Tuesday, February 10, 2015
It is my contention that people watch first-run television differently than when they watch reruns on cable channels. And as such, shows that play well in one instance play less well in the other.
Example: Serialized dramas. You eat ‘em up the first time. But once you’ve seen ‘em – "Next?" LOST has not done well in syndication. Neither has THE SOPRANOS. You watch, you binge, you’re done.
On the comedy side – first a disclaimer. I LOVE LUCY and MASH are anomalies and in a category all their own. They adhere to no rules. They are special, unique, beloved, and will continue to be attract large audiences as long as there are flickering images on a screen of any size. I’m talking about the other 99.999999% of sitcoms.
My sense is that multi-camera shows play better in syndication. Why? Because they’re more joke-centric. Compare THE BIG BANG THEORY and MODERN FAMILY. Both do extremely well in first-run. But BBT performs way better than MF in syndication.
MODERN FAMILY is a wonderful show and worthy of all the Emmys it’s received. But it’s one of those shows you need to pay attention to. There are amusing situations and lots of throwaway lines and moments. Many goodies for those willing to give it the effort. But once you’ve seen an episode of MODERN FAMILY, do you really want to watch it again three or four times?
Single camera shows struggle in syndication. 30 ROCK sputtered. SCRUBS never approached the success of FRIENDS.
I think multi-camera shows work better because they’re essentially radio shows. CHEERS was consciously a radio show with visuals. When you have the TV on in the early evening, you’re preparing dinner, checking the mail, catching up on Facebook, drinking heavily, etc. You’re not actually watching the show most of the time. But it’s still easy to follow because it’s very dialogue driven.
And it all goes back to my other completely unsubstantiated theory that people want to laugh. Early evening or late night sitcoms function to provide a little light entertainment, a pleasant diversion. Multi-camera shows work harder to provide laughs.
You may disagree, and I realize I could better defend my position if I had a single morsel of evidence to back me up, but putting aside the inevitable exceptions I stand by my theory. And who knows? There’s even the slight possibility that I’m right.
By Ken Levine at 6:00 AM