Monday, October 04, 2021

The current sad state of network sitcoms

There’s an article in the new edition of ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY entitled “A Moment of Silence for the Network Sitcom.”  In the article, which basically says that network sitcoms are dead, they make the following points: Their ratings are horrible.  It’s a vicious circle.  It’s harder for one to breakthrough and since most have gone away, it’s hard to find companion pieces to schedule them with.  Networks today are more cautious than ever and don’t want to chance getting a low rating.  A better bet is an hour franchise.  Another reason given is the pilot process is flawed.  Network executives or former network executives were interviewed for this piece.

I don’t disagree with any of their points. 

But could I offer a few alternative reasons why network sitcoms are now almost non-existent? 

One:  The sitcoms they develop are not that good.  And then they note the writers to death.  These sitcoms are selected to fit agendas, not which are the most original, which are the funniest, which have the best writers.  Decisions are based on casting, relationships, ownership, cost, writers who are compliant, commitments, and societal pressure.   I sometimes wonder if these VP’s of Comedy Development were allowed complete autonomy whether they would choose totally different projects than the ones they did choose.  How many great pitches did they pass on because they knew they didn’t fit into their agenda and their bosses would never support them? 

And again, the notes.  Unless you’re Chuck Lorre, the notes are crushing.  And constant.  And given out of fear.  How many good ideas by good writers wound up becoming bland generic blobs by the time they were turned in?  Many of these writers have told me that by the time their pilot is filmed they don't even recognize it.  That should NEVER be. 

And do networks even know what they have?  CBS Entertainment President, Kelly Kahl touts their sitcoms by saying in the article: “If you look at all our comedies, they are about something.”  Really?  Their big new comedy is GHOSTS.  A bed & breakfast is haunted by goofy ghosts.  That says what exactly, other than (a) it’s a reboot of a British series (notice in the above photo they claim it's a "CBS original?"), and (b) it’s a premise that has been done to death.  CBS had a better version in 1952.  It was called TOPPER.   Wikipedia lists 99 series about ghosts.  99!  Oh, and omitted TOPPER.  So yeah, that’s fresh.   The Chuck Lorre comedies?  I would argue people tune into them because the shows try to be funny. 

The pilot claim:  I’ve heard this one for thirty years.  And every so often networks abandon pilots for “presentations” (a cheap way to make a pilot), order direct series and it blows up in their face.   Most of these “direct to series” get burned off in March.  Some never even air.   Pilots aren’t the problem.  The wrong pilots and meddling with pilots are the culprits. 

In the early ‘80s there was also this cry that sitcoms were becoming extinct.  Sitcome writers were writing specs of light dramas like MAGNUM P.I. thinking there was no future anymore in half-hour sitcoms.  Then CHEERS came along.  And COSBY.  And all of a sudden sitcoms were back!  There’s been no breakout sitcom in ten years.  Does that mean it’ll never happen again?  Of course not.  It’s not going to happen with the 100th ghost show.  Or reboot of ROSEANNE without Roseanne (or NIGHT COURT, which NBC is developing). And it’s not going to happen if networks are so afraid of something new that they’d rather do CSI Pittsburgh.  Did you see where NBC is bringing back the original LAW & ORDER? 

Make better sitcoms!  There’s room in your schedules.  Maybe instead of shitty reboots of game shows.  Let’s try some fresh sitcom instead of Anthony Anderson’s mom.  Take a chance.  Yeah, it’s been ten years.  Name me a network pilot in that time that was really FUNNY.   Instead of a moment of silence for sitcoms, how about some CPR? 

52 comments :

Unkystan said...

Amen!

William said...

I thought about it and came up with The Good Place, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Bojack Horseman and Rick & Morty. If we stretch the last 10 years to 2009, then we get Parks & Rec and Community as well. The thing is I sincerely don't know if any of these are network-comedies or wherever they started their life, I just know they eventually reached me via streaming. I don't know who made the stuff I enjoy and I am not particularly curious to find out. If a network makes an awesome sit-com, it will eventually reach me, but I won't know about it until it starts streaming.

Cory said...

