Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Comedies are BACK!! Kinda. Sorta.

Yesterday I presented a general overview of this year's series pick-ups. Today let's focus on comedy (since drama is the same doctor shows/lawyer shows/cop shows/sci fi shows/procedurals/and spin-offs of the above with names of cities tacked onto the title).

ABC’s MODERN FAMILY is getting good buzz. Advertisers found it “flat out hilarious”. I’m not quite sure Don Draper would know a great comedy but still, it’s encouraging. MODERN FAMILY is a mockumentary about three suburban families.

For ABC’s comedy night, all four entries feature actors who have already starred in at least one hit comedy – Kelsey Grammer, Patricia Heaton, Ed O’Neill and Courtney Cox. Yes, they're playing it safe but give them credit -- they could have gone with Alex Karras, Jeff Conaway, Susan Clark, and Fran Drescher.

FOX is being a little more chancy. Their midseason entry, BROTHERS stars Michael Strahan, whose previous acting experience was playing defensive end for the New York Giants.

Every year there seems to be two shows that are exactly the same. This year it’s COUGAR TOWN with Courtney Cox as an older woman dating a younger man and CBS’ ACCIDENTALLY ON PURPOSE starring Jenna Elfman as an older woman dating a younger man. I’m sure this was a wildly popular premise among women network executives.

In maybe the weirdest pick-up, FOX renewed ‘TIL DEATH for a full season. Last year it did so poorly that FOX yanked it off the schedule in November and there are still a ton of episodes that remain unaired on top of the 22 new episodes just ordered. As long as FOX never puts 'TIL DEATH back on its schedule it could go for ten more years.

Gone is ACCORDING TO JIM (there IS a God!) and SCRUBS will be back but Zach Braff will only appear in six episodes. The industry is now nicknaming it AfterSCRUBS. I have some AfterMASH scripts if they need them. Just change "Soon-Li" to "Elliot".

NBC, once a broadcasting network, will be shelving 30 ROCK until midseason. Uh, it wins the Emmy for Best Comedy every year. Wouldn’t you sort of want that show on the air? Watch. The minute their first new show tanks it’ll be back on the schedule. So I’m guessing October 1st.

My best wishes to all the writers of all these shows. Keep the torch lit. The foundation of television has always been comedy (whether they know it or not). In success it's Jed Clampett hitting oil. And now more than ever, boy do we need to laugh.


Sandy Koufax said...

The fact that NBC has shelved one of the only great shows on T.V., "30 Rock", only proves why the network is in the shitter. The network execs at NBC must have their heads up their asses.

James said...

30 Rock, which finally saw some viewer increase this past season, shelved to mid-season?

I'm starting to think whoever runs NBC really is in charge of microwave oven programming as well.

Dave said...

You answered the question about why "Til Death" was renewed as soon as you mentioned that "According to Jim" had been cancelled: the crap quotient has to be maintained.

Steve said...

Prepare yourselves.

This may come as a shock to those who feel the Emmys are the ultimate arbiter of taste, but many of us have sampled "30 ROCK" (repeatedly) and simply not liked it.

If I want to watch a cartoon, I'll tune in "The Simpsons".


Tom Quigley said...

Ken said:

..."they're playing it safe but give them credit -- they could have gone with Alex Karras, Jeff Conaway, Susan Clark, and Alf."...

Actually, it might be funnier to see how long it would take for a show with that cast to implode: a jock, a jerk, an alien -- and Alf...

Anonymous said...

"The Jay Leno Comedy Hour" (or whatever) is funnier than "30 Rock" because the stupidity of the former is unintentional and real. NBC has taken reality TV to the next level: surreality TV. I'm all for it, although I wouldn't watch a second of Leno even if he were having sex with a vomiting puppet.

(by the way, my CAPTCHA safe-word for this post is "prick" :)

Anonymous said...

