone know how to fix them?
He basically claims that the answer is no and sitcoms, long rumored to be dead, might indeed be endangered species.
I respectfully disagree.
A writer friend of mine offered this suggestion on his Facebook page. Here’s who he feels is to blame: THE. PEOPLE. IN. CHARGE.
And to that I say ABSOLUTELY. The network executives were the ones who chose the projects, chose the writers, noted them to death, and then made more cast changes based on research.
What I don’t know is this: Were these show unfunny because the writers were not that good, or were they bowing to dogmatic network directives that flattened and destroyed their product? Probably a mixture of the two.
But what I do know is there are a lot of talented writers who are no longer on the development slates. Writers who have proven track records. What track records do the “deciders” have?
(DISCLAIMER: I'm talking about other writers, not myself. I'm quite happy writing plays, blogs, and sharing factoids about Neil Simon.)
At a time when networks are operating exclusively out of fear, when suddenly they all are scrambling to hastily develop the next EMPIRE because it did well in the ratings for three weeks, it’s understandable to see why sitcoms are suffering. Networks by and large, are hiring writers who they trust (read: will take their notes without objection), basing their decisions on faulty research, and at all costs are avoiding unique visions, projects not geared directly to specific demographics, or writers who might question their brilliant suggestions.
And let’s be real – this is not going to change. I can bitch all I want. I'm trying to hold back the Pacific Ocean with a broom. And when sitcoms don’t catch on these same executives will claim the reason is that the public has lost its appetite for comedy. That’s what they ALWAYS say.
And it’s bullshit.
Here’s what I think will ultimately happen. People always love to laugh. They will flock to shows that do make them laugh – legitimately make them laugh (not occasionally smile over quirky characters or pithy pop culture references), and they don’t care whether they’re on NBC, TBS, their computer, their phone, or (soon) their watch.
Networks will die before sitcoms.
And that's what we call "the last laugh."