Space Ramblings

Networks try to Learn from their Past Stupidity with More Stupidity

During the past week, the broadcast networks made their series bets for next season, gambling on high-concept large-ensemble big-budget dramas, while retreating from comedy.

Good idea guys. That worked so well for you last season. Oh but you’re smarter now. No more Jericho, Kidnapped, The Nine or Daybreak for you. Now you’ve got shows about moonlighting vampires, musical noir comedy and a cuban wine making family. How the hell could you possibly lose?

All networks except Fox ordered comedy slates dominated by single-camera projects, each on average said to cost more than $3 million. Only ABC stuck with the form in its series pickups — ordering three comedies, all single-camera. Meanwhile, NBC and CBS ended up ordering one multicamera comedy series each, and Fox opted for two multicamera and one single-camera series.

“Comedy is clearly in a challenged stage,” Warner Bros. TV president Peter Roth said. “Half-hours seem to be more irrelevant and predictable than ever before.”

They’re irrelevant because you’re making irrelevant and predictable shows. NBC has pretty well demonstrated that it’s entirely possible to do it well and you guys have gotten tired of playing catchup with NBC on the comedy front all over again. But then again ABC and CBS haven’t exactly been known for their innovative comedies anyway. Not for a long long time. So just go back to ordering more According to Jim and Charlie Sheen and a Half Men on Drugs.

NBC’s only comedy series pickup, the NBC Uni TV Studio-produced “The IT Crowd,” is a hybrid multicamera with single-camera elements.

Translation their attempt to repeat the success of The Office. Which to them seems like a safe bet.

Additionally, 20th Century Fox TV for the past couple of years has been successfully experimenting with the multicamera format on its CBS comedy “How I Met Your Mother,” a multicamera series that is not shot in front of live audience to make room for several more sets on the soundstage. That allows for more flexibility and shorter scenes.

Why for goodness sake are we still using live audiences. Yes it was innovative when Desi Arnez did it on I Love Lucy, but it’s long since become utterly annoying and pointless. Laugh track sitcoms are basically associated with the shows your grandpa watches. And shows with an audience but without a laugh track may be gratifying to performers but otherwise senseless.

“We would’ve loved to have been able to produce (‘Aliens’),” Bromstad said. “This is a single-camera comedy, and we thought that with the license fee CW could offer, we couldn’t do the show justice creatively. The financials ahead for a comedy on CW are also not proven, so it was just financially too risky.”

We would have loved to have produced Aliens but we don’t like throwing money out the window and any CW comedy that doesn’t involve sassy black women has as much chance of surviving as a pie hurled from the space shuttle. Also the entire concept of this project is so stupid it should have been an 80’s FOX sitcom.

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