Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Sitcoms are the Rodney Dangefield of network television

I had talked about how NBC is holding NIGHT COURT back for whatever excuse they gave, and now I see that CBS has cut the order for Pete Holmes upcoming sitcom from 12 to 10.  The show hasn’t even aired yet.

CBS insists it’s a scheduling issue not creative, but really?  Two more episodes?  What if the show is a hit?  What do they have in the pipeline so sure-fire they can’t squeeze in two more episodes of a sitcom trying to build an audience?   They don't even have a premier date or timeslot for the Pete Holmes show yet.

They also changed the title and recast some parts.  Interestingly, they knew at the outset they were going to recast some parts.  They made a “presentation,” not a pilot — a cheaper version of a pilot — with a couple of parts just slugged in when the actors they wanted weren’t available.   I bet there wasn’t a “presentation” for THE EQUALIZER.  But comedies?  Why spend the money when they’re probably not going to pick them up anyway?  

The article I read in Deadline Hollywood also said “Episode orders across the linear broadcast networks are becoming more flexible, accelerated by the pandemic.”

Right.  Speaking of excuses.   

Episode orders are more flexible because broadcast networks are operating out of fear.  

Meanwhile, this “flexibility” places an added burden on the show runner and writing staff.  How do you plan a season arc if two or three or six episodes are lopped off your order?   How do you plan budgets amortized over the number of shows you expect to produce when that number changes?   

I bet THE EQUALIZER wasn’t asked to cut episodes last year.  And that was REALLY the year of the pandemic.  

Just another sign that if you want comedy, just like you want quality drama — streamers are the answer. 

29 comments :

cjdahl60 said...

Other than sports, I can't remember the last time I watched broadcast television. The only exception would be some PBS shows, if that counts as broadcast television. Although it can be a bit overwhelming due to the massive program catalogs, streaming channels are now my entertainment vehicle of choice.

It will be interesting to see if the broadcast networks adapt to survive and what they will morph into.

Lemuel said...

The last network show want to watch is BOB'S BURGERS ( I gave up on MOM). I only had antenna TV but am currently in a nursing home with basic cable. Surprise! It's just as infested with ads for Medicare supplements and sports betting apps, not to mention the Mypillow guy, who keeps mentioning "cancel culture" in his ads. No wonder people are streaming.

VincentS said...

...and I love how CBS calls the EQUALIZER reboot, "A CBS Original." Paging George Orwell!

D. McEwan said...

I watched all of Pete Holmes's HBO series Crashing, and frankly, I'd cut his series order down to 0. As that series went along, it got more and more irritating, and it got more and more religion jammed into it, so that by the end, I never wanted to set eyes on Holmes again. He's bland and annoying, and by its later episodes Crashing remained watchable only because of the far-more-interesting-than-him guest stars and cameos. He's a bore.

Jeremiah Avery said...

You'd think during times when people are seeking some escapism and humor in their lives, that comedies would be more front and center. Streamers are certainly the way to go for comedies and other quality shows (some are also on the cable networks). I find myself watching more older comedies on streaming platforms or the dvds I have instead of the bland material that broadcast networks keep putting out. Call me old-fashioned, but I'd like to actually laugh when watching a comedy.

Barry said...

Not to be "that guy," but this happens to dramas and on streaming as well. HBO MAX cut two episodes off the first season of SWAMP THING, which led to much panic behind-the-scenes and a VERY rushed finale.

Masked Scheduler said...

Remember Ken, comedies on streamers are often 6-8 episodes, not 13 or 22. If they're 13 they are generally coming off a linear channel in Canada or someplace like that. You can complain about the quality of network vs. streaming shows but not episode count. In my opinion. Also nets have always ordered shows for all the wrong reasons that never make it to air.

Greg Ehrbar said...

Here is a theory. Companies are trying to recoup billion-dollar losses from COVID and in doing so are cutting costs, which is common practice anyway, thus the handling of Night Court.

We've been seeing genres, formats and artistic forms being labeled as outdated or no longer popular be design when it could really be economic. Why pay two sets of actors and creatives and crew for two half hours when you can pay once for an hour? The three-camera sitcom has never translated to an hour, much less the one-camera sitcom.

Unfortunately, this kind of thing is endemic to the short-sighted, profit-now, thinking that does not take into account how popular sitcoms because after the fact, and how profitable they can become, when the hour shows may not.

Sadly, long-term is logical, pays off tremendously but does not do it fast enough. It used to and we keep seeing why it makes sense, but what can I say and what do I know?

Ere I Saw Elba said...

My best take is that networks are desperate to make ad revenue and are tying themselves in knots going though zillions of algorithms on how a programming strategy could win them online streams and page clicks, and television eyeballs.

But seriously, NIGHT COURT without Harry Anderson? Next thing they're going to be telling me that they are making plant-based beer.

Jim said...

Who’s Rodney Dangefield?

(Sorry, but the glory of Spelling Bee Champ brings with it this lifelong burden.)

Nonesuch Nobody said...

I'm pleasantly surprised that I'm enjoying Equalizer, and this coming form someone who's tired of procedurals (particularly anything with the NCIS in the title). Queen Latifah is a fresh take on the usual bad-ass lead. And the diversity and race-talk is welcomed without it hitting you over the head--this is a show I could see black viewers and white viewers enjoying equally. It's more predictable and vanilla than if it were a streamer, but I think I grade network shows on a curve now.

Eric J said...

Years ago, we would sit down in front of the TV at 8pm, watch two half hour shows and an hour show before going to bed. We wouldn’t revisit those shows until the next week. The next night, same routine with three different shows. Three more the next. There weren’t a lot of story arcs of any consequence spanning several episodes because they were too difficult to follow with week long pauses. It would be like reading 8 or 9 different short story anthologies simultaneously every week, three chapters a night.