The Good Place and Brooklyn 99 were GREAT pilots. Funny, filled with characters you wanted to get to know, and set up their ideas quickly.

Even streaming services aren't doing many sitcoms, sadly. I have gotten hooked on a couple of Canadian Show, Corner Gas and Kim's Convenience because I desperately need something to make me laugh.

Stephen Cudmore said...

How much does a pilot cost, compared to a typical episode? I would imagine with building all the sets, casting, and so on that first episode would represent a pretty big slice of the outlay for the first season.

Don Kemp said...

Well gee, thanks. I was looking forward to Ghosts because frankly it ISN'T another game show or reality show. While it could very well be the 100th iteration of a ghost theme I'd rather that than yet another Hallmark movie that recycles basic plot elements over and over and over. Who new there were so many struggling bakers/event planners/pastry chefs/writers who see an old high school beau but are seemingly held back by an emotionless wholly unaware fiance who works for a "firm"? Yes, I know, streaming options and all that, but that's often easier said than done.

Bradchaz said...

Spot on! I've tried watching a few sitcoms of today, and I turn them off after 2-3 minutes. Everyone/everything on there is very "surface" (no depth to the characters/situations) or very "woke" (trying too hard to not offend anyone). Bland and boring. I'll stick to the classics.

Todd Everett said...

What I get for skimming: I thought you were suggesting a sitcom based on Anthony Anderson’s mom.

Chuck Cavender said...

The Unicorn had some real potential. Not really a chuckle fest, but a low key, soft spoken show with a terrific cast. Lost on CBS is that it was a great show to pair with Young Sheldon. Feels to me that the broadcast networks are purposely tanking to drive the audience to streaming services, where the audience can be charged and also sell ads.

Ere I Saw Elba said...

A NIGHT COURT reboot? Without Harry Anderson? Not a snowball's chance. It's going to be a crock of woke bullshit that will appeal to exactly no demographic.

We're not living through particularly funny times right now, and pessimism is at a peak, to say the lest. It may just be a fact that new sitcoms are going to be on ice for awhile.

Late night comedy is still alive and well. Prime time TV may be an era that is over.

scottmc said...

Yesterday was the 60th anniversary of the debut of the Dick Van Dyke Show and it passed unnoticed, as far as I could tell. Last night CBS could have repeated the colorized episodes that had been endorsed by Carl Reiner. Instead, they aired a decade old Star Trek movie. A missed opportunity that just shows they are clueless with it comes to comedies.

Pat Reeder said...

Since you ended by calling for CPR, which are my initials, I assumed you were saying that network comedies would be much funnier if they let me pick them. And you would be correct.

Honest Ed said...

The BBC version of Ghosts makes no great claim to being very original or groundbreaking. So much so that when it was being trailed, I had no interest in watching it. It trades on warmth and the skill of the writers and performers (the same) and, tbh, isn't a laugh fest. And being a UK show, it only has 6 eps per season.

Tbh, I struggle to think of a sitcom which has broken out from the main big audience UK channels (BBC1 and ITV) this century. Possibly the awful, and extremely popular, Mrs Brown's Boys. Which is depressing.

Sitcoms are now the preserve over here of the more niche channels, like C4 and Sky, which have to coproduce with the streamers to give us shows like Catastrophe, This Way Up and Toast Of London.

Buttermilk Sky said...

Sitcoms often used to be built around a successful standup comedian (Bob Newhart, Bill Cosby, Roseanne Barr, Ray Romano, Jerry Seinfeld, etc.). Can you name a standup today who audiences would want to see on a weekly basis, even surrounded by a fine supporting cast and employing great writers? Bill Burr? Chris Rock? All those women who talk about their vaginas? I don't think so.

Call Me Mike said...

Regarding notes, I recall listening to a podcast a few years ago where a showrunner, who was developing a sitcom for one of the networks, said when he got notes asking why a character said "Good morning" and if that's really what they should say, he knew the show was doomed.

Nevin ":-)" said...

The only sitcom on network tv from last year that I liked is Mr. Mayor. Heck, it is the only network sitcom that I watched the whole season, or even more than just the pilot.