Steve, I can't entirely agree, but I wish "30 Rock" would drop the blonde woman, the black guy, Liz Lemon, and the Deliverance guy to focus on Jack Donaghy. Donaghy is hysterical, the rest are like commercials interruptions.

James said...

I'm curious to know what ppl who don't like 30 Rock watch and find funny?

Anonymous said...

If you don't like 30 Rock you have no sense of humor. Period.

Anonymous said...

30 Rock suffers from the modern conceit that conflates "clever" with "funny". 30 Rock is very clever. Funny? Not so much.


Anonymous said...

I'm not rooting for anybody on 30 Rock. I don't buy Liz's surprisingly subservient relationship with her staff. Tracy Morgan's character is unbelievable and annoying. The show is too busy wearing its quirkiness on its sleeve. Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey together are great. They deserve a better show than this.

As for Modern Family being yet another mockumentary. One neverending mockumentary where the characters look into the cameras (on "The Office") was enough. Then they had to throw in "Parks & Recreation." Now this. How 'bout at least mixing it up? A mockumentary about a mockumentary??

Z said...

@Ken: 30 Rock isn't being shelved until midseason, just six weeks so COMMUNITY can get the post-OFFICE spot to build buzz. After six episodes of SNL Weekend Thursday, Community will then shift to the 8PM timeslot. Last season, 30 Rock premiered Oct. 30th. It'll be around the same time of the year again. Actually a smart NBC strategy for once, allowing COMMUNITY to get a good sample audience before asking it to lead the night off.

Kate said...

If it's not too Inside Baseball to say so, I wonder if the "30 Rock" pushback has something to do with the married-couple-on-a-date movie (Date Night?) that Steve Carrell and Fey are supposed to be doing.

If that's filming now, Fey may have begged Lorne to get the "30 Rock" start date pushed back so she could have an actual break between the two projects.

WV: nessest - what Gollum's pet parakeet sleepess in.

Tyroc said...

I heard 30 Rock was debuting late October or early November.

I can see people not feeling there's much to root for in 30 Rock -- and that it can be awfully cartoony -- but it still makes me laugh harder than any other show on TV (The Office, and Party Down, being the next best comedies on the air.)

So is Michael Strahan's the only new show with a person of color in the lead role? That seems short-sighted in this day and age when you desperately want to bring new viewers to your network.

Steve said...

James said... I'm curious to know what ppl who don't like 30 Rock watch and find funny.James:

Humor is, of course, one of the most subjective things around. However, here's a (current) TV triad to start things rolling:

1. "THE BIG BANG THEORY": Proof that traditional and multi-camera can still be funny. And while Chuck Lorre occasionally whines about lack of awards, it's better to actually BE funny than have third party committees insisting you ARE funny.

2. "THE DAILY SHOW": I hate politics, and can therefore only take the show in spurts, no matter how funny it is, but this is pretty consistently good writing.

And finally, of course, the aformentioned "If I want to watch a cartoon, I'll watch--"

3. "THE SIMPSONS": Long in the tooth, but still (often) fires on all cylinders. Remarkable for a show in which the characters never really change.

Anyways, thanks for asking.


James said...

@ Steve

I haven't seen Big Bang...but have heard good things...it's harder to do a decent multi camera sitcom these days without feeling tired, limited, and predictable.

I love Daily Show and Colbert and still watch The Simpsons (but more out of habit), as it occasionally tickles...

For those saying there is "no one to root for" on 30 Rock...well sure, but wasn't that the entire premise of Seinfeld? And one could argue that formulaic shows like CSI and L&O also offer main characters that don't offer a true rooting interest, as almost all the shows are designed as a single serving

Matthew said...

Well, Til Death must be real close to having enough episodes to make a really nice syndication package. And Sony has demonstrated to Fox before (after season one), they're willing to cut anyone or anything in order to fit a budget. Fox has something to fill a half-hour (or not) that isn't too expensive and Sony will make money in syndication. Win-win (business wise). As for the audience, well, it's not like we're going out of our way to watch great shows, so there's little incentive for the networks to keep those.