With streaming, we can sit down with one story, one set of characters and time to follow them as long as we want. Tired that night? Maybe one or two episodes. Long weekend? Maybe an entire “season”. Just like we’ve done with books for nearly 300 years. Read what you want, put it down when you don’t, and pick it up again when you feel like it.

The streaming format is much more suited for stories with any substance. I actually prefer streaming series over movies now. Much richer stories and a chance to really get to know the characters.

I haven’t watched network TV in probably 15 years. Between the endless commercials and animated chyrons pitching the next show, it’s a terrible experience. Maybe some of that has changed in 15 years, but probably something even worse exists now.

Liggie said...

On the other hand, "Ghosts" has been a critical and ratings success for CBS, so much so that it got a full-season order after only a few episodes. There was some blowback before the pilot that it was just a remake of the acclaimed BBC series of the same name and concept, but the stories and acting -- both the motley ghosts and Rose McIver and Utkarsh Ambudkar as the living couple in the haunted home -- seem to have won them over.

Brian said...

Looks like a fun show. Should have kept the name "Smallwood"

Lemuel said...

@VincentS: and paging Edward Woodward!

Vincent said...

I'm sure CBS would like to tell Chuck Lorre where to go, since his contract with the network probably gives him creative control. ("Ghosts" and "The Neighborhood" are not Lorre shows.) But once "Young Sheldon" -- Lorre's only network TV single-cam -- runs its course, beware, multi-cams "Bob [Hearts] Abishola," "B Positive" and "The United States of Al." What other network is hospitable to multi-cams?

whynot said...

FYI Becker is on Pluto TV on the "TV Land Sitcoms" channel.

I'm Outraged! said...

I've tried listening to Pete Holmes podcast, but no matter the guest he always turns it into a religious & navel gazing borefest, inevitably analyzing what statement of the bleedin' obvious his spiritual guide has enlightened him with this week, there's no way his sitcom wouldn't head this way.

ventucky said...

Broadcast TV is DEAD with the exception of Sunday football and maybe the news. Shows pop up on Hulu or Netflix and 3 minutes in I notice it is formulamatic, not funny or suspenseful, and creeps around the borers of censorship. Then I google it and it invariably turns out to be some crap show from a broadcast network. Even the praised shows I have heard but had never watch, turn out to be crap when compared to pretty much any comedy developed for streaming. With the exception of junk like The Ranch.

BADuBois said...

“Episode orders across the linear broadcast networks are becoming more flexible, accelerated by the pandemic.”

Flexible.

Sounds like that scene in "This Is Spinal Tap" when the band's manager is asked if the band is in trouble because it used to fill 15,000 seat auditoriums, and now they're playing to 1,500-seat auditoriums.

"No, not at all. I - I - I just think that the, uh, their appeal is becoming more selective."

Vincent said...

The TV snobs have taken over (curse you, David Bianculli!), and by decade's end there may be no multi-cam sitcoms. Too bad for the likes of the splendid "Bob [Hearts] Abishola," which I believe has several Nigerian writers and understands the clash between Nigerian and American cultures. (It's not strictly black and white, as Detroit's Nigerian community, as portrayed on the show, and its black American counterparts don't always see eye-to-eye.) Compare that to the overly broad humor of "The Neighborhood."

D. McEwan said...

"I'm Outraged! said...
I've tried listening to Pete Holmes podcast, but no matter the guest he always turns it into a religious & navel gazing borefest, inevitably analyzing what statement of the bleedin' obvious his spiritual guide has enlightened him with this week, there's no way his sitcom wouldn't head this way."


My feelings exactly! Could the network give him a negative order? Perhaps for "-10 episodes"?

Fat Basterd Inc. said...

1. I don't care about this Pete Holmes show because Holmes is an unfunny, swarmy jerkoff.
2. Like Ken I'm pissed we have to wait till next season to check out this new Night Court
series but hopefully it will finally get on a streaming service like Peacock instead having to buy or rent episodes on Apple or Amazonbecause of the new series.

Spike de Beauvoir said...

Once you download the app Becker is also available on demand, I think all the seasons are there. I really enjoy that show. Recently all the episodes of the original Hawaii Five 0 also available on demand.

Spike de Beauvoir said...

Why all the disdain for Chuck Lorre? Bob Hearts Abishola is a joyous take on Nigerian culture and highlights women writers and performers. Mom was very unconventional and transformed into a healing and intelligent show about recovery with great comic turns from Kevin Pollak, French Stewart, Linda Lavin, etc. I'm not a huge fan of BBT but it's still pretty entertaining compared to other shows. Lorre seems to hire and keep talented showrunners that foster the shows' longevity and originality.

Jim, Cheers Fan said...

Why all the disdain for Chuck Lorre?

all true, as far as I know (haven't seen Bob (Hearts) Abishola), but Two And a Half Men is a deep hole to climb out of

Fred said...

To FBI

• “Bastard” — not “Basterd”
• “Smarmy” — not “Swarmy”
• “It is to be hoped that it” — not “hopefully it”

Pete Holmes’ podcast sponsor spots were — and may still be —as unbearable as he is.
That he’s still getting high profile gigs suggests Putin wasn’t the only with pee tapes.

I have never seen more than five minutes of any Lorre program. Oh well




James Van Hise said...

That reminds me that I read they were going to revive Coach with most of the original cast (less Jerry Van Dyke, who was a key player) but then the network just decided, "Nah."

KCDennis said...

We watch The Equalizer because you have to have an alternative if the Sunday Night Football matchup isn't any good, but it is really nothing but a thinly-veiled remake of the first couple seasons of Person of Interest. More diversity in the cast, but other than that . . .