Logo

Adalian Column: Networks Could Use Some Laughs

Oct 3, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Now that the U.S. government has gotten into the bailout business in a big way, is it too much to ask that Congress next consider legislation to shore up the small screen’s sorry sitcom industry?

'How I Met your Mother'

PACKING A PUNCH Syndication sales of the Twentieth Television sitcom “How I Met Your Mother” could generate more than $300 million.

OK, as the sentence above suggests, my joke-writing ability clearly poses no danger to Chuck Lorre, Tina Fey or any of the dozen-odd souls still struggling to salvage what’s left of Lucy’s legacy. Likewise, since roughly 700 billion stories have been written in recent years declaring the Death of the Sitcom, devoting 800 more words to TV’s comedy crisis doesn’t exactly place me on the cutting edge of media punditry.
And yet, despite the fact that the networks are well aware of their comedy problem, the folks in power continue to ignore it. How else to explain the fact that, during premiere week last month, the Big Five aired a combined total of just 14 half-hours of comedy—six of them on CBS?
For years now, networks have explained away the comedy crisis by falling back on that old saw that TV “is a cyclical business.” Sitcoms would bounce back, they reasoned, just as soon as viewers tired of procedural dramas or reality shows.
Hasn’t happened. Even John McCain wouldn’t try to call the fundamentals of this sitcom economy strong. We’re in the middle of a comedic Great Depression, and the networks need to adopt a New Deal-style program to get the genre back on its feet.
The need for action has nothing to do with nostalgia for sitcom-friendlier times. I lived through NBC’s year of 18-comedies-per-week, and trust me, the world is a better place without the likes of “Union Square” or “Built to Last.”
What should be driving networks to act is money.
Just a few weeks ago, word leaked out that Twentieth Television could generate more than $300 million by selling “How I Met Your Mother” into syndication. That’s a huge number for a show that’s spent much of its existence on the bubble between cancellation and renewal each spring, and it proves that even a moderately successful multicamera half-hour can still end up a cash machine.
While the Big Five don’t always have a back-end stake in the sitcoms they program—CBS will get nothing from Twentieth’s sale of “HIMYM”—they all have sister studios who benefit from a healthy off-network marketplace. Likewise, though serialized dramas and reality shows might be great for boosting prime-time ratings, most are relatively worthless as long-term profit engines, at least compared to a successful sitcom.
But there’s another reason networks need to act quickly to save the laughter.
As recently as a decade ago, viewers still turned to network TV first when they wanted news, sports or programming for their kids. Now, cable dominates all three genres.
There’s already evidence the wired world is eyeing the sitcom for its next land grab. TBS has done nicely with “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne” and just began production on a possible new half-hour starring sitcom icon Valerie Bertinelli. FX has stuck by “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” recently ordering 39 more episodes of the young-adult hit. Comedy Central’s “The Sarah Silverman Program” is a buzz magnet.
One senior network executive I talked to last week agreed that network comedy was close to a tipping point.
“The problem is, once you slip below critical mass on something, it’s hard to get back up again,” he said. “It’s hard to just put a new comedy on the air and get people to come. You can do a pretty disastrous number.”
At least one network, CBS, is trying. In addition to fully supporting a four-comedy block on Mondays, the network this fall added two more half-hours on Wednesday. Early Nielsen numbers aren’t pretty, but they’re not horrendous, either.
What all the networks need to do now is plunge back into comedy with an almost reckless abandon.
Try everything, from blue-collar vehicles (remember poor people?) to “Sunny in Philadelphia”-style slacker shows. Hire everyone, from sitcom veterans to YouTube neophytes who’ve never stepped foot on a Hollywood soundstage. Find new economic models to make sitcoms less expensive. There’s no reason it should cost $1.7 million to produce 20 minutes of network-quality laughs.
And yes, executives need to be patient.
From “Cheers” to “Seinfeld,” from “How I Met Your Mother” to “The Office,” most recent sitcom hits have taken time to grow. No sitcom should even be greenlit unless a network is willing to take the time to nurture it. It might even make sense to start duplicating the cable model of producing numerous episodes of a show well in advance of its premiere date, allowing plenty of time for all involved to get it right.
Whatever network brass do, they need to do something. Because unlike the 1980s, Bill Cosby isn’t going to come waltzing in wearing a multicolored sweater and single-handedly save the sitcom.

