today’s television comedies. It acknowledged that they were edgy, groundbreaking at times, and clearly the new trend. And the article gave them a label: CIT – “Comedy in Theory.”
It’s a fancy term for comedies that aren’t funny. And that’s my problem with them. Call them whatever you want – “Slices of Life”, “Dramadies,” “Label Free,” “Genre Stew,” "Out of the Box," whatever -- just not comedies. I myself watch and enjoy a number of them (I even LOVE a few like BETTER CALL SAUL). I appreciate their ambitious approach and willingness to blur genres and styles. I'm excited to see new things come along.
Just don’t call them “comedies.” “Comedy in Theory” is a bullshit term. And it’s an insult to those who write “Comedy in Practice.”
Here’s why: Writing comedy designed to make people actually laugh is HARD. Much harder than a dramatic structure where you can sprinkle in a humorous line or moment now and again. It is a skill that very few have. I wonder how many writers of “Comedy in Theory” could even write “Comedy in Practice.”
Just because a show has a serious undertone doesn’t mean the writers can’t strive to make them genuinely funny. What’s a more serious backdrop for a series than MASH? And yet we went for laughs -- not wry smiles; not irony. And I may be biased, but I don’t think the comedy took away from the dramatic impact or diminished it in any way. (Disclaimer: I can only speak for the years my partner and I were involved.)
One distinction the article tries to make between current comedies and current dramas is that dramas are story-driven and comedies are character-driven. Comedies today can just go off on tangents and explore behavior. Yes, it’s different from sitcoms past, but in many cases it is also lazy. Look at the classic comedies. Storytelling was not just important it was critical. We took great pride in devising stories that were clever, surprising, funny, and meaningful. It’s like “Comedy In Theory” gives you license to take shortcuts.
And again, you want to do a series that just explores the minutia of someone’s behavior – great. If you’re a good writer and you create a compelling character it might be a terrific show. Just don’t call it a comedy unless it really is.
The article claims that since there is so much niche programming the standards are significantly lower for what is considered a “hit.” To me, this too is a cop out. They’re “Hits in Theory.” They’re a trend because there are so many of them, not because they’re so popular.
And what’s wrong with creating a legitimate HIT? Make no mistake, this trend is geared solely to attract Millennials. And a few may like YOU’RE THE WORST, while others don’t care for it. Same for CATASTROPHE, GIRLS, BASKETS, ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, and a dozen others. But I bet fans of all of those shows still love and watch FRIENDS. And by the way, FRIENDS goes for hard laughs, is character-driven, and has two to three clever storylines in every episode (and for the record, I had no involvement whatsoever in the making of FRIENDS).
Yes, I'm prepared for all the "Get off my lawn" accusations that will surely follow. So to repeat -- it's not that I don't admire a number of these shows, just that they belong in a different category... in the same way that Denny's might serve spaghetti but doesn't claim to be an Italian restaurant.
Ranter in Practice