Monday, September 13, 2021

The Emmys have become the Grammys

What do I mean by that? 

On several occasions someone bursts upon the music scene and wins sixteen Grammys and two years later is completely forgotten.  Norah Jones, anybody?   The Emmy competition for Best Comedy is now very similar.  Shows are now really “the flavor of the month.” 

Remember all the hype about GIRLS?  And then FLEABAG?   The zeitgeist has moved on.

Now partly this is because these series are not long lasting.  They make 20 episodes not 200. Also because they’re on cable or streaming platforms and don’t have the overall exposure that a broadcast network can provide. 

But I also think today’s sitcoms tends to be so of the moment that when the zeitgeist moves on they’re left by the side of the road.  That’s not a knock on them.  It’s the current trend.  But it may come with a price of standing the test of time.

For much of the 1970’s the nominees and winners were ALL IN THE FAMILY, MASH, THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, SANFORD & SON, TAXI, and BARNEY MILLER.  All are beloved shows today. 

In the 1980’s the shows that battled each other year after year were CHEERS, GOLDEN GIRLS, THE COSBY SHOW, FAMILY TIES, and THE WONDER YEARS.  Pretty good for 40 years ago.

The 1990’s featured these shows that duked it out yearly: SEINFELD, CHEERS, MURPHY BROWN, THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW, HOME IMPROVEMENT, FRASIER, EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND, and FRIENDS.  MURPHY BROWN suffered from topical references but was still enough of a "thing" that CBS chose to reboot it. 

MODERN FAMILY dominated the ‘00s and teens but competition was LOUIE, MASTER OF NONE, GLOW, THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL, RUSSIAN DOLL (why that’s a comedy I don’t know) among others.  There were stand outs like VEEP, and CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM but again, how many of them will mean anything in another ten years?  Or three?  Some don’t mean anything already.

Obviously, when making a sitcom you don’t spend a lot of time wondering what audiences will be watching in fifty years,   But it seems there are fewer of them now, and one factor in a great sitcom is its ability to leave a mark.   I guess what I’m saying is will somebody please create the next FRIENDS?  


Lemuel said...

Fifty years on TV will still be showing SAVED BY THE BELL. It's like the lead milk bottles at carnival, still standing after nuclear war.

Brian Phillips said...

I'd also add that it's not only the spreading of the audience over cable and streaming, as opposed to broadcast, it is the sheer ENORMITY of choices.

You can stream over Netflix, Hulu, CBS All Access, HBO Max, Crackle, Paramount Plus, Apple TV...just try to keep up with all of THAT.

It also means that for better and for worse, the colander of what gets on (I'm guessing it's a colander, I don't cook or work in showbiz) is much bigger now and there are more markets. The days of having only three major choices meant that, yes, a LOT of garbage made it on the air, but I'm gathering that even the good shows had to appeal to wider swaths of people.

Also, nowadays, there are writers that are solely television writers. This can lead to great TV, but there may be something to be said for those who came from different disciplines, or wished to aspire to other things. Talent and discipline cannot be downplayed, but part of the reason that many of the Warner Brothers cartoons were so good was because many of them wanted to do live-action feature work. Not many made it: Frank Tashlin was one and recently, Brad Bird has.

I'm not saying that all about the old days was better, but it was decidedly different.

Fred said...

“No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.” ... James Boswell's The Life of Samuel Johnson

VincentS said...

I saw a couple of episodes of VEEP and thought it was very funny but I call bull***t on the grounds it didn't address any issues. The aforementioned ALL IN THE FAMILY and its spinoff MAUDE did and they stood the test of time and they were set in suburban households. BARNEY MILLER also and that was set in a police precinct. Making a sitcom about the Vice President of the United States and not tackling issues is like making a show about a baseball team and never talking about the game.

BillS said...

Even good shows that win Emmys sometimes disappear from the memory. “He and she” won one for comedy writing in 1968 and was cancelled. It might not be as good as I remember but I’ve never seen it since, here in the UK. Maybe time for a reboot?

VincentS said...

Ironic that your "I am not a robot" feature doesn't allow time for re-writes. lol

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Arguably, THE OFFICE was the next FRIENDS, so someone needs to write the next THE OFFICE. (It went on for years, too, but also, and more important, office culture doesn't change *that* much over time....although it may now that no one wants to commute any more).