132 Comments

  1. Sitcoms certainly beats the wall-to-wall barrage of courtroom shows on the air. I couldn’t make this up if I tried: In my market, courtroom shows dominate the slots between 9 AM and 4 PM, and then follow up with another two hours from 6 to 8 PM. That’s nine hours of court shows on one channel per weekday, 45 hours per week, 47 if you count the idiotic decision to put Judy and Joe on weekends. We need more comedy in our lives.

  2. What an absolute shame. Adalian writes an article that’s common sense to anyone with a pulse. To those in network development, this would be a revelation.
    Good work Joe. I’ve been shouting this from the rooftops for 5 years. Unfortunately my “rooftop” doesn’t hold much clout, so it’s meaningless.
    For nearly 70 years, Americans have returned home each day, tuned into their radios/tv’s and enjoyed comedies. A way to laugh and take the load off from a long day. Do networks think think this is a pastime that’s gone extinct?!
    The quoted “senior network exec” is either a fool or a defeatist. Developing sitcoms isn’t much more difficult than it is for the 18th procedural drama. The difficulty, is that the process of developing sitcoms specifically, is broken. It defies logic to those in the industry and would shock those out of it, how all creativity is sucked out in the process.
    I am not a writer, but I know dozens of talented, funny half-hour writers. Do you think they forgot how to write comedy? How could they create shows, when every G’damn network comedy exec ranks among the least funny people on Planet Earth? (NBC & ABC especially) How the hell does that equation pay dividends? It doesn’t.
    The lack of comedies and especially half-decent comedies, indicates a bubble mentality among network development.
    A real shame. And to think, these idiots get paid.
    “How I Met Your Mother” is nearly unbearable…and it’ll reap $300m…wake up.

  3. Very informative article, I have saved it and showed to to some of my friends already.

  4. nice blog i really appreciate it

  5. if every editor wrote like you believe me the world would be a better place! this was an excellent read expecting more!

  6. Thanks for posting this. Would be intrested to read more or possibly please contact me by email thank you!

  7. Thanks for posting this. Would be intrested to read more or possibly please contact me by email thank you!

  8. if every editor wrote like you believe me the world would be a better place! this was an excellent read expecting more!

  9. Thanks for posting this. Would be intrested to read more or possibly please contact me by email thank you!

  10. if every editor wrote like you believe me the world would be a better place! this was an excellent read expecting more!

  11. Been a fan of airplanes and aviation to get a long time, fascinating weblog.

  12. Fantastic information. Wish I could get more knowledge like this by other people! Thanks!

  13. It is also very essential to give importance to the comfort factor. You need to make it sure that the shoe you are wearing us comfortable and is made of good quality materials. You can try it before you actually buy it. Size is another important issue. Select the right size. Otherwise, you may face problem in walking.

  14. There are various types of trendy sandals that come in different colors, styles and they’re made with different materials. However, there’s one kind of sandal that somehow stands above the rest in getting people’s attention: the boot sandals.

  15. I came across this topic on another web site and didn’t quite get it, but this post makes it clearer to me now. Many thanks!

  16. Technology is getting more amazing as time passes. I cant wait to see whats being created 10 years down the road. Electronics have been devolping at such a rapid rate. Noone can expect whats coming next.how to patent something Thank you

  17. Wonderful to read!

  18. Great post!

  19. Thanks for your visiting this http://www.glamour-watches.com/replica-rolex-watches online store.

  20. Thanks for your visiting this http://www.glamour-watches.com/replica-rolex-watches online store.

  21. Sorry for the huge review, but I’m really loving the new Zune, and hope this, as well as the excellent reviews some other people have written, will help you decide if it’s the right choice for you.

  22. Thanks for your visiting this http://www.watchau.com online store.

  23. Wonderful to read!

  24. In related news, one of the women who slept with Tiger Woods said he never talked about golf during sex. Although, he did keep his head down and his left arm straight.