30 Rock is still a good show, but seemed to suffer from too much guest-of-the-week-itis for awhile. Granted, they did a good job of it, but I felt the show lost something and I stopped feeling as if I HAD to watch. I think the first season had more ongoing plotlines and some of that's returned (Jenna's movie career/suicide, Liz getting suspended), so I feel like I have to keep up. I don't want every show to turn into an obsessive-compulsive behavior, but without a great reason to keep up, I find myself shrugging and figuring I'll catch up on DVD later or just watch when I get a chance. The fact is, there's just so many things to pay attention to these days, movie, internet, television, sports, news, etc, the only show I make a point to watch every week is American Idol. And I watch because I actually vote (I feel a part of the show, and yes, I know I'm not, but I feel that way because of the text messages I send. It's Pavlovian).

And why the aside about female executives? Two whole shows about older women dating younger men? Wow, that's a tsunami. I know male executives would never program a show because it's about older men dating younger women or because they enjoyed playing with the toys as children. I say bring on more female executives: at least they're giving us something different.

Be thankful Parks and Recreation wasn't just another division of Dunder-Mifflin. It's a little rough now, but Office didn't get it's legs until late season one/season two. I'm willing to give P&R a little time (shows need time even more these days because of added network interference. You have to wait for the suits to lose interest)

I love Big Bang. I feel it's one of the few shows that actually respects nerds wholeheartedly. I busted out laughing when they were playing Klingon boggle. I used to do that. It was great because all of the actors were really playing, just like us real nerds :) And the whole "wouldn't time-traveling robots come back in time as the actors from movies about time-traveling robots" discussion was genius. Of course time-traveling robots would look like Summer Glau! No one would believe she was a killer robot until she killed you. Time-traveling robots WOULD be that ingenious.

Unknown said...

At the end of the day, television is more about how much advertising revenue it brings in, not ratings. That's why CBS literally went out of their way to kill Becker, a top 10 show, because the "wrong" audience was watching it (re: old people).

If 'Til Death was brought back (full disclosure: I'm friendly with the lead actress who was just fired so I have some real behind the scenes intel) there's a monetary reason for it.

Frankie Raye said...

I like Courtney Cox and have loved Bill Lawrence's shows before (Spin City and Scrubs) but the clips ABC is showing of "Cougar Town" makes it look awful.

They really want us to believe that a woman who looks like Courtney Cox would have trouble getting a younger man to sleep with her? That itself is funny, but sadly not the joke.

A. Buck Short said...

Korollary to Kate’s KwestionDo producers ever ask for an extension on their term papers?

E.G. ask to be shelved until midseason, because they feel they need more time to develop or flush out their scripts to keep a show up to its expected quality? Take me out coach, I just got the wind knocked out of me. Or does that not work, if everybody just feels like slacking off until the crunch resumes like nobody put up the shelves in the first place? What’s the difference between shelving and a hiatus? Is a hiatus voluntary shelving? Oh, cripe, I just realized it’s only Tuesday. OK, I can wait.

gottacook said...

I am so tired of the increasing reliance of TV series on the pseudo-documentary formula. I can't watch them, and I've tried (not just comedies, but Southland as well). The formula has become a lazy way to produce a weekly show.

danrydell said...

30 Rock is clevah, but it has some moments that are laugh-out-loud funny. Most of those come from Baldwin and Fey, but the cast of characters are fun foils. "Fun Foils! New from RonCo!"

John said...

Man, I'd hate to think that parent company General Electric would program their high-tech wind-turbine generators with the same sense of focus and detail they allow NBC's execs to program their networks. There'd be dead bird parts and broken propellers flying through windshields all over I-10 near Palm Springs.

Buttermilk Sky said...

New episodes of "Scrubs"? They just did their "Goodbye Farewell Amen" finale, didn't they? I haven't really seen much of it because I can't find ABC on my cable system. Will Neil Flynn be getting a spinoff called "Janitor"?