I have found some comedy + dramas to be very funny when they are doing their comic moments, such as Lucifer (Fox/Netflix) and Resident Alien (SyFy), although that is no longer on the traditional networks. Maybe that is where tv comedy is currently heading?

maxdebryn said...

@Buttermilk Sky - There already was a Chris Rock sitcom ("Everybody Hates Chris"). Oddly, an animated reboot is "in development" at Paramount Plus !

DanMnz said...

Buttermilk Sky...
Chris Rock had a show, several seasons.

For me, since the late 90's, too many t.v. shows are around to even try and pick any of them. Since they all look like junk that I see advertised, I don't even attempt to watch them. It's all agenda shows, like Anthony Andersons crap. I refuse to try and watch a show that I can't get into anyways when you can't understand the show without watching it from episode 1. Shows use to make it so you could get into a random episode, and after a few you'd get the idea pretty easily, but not it's all continuation stories and you can't jump in at all and enjoy it.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

I've said it before, and I'll keep saying it until something is done about it . . . how do we make sitcoms today better? Make 'em like they used to!

Sure, a lot of sitcoms from decades past were rather wacky, outlandish, hokey, and way out, but they worked for a variety of different reasons, but the biggest reason of all was they were a form of escape from the tumultuous realities of the real world around us, especially during the 60s, a decade full of civil unrest, just like our society has been dealing with, plus more, over the previous decade as well. That's one reason that sitcoms back then were so successful, they took people's minds off their problems for a while . . . nowadays, sitcoms seem to want to reflect our people's instead, which I'm not exactly sure it really helping matters much - especially with social media being taken into account as well, there's not a lot of avenues available for people to escape the horrors of reality, even if temporarily.

And, aside from all of that, sitcoms back then were just simply a lot more fun than sitcoms today, and for a variety of different reasons: the characters, while quirky, were at least likeable and appealing, as opposed to today where characters are such jerkasses because it makes them "more relatable"; situations, while perposterous, were at least engaging and compelling because of how illogical they were, as opposed to today where it's like situations always revolve around characters' sex lives (or lack thereof); humor wasn't lowest common denominator of body function jokes and low brow pitfalls, writers had to be clever with the humor back then to work around network censors and overall Practices & Standards - you could get tongue-in-cheek risque without being vulgar and raunchy; and there were even some other technical aspects that made sitcoms more appealing back then as well, such as more use of music cues and scoring, and of course the sounds of laughter - live or simulated.

If you look around on the internet, and even look at clips from some of these classic sitcoms on YouTube and such, you'll see there's a tremendous cry from people transcending many generations even into Millennials (which I'm unfortunately lumped into, despite being in my 30s) and Gen Z who would rather see more shows like these than most of the garbage we have today . . . and, as I've said before, if I had the resources and opportunities, I would love to create and produce such sticoms for people to enjoy, but alas, I'm stuck within the confines of YouTube, where I at least do bring a sense of class sitcom aesthetics to my little short productions, from using filters and overlays to emulate the look of 35mm film, to even using Charley Douglass's actual laugh track.

Unfortunately, networks stopped caring about quality long ago - it's all about ratings, profits, and revenue now, and as such, the art of the sitcom (and mainstream entertainment in general) has suffered greatly.

memocartoonist said...

it's weird. I would think since the ratings are terrible, some network exec would just pick the riskiest options simply because they don't have much left to lose. but I know that's not how the industry works.

and then you have the streaming services that are more like the wild west but really need someone reeling them in at least a little bit.

and, as above, there's THE GOOD PLACE which is up there in my top five comedies of all time (although I don't really think it is 'only' a comedy)

Michael said...

Parade Magazine devoted its cover to The Dick Van Dyke Show's 60th anniversary. They also tried to pick its greatest episodes. I can think of 158 of them.

Greg Ehrbar said...

"Citizen Kane" is one of the greatest artistic achievements ever created. Yes, every filmmaker was inspired by it, you could see the ceilings, there was that "deep focus" and all that, but at its core was the dehumanization of a human being raised by a financial institution who, despite fighting his core nature, became further and further detached from his associates, the public and himself by his success.