  25. Thanks for your visiting this http://www.hello-free.com/freebies online Free WebSite.

  26. Zune and iPod: Most people compare the Zune to the Touch, but after seeing how slim and surprisingly small and light it is, I consider it to be a rather unique hybrid that combines qualities of both the Touch and the Nano. It’s very colorful and lovely OLED screen is slightly smaller than the touch screen, but the player itself feels quite a bit smaller and lighter. It weighs about 2/3 as much, and is noticeably smaller in width and height, while being just a hair thicker.

  27. Good post, thanks

  28. Zune and iPod: Most people compare the Zune to the Touch, but after seeing how slim and surprisingly small and light it is, I consider it to be a rather unique hybrid that combines qualities of both the Touch and the Nano. It’s very colorful and lovely OLED screen is slightly smaller than the touch screen, but the player itself feels quite a bit smaller and lighter. It weighs about 2/3 as much, and is noticeably smaller in width and height, while being just a hair thicker.

  29. Salutations, This url is very interesting and easy to read. I am a huge believer of the topics written about. I also love reading the comments, but I notice that alot of readers must stay on topic to try and add more to the original topic. I would also encourage everyone to bookmark this page to your most used website to help spread the word. Thank you

  30. Things would often given to him, with airborne memory fi orbit to relax.

  31. You are such an amazing writer. Wishing you a strength and peace that surpasses all understanding as you continue to walk the high road … you are amazing, and I honor you for being YOU! You represent grace and dignity … with a smile that melts anyone blessed to be on the receiving end of it. God Bless you Always, Carrie!!!!

  32. I like this sport. You like it? what you think of it? If you have some time, it may wish to continue your article to share with you the happiness.

  33. Love the blog here. Nice colors. I am definitely staying tuned to this one. Hope to see more.

  34. Keep focusing on your blog. I love how we can all express our feelings. This is an extremely nice blog here :)

  35. really nice, thanks!

  36. Interesting thoughts here. I appreciate you taking the time to share them with us all. It’s people like you that make my day :)

  37. You make blogging look like a walk in the park! I’ve been trying to blog daily but I just cant find writing material.. you’re an inspiration to me and i’m sure many others!

  38. I agree with your thoughts here and I really love your blog! I’ve bookmarked it so that I can come back & read more in the future.

  39. I agree with your thoughts here and I really love your blog! I’ve bookmarked it so that I can come back & read more in the future.

  40. Interesting thoughts here. I appreciate you taking the time to share them with us all. It’s people like you that make my day :)

  41. I love the expression. Everyone needs to express there own opinion and feel free to hear others. Keep it up :)

  42. High quality info here! Keep up the great work. I love the feelings being expressed.

  43. Amazing freakin blog here. I almost cried while reading it!

  44. Way to focus and straight to your point, i love it. Keep up the work people. Dont let anyone stop us bloggers.

  45. Hey how are you doing? I just wanted to stop by and say that it’s been a pleasure reading your blog. I have bookmarked your website so that I can come back & read more in the future as well. plz do keep up the quality writing

  46. I love your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you create this website yourself or did you hire someone to do it for you? Plz reply back as I’m looking to create my own blog and would like to know wheere u got this from. thanks

  47. Great blog!! You should start many more. I love all the info provided. I will stay tuned :)

  48. The wrist watch is making a comeback! What would be a good watch to get my father?

  49. I can see that you’re an expert in this area. I am starting a website quickly, as well as your info will be very helpful for me personally. Thanks for those your own assist as well as wanting all of you the achievement inside your company.

  50. Nice blog here! Also your website loads up fast! What host are you using? I wish my website loaded up as fast as yours lol

  51. I agree with your thoughts here and I really love your blog! I’ve bookmarked it so that I can come back & read more in the future.

  52. Thanks for your insight for the great posting. I am glad I have taken the time to see this.

  53. Thanks much for the great document. I am glad I’ve taken the time to learn this.

  54. Just a heads up… your blog looks extremely bizarre in Firefox on a Mac

  55. Nice!! Great Ifo. Great People. Great Blog. Thank you for all the great sharing that is being done here.

  56. I really like the colors here on your blog. did you design this yourself or did you outsource it to a professional?

  57. I agree with your thoughts here and I really love your blog! I’ve bookmarked it so that I can come back & read more in the future.

