"Shrinking Sitcom Ratings May Be the Best Thing to Happen to Smart Comedies.” He points to the recent Fox pick-ups of NEW GIRL, MINDY PROJECT, AND BROOKLYN NINE-NINE despite their low ratings and thinks in this day and age, only niche comedies will thrive. Gone are the days of the big mass market sitcoms. Even mainstays like THE BIG BANG THEORY and MODERN FAMILY were introduced before so many viewers had DVR’s so they were able to get a toehold. Adalian believes this new niche trend is a good thing. Who needs mediocre shows like SEAN SAVES THE WORLD (an example he uses)?
In a desperate attempt to make money from these low rated shows, networks are selling heavily on demographics and looking for other revenue streams like streaming.
Adalian makes a lot of good points, but where he loses me is when he says all of this is good for the future of sitcoms.
Since when is shooting low a good thing?
In all of his arguments as to why the current crop is struggling to maintain an audience he neglects to mention that these shows are not really funny. Not to most people. Do you really laugh at THE MINDY PROJECT? Or NEW GIRL? You may smile but do you laugh? They’re quirky, they’re titillating, they depend a lot on irony (“Well, that worked out well.”) but they don’t make you laugh. BIG BANG THEORY makes you laugh. They have jokes, jokes that are funny. FRIENDS had jokes. Since when did “jokes” become passé? MODERN FAMILY sets up funny situations. So did FRIENDS. So did SEINFELD. So does BIG BANG THEORY.
I've spoken to very successful showrunners who lament that very few of today's young writers can write "jokes." Shouldn't this be a basic skill? It is if you're a comedy writer that hopes to be around for length of time.
We’re living in an age where GIRLS is considered a comedy. Any humor derived is a result of humiliation. And most of the time it's depressing or angry. Call it a slice-of-life if you like, call it a character study, but don't call it a comedy.
Someone will come along with a sitcom that is FUNNY and you’ll be surprised how many people absolutely flock to it. People of all ages. The humor won’t rely on humiliation, or pop culture references, or a gaggle of catch phrases (HAPPY ENDINGS), or juvenile vagina jokes (TWO BROKE GIRLS – a show whose ratings have plummeted), or joke-like structures but no actual jokes (THE CRAZY ONES). It’s a tall order I grant you. But why not shoot for that? One monster hit comedy can turn around a network. It can help launch other shows. In success and syndication a big hit comedy is the absolute motherlode. Warner Brothers will make a lot more money off of FRIENDS than Batman.
I don’t care if it’s a show about twentysomethings sharing an apartment, a police precinct, welders, senior citizens, single women, single men, single gynecologists, nerds, families, or aliens. I just want to LAUGH. I just want to be genuinely entertained. Make those shows. Let that be the next trend. Not celebrate shows that in truth deserve to be cancelled.
Don't kid yourself. If Fox had anything else, those three "smart" shows would be gone.