That sort of show depends on being able to create a "family" (even if they're not related or are only workmates), so first you need a space in which the main characters can reasonably spend enormous amounts of time together. Those are getting scarcer.


Liggie said...

On the one hand, the Chuck Lorre-verse enjoys far more hits than misses; "Mom" and "The Big Bang Theory" enjoyed long popular and critical runs. On the other hand, maybe there's less interest in sitcoms among networks and viewers. If I recall correctly, NBC isn't premiering a sitcom this fall, and the CW has never aired one ("iZombie" had sitcom elements, but it juggled other genres like sci-fi and, yes, procedurals). Let's see what audience tastes are like five years from now.

Mitch said...

eh, it's TV, not that it matters.

There should be more award shows

Mike Bloodworth said...

And don't forget Christopher Cross.


therealshell said...

Once autotune took over the Grammy awards, I tuned out. That's just not my kinda music.

YEKIMI said...


It's not Ken's "I am not a robot" feature, it's Google's mess of a feature to prevent spamming. Many a time I've given up on commenting because I get endless "Click on all pictures of a fire hydrant, palm trees, bridges, buses, dog testicles, etc." even though I have "Clicked" on the correct pictures. By the time I get through jumping through all the hoops, Ken has posted the next day's blog.

Mibbitmaker said...

@YEKIMI - One way to prove you're not a bot is, once your post is finished, click the prove box and get your arrow thingy out as fast as possible. I only had that problem when I lingered a bit before moving out of the box. Apparently, bots aren't that quick.

Jim said...

Kids today do not look back in time, not about any life issues let alone forms of entertainment. That is a boring thing that we do. They are apathetically killing all that off.

Today’s content will be replaced by tomorrow’s content which will be replaced by so on. Reruns won’t exist as a thing once TV is a dead appliance. Our beloved vintage broadcast TV shows will long be watched but not forever. That ends the moment the last living person from Generation (?) dies and is astral buried on their selected planet of choice.

Liggie said...

Speaking of new sitcoms, the actors and WRITERS (!!!) of "Ted Lasso" are about to receive a virtual doubling of their paychecks:

Douglas Trapasso said...

@Wendy M. Grossman

Re: "A Space where people can reasonably spend enormous amounts of time together" How about a show that takes place . . . in a bar? Where you have lots of different personality types who come in for a drink or two and bounce situations and jokes off of each other? The owner is kind of the Top Dog but anyone in the bar can be the instigator or the target of a scene?

Nah . . . it could never work.

Greg Ehrbar said...

Lucille Ball's toughest competition as she continued to make new sitcoms was her previous work on her classic sitcoms. I bring this up because it's increasingly difficult to improve on what was done so well in an art form without creating a gimmick around it or finding a way to prove the earlier creations were somehow inferior. You can't fight time, though, and despite every effort, money and power, all of those fade into dust and the cream keeps rising back to the top.

There will be a few recent shows that do endure as well and the need for "content" will be filled with something (probably very inexpensive and increasingly homegrown) but great work will never stop being rediscovered because it is simply great regardless of its trappings of era.

Auntie Emmy said...

"Soap" was nominated three times, is not commonly shown, and has a minimal footprint except as a curio that launched careers on both sides of the camera. "Kate & Allie" was nominated three times and is now ignored. "Mad About You" was nominated four times yet didn't have the cultural legs of the shows you mentioned. "Will & Grace" was nominated six times, winning once, and its cachet has greatly cooled. The un-nominated "Freaks & Geeks" has more continuing interest than any of these.

Meanwhile, shows like "The Good Place," "Louie," "Veep," "Arrested Development" and more are a match for those great 1970s-80s-90s sitcoms. What you're really complaining about is how TV is made nowadays. Give Archie and Edith Bunker eight episodes a year and a 0.9 rating, and see how iconic it would be.

Fun Fact: "Roseanne," an all-time great show that clearly resonated and endured, was never nominated for Best Comedy Series.

Dene K said...

On BBC1 now here in the UK, there are primetime sitcoms (for want of a more appropriate term) being watched by less than one million.

Naming no names (few will have heard of them anyway), but these shows are uniformly dreadful.

Jokes? Forget it. Clever plotting? Not a chance.

It's a shame, because a good sitcom is worth its weight in gold.