  58. Amazing freakin blog here. I almost cried while reading it!

  59. keep going

  60. This is the best blog I’ve ever seen in my life! I really appreciate you taking the time out of your busy day to share your this with everyone.

  61. Love all the opinions expressed here! How is everyone? Love how everyone expresses whatr they feel :)

  62. Interesting thoughts here. I appreciate you taking the time to share them with us all. It’s people like you that make my day :)

  63. Keep focusing on your blog. I love how we can all express our feelings. This is an extremely nice blog here :)

  64. I read about this on a different web site and couldn’t fully see the implications, but your post explains it better. Thanks!

  65. Hey how are you doing? I just wanted to stop by and say that it’s been a pleasure reading your blog. I have bookmarked your website so that I can come back & read more in the future as well. plz do keep up the quality writing

  66. I came across a link to your website on another web site, and I must say… Your website is much better. You explain it more clearly, thanks

  67. Kudos to you! This is a really good blog here and I love your style of writing. How did you get so good at blogging?

  68. I am extremely impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout on your blog. Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself? Either way keep up the nice quality writing, it’s rare to see a nice blog like this one these days.. :)

  69. Great wordpress blog here.. It’s hard to find quality writing like yours these days. I really appreciate people like you! take care and see you soon

  70. Dreamin. I love blogging. You all express your feelings the right way, because they are your feeling, focus on your blog it is great.

  71. This is good info! Where else can if ind out more?? Who runs this joint too? Keep up the good work :)

  72. Interesting thoughts here. I appreciate you taking the time to share them with us all. It’s people like you that make my day :)

  73. I love the way you write and also the theme on your blog. Did you code this yourself or was it done by a professional? I’m very very impressed.

  74. Love the blog here. Nice colors. I am definitely staying tuned to this one. Hope to see more.

  75. I agree with your thoughts here and I really love your blog! I’ve bookmarked it so that I can come back & read more in the future.

  76. I am extremely impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout on your blog. Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself? Either way keep up the nice quality writing, it’s rare to see a nice blog like this one these days.. :)

  77. I stumbled on a link to your website on another web site, and I must say… Your website is much better. You explain things better, thanks

  78. Interesting thoughts here. I appreciate you taking the time to share them with us all. It’s people like you that make my day :)

  79. Interesting thoughts here. I appreciate you taking the time to share them with us all. It’s people like you that make my day :)

  80. I love the expression. Everyone needs to express there own opinion and feel free to hear others. Keep it up :)

  81. Way to focus and straight to your point, i love it. Keep up the work people. Dont let anyone stop us bloggers.

  82. Love the blog here. Nice colors. I am definitely staying tuned to this one. Hope to see more.

  83. This is the best blog I’ve ever seen in my life! I really appreciate you taking the time out of your busy day to share your this with everyone.

  84. Hey how are you doing? I just wanted to stop by and say that it’s been a pleasure reading your blog. I have bookmarked your website so that I can come back & read more in the future as well. plz do keep up the quality writing

  85. High quality info here! Keep up the great work. I love the feelings being expressed.

  86. Great blog!! You should start many more. I love all the info provided. I will stay tuned :)

  87. Hey how are you doing? I just wanted to stop by and say that it’s been a pleasure reading your blog. I have bookmarked your website so that I can come back & read more in the future as well. plz do keep up the quality writing

  88. Kudos for the great piece of writing. I am glad I have taken the time to read this.

  89. I love the expression. Everyone needs to express there own opinion and feel free to hear others. Keep it up :)

  90. This is the best blog I’ve ever seen in my life! I really appreciate you taking the time out of your busy day to share your this with everyone.

  91. I love your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you create this website yourself or did you hire someone to do it for you? Plz reply back as I’m looking to create my own blog and would like to know wheere u got this from. thanks

  92. I love your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you create this website yourself or did you hire someone to do it for you? Plz reply back as I’m looking to create my own blog and would like to know wheere u got this from. thanks

  93. Kudos to you! This is a really good blog here and I love your style of writing. How did you get so good at blogging?

  94. I agree with your thoughts here and I really love your blog! I’ve bookmarked it so that I can come back & read more in the future.