It can never become dated, in part because of one exchange between Kane and his first wife that underscores your point, Ken:

RUTH WARRICK: Really, Charles! People will think --
ORSON WELLES: What I TELL THEM to think!

This leads to his destruction and a warehouse filled with meaningless "stuff" (check out one of the best routines George Carlin ever did on this subject, BTW). But the point is that the further away the "machine" gets, human or organizational, the more it tries to tell us marketing lines like "this is ABOUT something." This "something" sounds the result of people in large rooms with thick documents and studies, throwing out "mission statements."

Nothing makes a writer more discouraged than facing a blank computer screen, except the seeming futility of creating something that might be picked apart until it is unrecognizable. When I watch a program or film filled with missed possibilites, I always wonder what the early drafts were like before it was marked up with questions like:

"Should we use this adjective? How about the word 'amazing' instead? I like that."
"I don't get this phrase at all, and none of my assistants did, either."
"I have never heard of this reference, therefore it is obscure. Remove it."
"I am looking at this with fresh, objective eyes as a member of the general public."
"Why is this no longer funny now that I read it for the tenth time?"

There is another reason why the half-hour is in danger. One hour is just as easy to sell to sponsors than paying for two separate half hours. Imagine paying the precedent-setting "Friends" their million-dollar-an-episode fees twice when you could pay one-hour leads just once. This is why game shows went to one hour. This is why reality shows with "non-actors" and "producers" were promoted.

Back to the Citizen Kane reference. Sitcoms are not dead unless we are convinced they are, just like streaming is not replacing physical media completely. They may never hit the level they once did, but that is not the issue. They can still exist alongside hour-long shows but the industry probably would be content without that being the case.

It's Just like CDs and especially vinyl records. Vinyl has been called a dead fad for years now and young people especially still love it. It is not being sold largely to older listeners. It is not what it once was, and it really cannot be, but it has a strong following. Only a fool would kill it to completely enforce streaming at the expense of revenue. CG animation might dominate in theaters, but not in an enormous amount television shows and anime.

The public wants what it wants and enjoys that it enjoys, despite the Kanes who give us "Sallambo." These folks come and go, have their impact but the good stuff stays.

Ken, you wrote about Barney Miller and what a great show it was. I contend that one of the threats, thanks to streaming and its need for "content," is that current media now has to compete with the quality of existing material. Rather than look at what made it great (including lessening the creative stranglehold), the system won't adapt and "benchmark," to use a business phrase).

Peter said...

I'd posit the Goldbergs and Blackish as two excellent comedy series within the last ten years. And, while, respectively, not American or network, I would cite Schitt's Creek and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt as hilarious shows.

Rick Whelan said...

This story was told to me by a prominent television actor:

A TV director, a writer and a network executive, all friends, decided to drive to Vegas for a weekend of fun. On the way back to L.A., they decided to take a seldom-traveled road to view some awesome desert scenery. An hour into the trip, they ran out of gas.
They waited half an hour and when no cars came in either direction, they decided to start walking.
A couple more hours of walking in the record-breaking heat, they were getting desperate.
Then, near exhaustion and parched beyond measure, the writer screamed “Look! An oasis!! I see cool shimmering pools of water … the shade of a hundred palm trees and … and three beautiful, scantily-clad women! Let’s go!!”
“And when we get there,” added the director, who was close to passing out, “we’re going to drink from those cool waters, lie in the shaded palms, and spend the rest of the day being fanned by those beautiful women!”
“Sounds like a great idea,” said the TV executive … “just as long as you guys let me piss in the water first.”

Unknown said...

Not exactly “traditional” sitcoms, but what about Archer and What We Do In The Shadows?

YEKIMI said...

