Bob and Justin's Mad Movie Blog

My name is Bob. My friend Justin and I are aspiring filmmakers and we have pretty similar tastes in movies. This will include our take on what's going on in film and television today as well as updating you on the status of our own work.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Where's the Comedy?

The new fall TV season has already begun. "House" returns tonight, followed by the series premiere of "Standoff," starring Ron Livingston which automatically makes it at least watchable. I've taken a look at the new fall lineup and while some shows look good ("Heroes," "Studio 60," "Shark"), I'm wondering where are the comedies?
For the past several years people have been lamenting the so-called "death of the sitcom." I for one have seen a rejuvenation of it. When "Scrubs" premiered in 2001 it was like a breath of fresh air. Two years later "Arrested Development" came on and it became basically my favorite TV show ever (after "Freaks and Geeks"). But now the Bluths live only on DVD and NBC has relegated "Scrubs" to coming back as a mid-season replacement. Their treatment of the show is absolutely disgusting. To their credit, yes, it's still on the air, but where is the glowing advertising that they've given to "My Name Is Earl" and "The Office," the only two good sitcoms coming back this fall? If the sitcom is dying, it's because network executives have been smothering them with a pillow.
What is appalling is that of the five broadcast networks, only two of them have really given imaginative sitcoms a chance, Fox and NBC. However, Fox has an itchy trigger finger and a bunch of 14 year old girls heading their marketing department, so shows such as "Arrested" and the much-missed "Action" never had a chance of lasting very long. NBC meanwhile allows "Scrubs" to exist while doing a poor job of marketing it, but their pride in "Earl" and "The Office" suggests that somebody over there is trying to champion good television. Still, I always have to cry foul when they praise "The Office" for being "original." It's a RE-MAKE, and of a very very recent show at that. (As much as I love our version, the Britcom was funnier.)
Meanwhile, ABC and CBS still think that sitcoms should be shot on three basic sets with a laugh track. That used to work at the advent of television because those old sitcoms had the sense of being on stage. It was like watching a play broadcast into your living room. Why, fifty years later, do they still think that that's the way to do it? It doesn't work anymore. "Seinfeld" was the last of the great "laugh track" sitcoms. What made that show great though was that it defied the convention that sitcom characters had to be nice. True, Archie Bunker had been a bigot twenty years earlier, but on "Seinfeld" they were all self-absorbed jerks. It was comic genius. UPN and WB didn't really do anything for sitcoms (aside from maybe "Everybody Hates Chris," which admittedly I still haven't seen), and it appears that CW's going to continue that tradition. (Thank God they have "Veronica Mars" and "Smallville.")
So what hope does television comedy really have? Comedy Central has "Reno 911!" which may not be quite as good as it used to be, but is still uproariously funny. FX has the laugh-out-loud funny "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," which has been accurately described as "'Seinfeld' on crack." Then there's the current webcom "Nobody's Watching" has a shot at being picked up by NBC later this year. The pilot shot for WB was never aired but has become an absolute smash on YouTube. The concept? It's about two guys who love sitcoms but find the current crop of them to be severely lacking. That alone makes it better than 95 percent of what passes for TV comedy. It's network comedy's next real hope. It'll be smart, original, and genuinely funny. Don't be surprised when it gets trounced in the ratings by "According to Jim."


At Wed Sep 06, 01:05:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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