It’s been a tough couple of years for the network comedy business, a fact well-known to Samie Kim Falvey, soon to be ABC’s top comedy development executive.
But in a network landscape where reality and dramatic one-hours have steadily replaced comedy blocks, obituaries for the genre should not be written yet, she said, noting that television programming has a “cyclical nature.”
“A few years ago people were saying all of scripted was dead,” Ms. Falvey said, pointing out that the rise of reality overshadowed comedy and drama. “I fully anticipate comedy will come around. You can’t say the genre is dead.”
Ms. Falvey, who has been with Fox for the past seven years, starts her new job, senior VP of comedy development for ABC Entertainment, in July. While the network has enjoyed a turnaround in its fortunes with one-hours such as “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Lost” and reality series including “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and “Wife Swap,” success in comedy has remained elusive. The other networks, meanwhile, have seen some inklings of hope with their new comedies, such as CBS’s “How I Met Your Mother” and NBC’s “My Name Is Earl” and “The Office.”
Rebuilding the comedy genre on broadcast television requires some soul-searching on the part of the industry, Ms. Falvey said: “We have to recognize our mistakes.”
One of the challenges of mastering the traditional multicamera sitcom format, which is often defined by a live studio audience and a show that’s shot entirely on a soundstage, requires writers to learn the specifics of the genre, but learning the format “can beat it out of you,” Ms. Falvey said. “It can homogenize the voice.”
That means the industry has to discover promising talent and “find a way to nurture and foster them,” she said.
At Fox Ms. Falvey worked on developing and nurturing several projects, including the live-action family comedy “The War at Home” and the animated series “American Dad,” from “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane. She also helped develop Fox’s fall sitcom “‘Til Death,” a multicamera comedy that employs single-camera shooting elements.
Using shots that break the traditional multicamera wall and take the characters out of the soundstage allows comedy creators “to challenge themselves,” Ms. Falvey said. But the industry doesn’t have to abandon the traditional sitcom format to get comedies to work on television, she said, using the example of CBS’s “Everybody Loves Raymond.”
“The simplicity of it was so beautiful,” she said. “You would never want to see that show in single camera. If we really have something to say in the multicamera form, people will show up.”
Still under contract with Fox, Ms. Falvey is mentally preparing for her new job at ABC. But this new assignment will mark her first time running a comedy development department. In essence, she will be doing many of the same things she did at Fox, including reading scripts, developing series, judging casting and making deals. But aside from moving up the executive food chain, Ms. Falvey will be leading the charge for her passion projects.
“I’m now in the position to throw myself under the bus,” she said. “I can really stick my neck out for what I believe in.”
Title (starting July 1): Senior VP of comedy development for ABC Entertainment
Date of birth: Oct. 6, 1974
Place of birth: Boston
Big break: Ms. Falvey’s first desk job was with Vince Manze, president and creative director of The NBC Agency. She also was once an NBC page.
Ms. Falvey has six sisters who are of four different ethnic backgrounds.