I'm for the Law & Order reboot. But troubled by the fact that they plan to bring back as much as the original cast as they can. What are they going to do, prop Jerry Orbach's skeleton up in a corner? If they do bring back the "Old Guard" so to speak they might as well call it "Law & Order: Geriatric Division". I can see it now: "Watch as the detectives investigate a sudden price spike of adult diapers. Is the mob somehow involved?" "Detectives uncover a Rascal Scooter theft ring when several of their co-workers call off due to their rides being stolen. Things escalate when they notice elderly people dragging themselves along the sidewalks as they head for the store to buy their outrageously priced adult diapers. Could the mafia be involved?" "Elliot Stabler returns to the squad room in a special crossover edition to investigate poisoned Preparation H cream. While not lethal at first, severe side effects include turning the backsides of people into Baboon Asses. Could the Teletubbies be involved?"

Liggie said...

-- "Mom" and "Superstore" are recent sitcoms that won acclaim and followings. "B Positive" I'm torn on; the premise and supporting cast are very good, particularly Annaleigh Ashford, but Thomas Middleditch seems too wooden in the lead role (and his recent #MeToo issues don't help). I'm intrigued by "The Neighborhood", Beth Behrs seems like a good light comic actress, but I haven't seen it yet.

-- "Ted Lasso" has certainly captured the public zeitgeist, and the only thing that would keep it from transferring to a broadcast network is the occasional F-bomb. "Schmigadoon!" also is very funny, but I'm not sure it would succeed outside of a streaming platform.

-- I'm still looking forward to "Ghosts" and the new "Night Court". Go YouTube some of Rose McIver's comic work in "iZombie", particularly when her character's inhabited by a trophy wife, a grumpy old man, a hockey player, a conspiracy theorist, and a grandmotherly matchmaker, and you'll see she'll be well-suited for "Ghosts". As for "Night Court", Melissa Rauch says she grew up with the show and intends to maintain its slapstick tone. They'll likely have to make Dan Fielding less womanizing, due to John Laroquette's age and current sensibilities, but that's the only change I foresee.

Craig Russell said...

You said it Ken, without actually saying it. "...Then CHEERS came along. And COSBY. And all of a sudden sitcoms were back!" Whats the common thread of those 2 shows? Great writing and star power. Get a great writer or 3 and nab the most famous TV star (or stars) in the past 20 years, and develop a vehicle for them. Not Kevin Nealon or Beck Bennett, but some real star. Like Cosby was in the early 80s. Play to their strengths, dont try and reinvent the wheel, and be funny. Go for the laughs. Dont be a subtle "Modern Family" sitcom.

This aint rocket science. Its Entertainment. Give the people what they want...

Bruce said...

Ghosts plot sounds like the same plot they used for Struck by Lighting (1973) Jack Elam

bmfc1 said...

You've buried "Ghosts" before you've seen it, right? Did you bother to watch the BBC version on HBO Max? It's a wonderful and clever show with laughs and warmth. Maybe CBS will mess it up (there are only 18 British eps over 3 years while CBS will have to crank out 22 in one year if it's a hit) or maybe they will get it right. Geez Ken, give it a chance.

Brandon in Virginia said...

If you're CBS, maybe try ditching the laugh track and recognize that single-camera comedies have been the wave for at least 15 years. I know CBS has Young Sheldon - odd that they went single-cam there when Big Bang Theory used an audience/laugh track - but other than that, it seems they still want to make laugh tracks a thing. If you're going to insist on using one, maybe not use such obnoxious laughter on jokes that are barely worth a chuckle.

This Twitter thread (see below) brilliantly broke down just how generic and formulaic CBS sitcoms have been for the last 20+ years. How they manage to become the #1 year after year with "Idiot white guy with a hot wife" baffles me.

https://twitter.com/cart_blowers/status/1219166000832241664

Jeff Weimer said...

I would say that this is yet another instance of Everyone is Conservative about what they know best; but I know better.

Richard Deadtree said...

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY is giving last rites to someone else?

TroyDeVolld said...

Exactly why I wrote AND ANOTHER THING, my book on the notes process. I feel like you should hire people with a track record and then, pretty much, just walk away.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

@Brandon No. Single camera sitcoms are better with laugh tracks, as opposed to this "sophisticated" mockumentary gimmick that has been played to death; it makes it difficult to invest in the characters or their situations, because the interruptions with "interview" segments takes you out of that universe and disrupts the flow of the show - not to mention the lack of laughter, live or simulated) is just plain ghastly and droll.

Leighton said...