  95. Kudos for the great article. I am glad I have taken the time to learn this.

  96. This is the best blog I’ve ever seen in my life! I really appreciate you taking the time out of your busy day to share your this with everyone.

  97. Interesting layout on your blog. I really enjoyed reading it and also I will be back to read more in the future.

  98. Way to focus and straight to your point, i love it. Keep up the work people. Dont let anyone stop us bloggers.

  99. You make blogging look like a walk in the park! I’ve been trying to blog daily but I just cant find writing material.. you’re an inspiration to me and i’m sure many others!

  100. If you’re still on the fence: grab your favorite earphones, head down to a Best Buy and ask to plug them into a Zune then an iPod and see which one sounds better to you, and which interface makes you smile more. Then you’ll know which is right for you.

  101. Sorry for the huge review, but I’m really loving the new Zune, and hope this, as well as the excellent reviews some other people have written, will help you decide if it’s the right choice for you.

  102. Apple now has Rhapsody as an app, which is a great start, but it is currently hampered by the inability to store locally on your iPod, and has a dismal 64kbps bit rate. If this changes, then it will somewhat negate this advantage for the Zune, but the 10 songs per month will still be a big plus in Zune Pass’ favor.

  103. Hands down, Apple’s app store wins by a mile. It’s a huge selection of all sorts of apps vs a rather sad selection of a handful for Zune. Microsoft has plans, especially in the realm of games, but I’m not sure I’d want to bet on the future if this aspect is important to you. The iPod is a much better choice in that case.

  104. Between me and my husband we’ve owned more MP3 players over the years than I can count, including Sansas, iRivers, iPods (classic & touch), the Ibiza Rhapsody, etc. But, the last few years I’ve settled down to one line of players. Why? Because I was happy to discover how well-designed and fun to use the underappreciated (and widely mocked) Zunes are.

  105. This is the best blog I’ve ever seen in my life! I really appreciate you taking the time out of your busy day to share your this with everyone.

  106. Great blog!! You should start many more. I love all the info provided. I will stay tuned :)

  107. Appreciation for the great blog post. I am glad I have taken the time to learn this.

  108. High quality info here! Keep up the great work. I love the feelings being expressed.

  109. I love the expression. Everyone needs to express there own opinion and feel free to hear others. Keep it up :)

  110. Great blog!! You should start many more. I love all the info provided. I will stay tuned :)

  111. Thanks for your insight for the great written piece. I am glad I have taken the time to read this.

  112. I have found your website on page one of google. Congratulations :)

  113. This is the best blog I’ve ever seen in my life! I really appreciate you taking the time out of your busy day to share your this with everyone.

  114. Keep focusing on your blog. I love how we can all express our feelings. This is an extremely nice blog here :)

  115. Love the blog here. Nice colors. I am definitely staying tuned to this one. Hope to see more.

  116. You make blogging look like a walk in the park! I’ve been trying to blog daily but I just cant find writing material.. you’re an inspiration to me and i’m sure many others!

  117. I love the way you write and also the theme on your blog. Did you code this yourself or was it done by a professional? I’m very very impressed.

  118. I really like the colors here on your blog. did you design this yourself or did you outsource it to a professional?

  119. I really like the colors here on your blog. did you design this yourself or did you outsource it to a professional?

  120. Wow, I never would??? ve thought one could do such things with cardboard??¨?Coriginal and brilliant.

  121. Interesting thoughts here. I appreciate you taking the time to share them with us all. It’s people like you that make my day :)

  122. This is the best blog I’ve ever seen in my life! I really appreciate you taking the time out of your busy day to share your this with everyone.

  123. Great site. Going to take some time to toy with this job=D

  124. I would like to start my own blog one day. This was a really nice blog that you made here. Keep up the success 😛

  125. Repose a ass and you’ll examination beliefs

  126. Nice blog here! Also your website loads up fast! What host are you using? I wish my website loaded up as fast as yours lol

  127. Interesting thoughts here. I appreciate you taking the time to share them with us all. It’s people like you that make my day :)

Your Comment

Email (will not be published)