Single camera has a lot to answer for. If you're not required to make a live audience laugh every 20 seconds, "funny" will drop off.

Mike Barer said...

Just to back up a second, I still enjoy Norah Jones music. I think that she is a breath of fresh air for the time.
Back to your point, for years, I have found the same thing for movies. I can watch a show, really enjoy it and then in a few days, its' forgotten.

-bee said...

I've been catching up with shows on Apple TV recently and loved season 1 of Ted Lasso (this season is still really good but suffers in comparison a bit by missing the narrative drive of season 1) and also Mythic Quest which is a really good workplace sitcom with a few really excellent 'stand alone' episodes outside the regular format that could hold up as great short films.

Going back a bit, I still think back in near-awe of Lisa Kudrow's The Comeback (HBO) from a while ago.

I find it kind of interesting that in the streaming format the creative minds behind all these shows don't have it hanging over their heads they have to keep churning out new seasons, and so can just 'end' or shut down entirely (Ted Lasso supposedly is going to end next season, Mythic Quest is supposedly on 'hiatus' until the show creators come up with a new storyline. The Comeback may or may never have another season supposedly until Kudrow has an idea for one).

Will 'short season shows' effect their ability to leave a 'legacy' like the network shows that churn/churned out season after season and have gone into syndication? Its almost like they sit in a strange middleground between movies and long running series.

I think too of a great series of the past that had one GREAT season (and one bad one), The John Laroquette Show. I guess its almost impossible to 'market' something like that and thus its just forgotten except by the few of us watching it at the time..

Kendall Rivers said...

As someone whose long been over Friends I'd much rather ask will someone please create the next Frasier or Everybody Loves Raymond or Golden Girls, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Fresh Prince etc lol. But yeah, you always hear from writers who regret jokes they thought were funny at the time age so poorly and it ruins the reruns for them. I read that Cosby made an effort to keep out any hip language of the 80's in order to preserve the show and Phil Rosenthal made it his mission to leave out topical references on Raymond because he wanted it to be a show that would one day live forever on Nick at Nite... It ended up on TBS and Tv Land and Peacock still one of the most beloved sitcoms ever. I can only think of The Middle as a comedy from the teens that has a long shelf life ahead while uncertain about shows like Blackish, Younger, Pose, Girls etc.

Kendall Rivers said...

Btw Ken, don't forget the 2000s also had killer Emmy competition with The Bernie Mac Show, Will and Grace and even Monk which is more comedy-drama procedural. I remember the 2003 one with best lead actors being Bernie Mac, Larry David, Tony Shaloub, Ray Romano, Eric MacCormack and Matt Leblanc. I thought to myself "when was the last time the Emmys had genuine competition like this?"

Jim, Cheers Fan said...

I think It's Alan Sepinwall who has the "good looking corpse" theory of TV, looking at shows like Freaks and Geeks. I would argue that Arrested Development left a great looking corpse before the zombie re-boot that I, a rabid AD fan, couldn't get through the first three episodes of. I would say Fleabag is a very good looking corpse, while The Office, Roseanne and Modern Family all should have been put out of their misery two if not three seasons before they were. And I guess All In The Family, too, especially if you fold in Archie Bunker's Place (with all due respect to the brilliant Carroll O'Connor)

I rewatch VEEP and Curb all teh time and I think they stand up, but I'm rarely in step with the majority on any question

I wish I had some way to prove I thought Louie was overrated before we all found out LCK was a creepy sex-pest

Brandon in Virginia said...

Entertainment in general has become forgettable and all about what's big for right now. It seems like nothing is timeless anymore, and even a TV show that becomes a long-running Emmy favorite or a movie that makes a half-billion at the box office is here today, gone tomorrow.

Remember when it was a big deal for a movie to make $100 million or a song to be #1 for more than six weeks? Nowadays, that's expected.

Kendall Rivers said...

This has inspired my Friday Question.

FQ: What are your top five favorite comedies that you find grossly underrated but better than most of the shows that hogged all their glory? Mine are in no particular order 1. The Bernie Mac Show. 2. The Middle. 3. Newsradio. 4. Malcolm In The Middle and 5. The short lived Me, Myself and I starring John Larroquete.

ScarletNumber said...


> the CW has never aired [a sitcom]

While it premiered on UPN before the merger, Everybody Hates Chris lasted three years on the CW.