Tonight, my roommate made some incredible ceviché, and we binged 3.5 hours of EARLY "The Nanny" episodes. It's hilarious. Granted, it's intentionally "hammy," but damn good. Yes, the final few seasons became ludicrous - it went on for too long.

Last night, we binged several hours of the ORIGINAL "Will & Grace." Brilliant. It also went on for too many seasons. The finale was ludicrous. But that brings me to the three-season, recent "reboot." HULU has just added those episodes. It's all just ODD. They basically attempt to "right the wrongs" of the last seasons of the original. Numerous plot points of the reboot, NEGATE the series' history. (From what I understand, attributed to a drunken dream of "Karen Walker.")

I hate reboots. They rarely work. DREAD the "Frasier" plans.

Does anyone remember that HORRIBLE return to "The Mary Tyler Moore Show"? It was a 2000 TV movie pilot "dramedy," "Mary & Rhoda." Totally cringe-worthy. 2004's "The Dick Van Dyke Show Revisited" was also excruciating.

On another note, the most BIZARRE comedy series is "The Doris Day Show." They basically recreated it, every season. Day played the same character. Location changed. Job changed. Children disappeared. Just psycho. I can't imagine that working well, in any decade. I am too lazy to research the ratings for that show.

Leighton said...

"Entertainment Weekly"...I was an original subscriber. 1989? It was considered at the time, a "high end" industry periodical. It mutated over the first few years, but maintained its integrity until about 15 years ago. It is total garbage these days. A lot of "recap" geek "reporters," and tabloid-level content. SAD.

Leighton said...

Not a comedy series, but I will admit a current, guilty pleasure. The new "Fantasy Island" sequel - not a reboot. It's made on the cheap, by Fox, in Puerto Rico. No big names. But it DOES evoke the original.

The 90s reboot was horrendous - filmed in Hawaii. And of course, there was that "horror movie" adaptation two years ago.

mcdufferton said...

I liked MOM, once they started focusing it on the Mom's mom instead of the Mom, who always came across as the real Mom's daughter to me anyway.
This show, of course, fell under the sheltered Chuck Lorre umbrella--which explained why it lasted long enough to evolve into something new and (IMO) infinitely better.

Chris said...

Friday question: I always wonder how much of a writer's personality goes into creating a highly idiosyncratic character like Becker. Is that a character that you could really write as a "job" and just let the character develop itself over the years, as a lot of other characters do, or is a series like that always more personal for the creator than others? (My guess is there's significantly less Sheldon Cooper and Leonard Hofstadter in Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady than there was John Becker in David Hackel, but I may be wrong here. Just how like Kramer kind of turned into a cartoon character after Larry Charles, who had put a lot of his personality and life views into the character, left Seinfeld).

James Van Hise said...

I liked Mr. Mayor and didn't even realize it had no laugh track since I ignore them anyway, but it was followed by another new sitcom which had a SCREECHING laugh track and I had to turn it off after five minutes.

whynot said...

Nobody can write a sitcom anymore. People think snottiness and sarcasm is wit; it's not. (I've said before, Cheers and Golden Girls and a few other 'classics' were guilty of this: nothing but wisecracks and people being rude and obnoxious to each other). I don't know how Lorre keeps getting work; every show he has is exactly the same. Where is the next Taxi, DVD, MTM? I fear a generation of people brought up on Real Housewives don't have it in them.

Big Murr said...

The Brit "Ghosts" is marvellous. Full of that dry, deadpan British humour with a tasty sprinkling of social commentary and "taking the piss"

The basic concept has been done before? Oh, look! A big dump of "who cares?"

I have no intention of watching the American ripoff version of "Ghosts". Until I hear differently, I draw on experience that instead of "dry wit", it will be big boffo yucks with a laugh machine in overdrive.

Brandon in Virginia said...

@Joseph Scarbrough I'm not completely against laugh tracks. Some shows used them well (How I Met Your Mother comes to mind). But there are some comedies where the audience is so loud and raucous that if you didn't know any better, you'd swear you were watching a classic show like Cheers or Sanford and Son.