What's the big sitcom in England now? Like "The Office" (and "All In the Family" decades ago), it will be here next, just not as good.

Anonymous said...

Kelsey Grammer and Heaton again? Why didn't they just invest a bit and overhaul "Back to You"? The problem there was inconsistency that was felt in the whole, not the parts, a problem more like too many chefs in the kitchen rather than food that was inedible. I'm done with those two for now, unless it would be something radical. As for Old Woman/Younger man, God that is pathetic in terms of hip factor (joke possible here) and just who would be the audience that wasn't turned off by the Fran Drescher version/bomb of that premise already? And Jenna Elfman? Wow, just as long as tv keeps investing in her it will be impossible to say Scientology doesn't have carry weight in entertainment today.
30 Rock is ok, but the problem starts when people are never really "working" but busy during work hours with all kinds of other things, making daily life at 30 Rock as if just an expanded suburban tract home and family to match. It's not there yet, but....

SharoneRosen said...

what doe those of us not 30 Rock fans find funny... hmmmmm

(I guess I need to start living in the 21st century eventually, don't I?)

WV: WOOMEN ; in consideration of the double-O, the way this word really should always have been spelled.

Dana Gabbard said...

Comments about pseudo-documentary formula reminds me what genius Jack Webb and his writers on Dragnet brought to that, balancing the situations with quirky characters, etc.

Magnum PI did what they thought was a series finale with a cliffhanger, then hastily had to come up with a resolution when the show unexpectedly got renewed. We'll see how Scrubs deals with a similar situation.

tb said...

off topic, but as I stumbled across an episode of "Hawaii 5-0" yesterday, there was Jack Lord trying to talk Loretta Swit off of a ledge. I thought "Ken Levine would enjoy this"

Vermonter17032 said...

For those of you supporting the benching of "30 Rock," remember that you are defending NBC... the network that thinks a good idea is putting JAY LENO IN PRIME TIME EVERY FREAKING NIGHT!

Zanuck said...

Thanx for the post-lots of great info to digest. Also thanx for the care in choosing the "dueling cougars" photos for the top. I'm sure younger guys wouldn't give those slags the time of day. Yeah right.

When I read about 30 Rock, one of my favorites, I felt the same way I felt last year, NBC is doing the same thing FOX does, hold off it's big show's season premieres until around Halloween (Treehouse of Horror.) Only NBC doesn't have the World Series to run! In my book, that leaves them with no excuse. I read the earlier post about using it to build audiences for other product, but wouldn't they rather have an established, halfway popular show as a lead-in for Lameo at 10?

As for the content of 30 Rock, I think it's a particular type of comedy that doesn't appeal to everyone. I think it's in a hyper-real category somehere between a "traditional" sit-com and a cartoon. Malcom In the Middle, Scrubs, and Arrested Development all seem similar to me. And all are funny to me.

Look, Jenna looks cold.

Cap'n Bob said...

Older woman/younger man? Try a play called 40 Carats. Forget the disastrous movie made from the play with Liv Ullman.
Tracy Morgan? How does he manage to have a career? Not funny at all.
I worked for GE back in 1966. They were run by idiots then, and it appears they still are.

WV: sples. That which goes to the vctr.

Anonymous said...

30 Rock’s (third) season-ender was emblematic of its problems this season. The first two season finales focused on the heart of the show, Jack & Liz’s relationship. But this year we got yet another guest celebrity overstuffing. I hope Tina stops being distracted by her new status as the most famous woman in TV and takes 30R back to its roots.

I started watching P & R strictly for Amy. Otherwise not a fan of the Office gang – and I thought copying the mocku- format was lame. But the show started to grow on me the last three episodes. I was actually looking forward to it more than 30R.

Mon. night @ 8 became overrun with shows that I’d normally catch/ record if they were spaced out on other nights. So Big Bang Theory and Little Mosque (on CBC) lost out to House and Dancing W/ the Stars.
- AmyP Who Forgot Her Google Password