Case in point: I stumbled across Two Broke Girls one afternoon. One of the broke girls was talking trash to her coworker about how he'll be sorry when she starts making six-figures in Hollywood. Laugh track: "Whoooo!" I couldn't turn the channel quickly enough.

Rupes said...

The British “Ghosts” is a typically British gentle, lovely show, made by an ensemble of writers and performers who have worked together for many years on great shows for children, and it shows. It is must-watch TV in my house and is also one of my son’s (9 years old) favourite shows and a great introduction to sitcoms (he also loves Father Ted).

Would the show work in the US? Hell, no. It’s not a laugh-a-minute gagathon, it’s the situation and the story that are funny.

Kendall Rivers said...

@Peter I think Blackish would actually be more in the pushing agenda pile like Ken mentioned. I still watch it but its definitely a shell of itself. The first two seasons were funny and made a point. Now it's just preachy.

Kendall Rivers said...

@Ligge Any change to Dan Fielding is a perfect reason not to watch it. That character is iconic for a reason and nobody wants a watered down PC Dan Fielding. That's like bringing back Taxi and Louie Depalma's now a Priest.

Unknown said...

To think that "Ghosts" now occupies "Mom's" time slot. (If only Anna Faris had stayed...)

To Brandon in Virginia: These series with "laugh tracks" are usually filmed before an audience. And if you want to watch a good one, try "Bob [Hearts] Abishola," which is well-written, well-acted and has wonderfully textured characters. (Billy Gardell is superb.)

And speaking of Chuck Lorre shows, "The United States Of Al" opens its second season tonight (8:30/7:30, CBS) with an episode whose subject is the recent Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and how it affects their stateside characters. This ep understandably has no laughter.

Vincent said...

I'm the "unknown" from the previous comment (10/6, 11:22p), the former vp81955. Still adjusting to my revived presence.

Sean from Liverpool said...

I was going to say Motherland but that's BBC 2... but still that's a recent properly funny mainstream BBC sitcom I can think of. But yes, I agree with you, it tends to be the smaller channels with the good stuff. What was the last big sitcom on ITV?? Benidorm?

Mike McCann said...

CBS should be grateful that such creative icons as Sheldon Leonard, Desi Arnaz, Carl Reiner and Grant Tinker are dead. Otherwise the odds are that after watching GHOSTS, the famous foursome would be in a limo heading for the network headquarters with the intention to strangle the executive who okayed the production of THE WORST SITCOM EVER.

Spike de Beauvoir said...

Mom is one of the greatest sitcoms, so underrated. Season 8 after Anna Farris left held up really well. Kristen Johnston was wonderful and her character really blossomed during her seasons on the show. The show is true to the journey of the core ensemble in recovery while also featuring bawdy dialogue and hilarious physical comedy. Great article in HR on how Mom's co-creator Gemma Baker was "discovered" by Chuck Lorre ("How I Made It in Hollywood"). Lorre also connected with Gina Yashere, executive producer/writer/actor of Bob Hearts Abishola, by first Googling "female Nigerian comic." I've enjoyed that show since the beginning and it keeps getting better.

Spike de Beauvoir said...

First three seasons of The Nanny may be best overall but the whole series is very funny and watchable. I even bought and rooted for the Niles/CC romance. Sylvia Fine, Grandma Yetta, and Aunt Freda were sublime kosher divas and Niles da Butler had amazing panache and comedic timing. I recently read about how Fran Drescher developed the idea for the show: She and her husband had intensively studied and analyzed sitcoms past and present to work out their concept.

I actually enjoy the various incarnations of the Doris Day Show. So many great costars appeared in that series along with Rose Marie, Billy de Wolfe, etc. I love the Doris and Rock romcoms but one of my favorites is still her first movie Romance on the High Seas with Jack Carson, Oscar Levant, and Don de Fiore.

Speaking of Don de Fiore, I've gotten totally hooked on Hazel with Shirley Booth (partial seasons free on Roku). It's about a maid, she lives vicariously through the family she serves, so it should be too retro, but Booth is a powerhouse and has great chemistry with her "master" and sparring partner DeFiore. Delightful and terrific writing.