Wednesday, August 23, 2006

New sitcoms this fall

Brian Lowry has a rather insightful piece currently up at Variety.com about what's wrong with the American sitcom. Though this list could stretch for several pages, he hits on a key problem: No comedians.

No longer is network sitcom land a happy home for rising comedians. As Lowry put it, "The high point stretched from Bill Cosby to its peak in the 1990s, when Roseanne, Tim Allen, Jerry Seinfeld, Paul Reiser, Garry Shandling, Brett Butler, Bob Saget, Drew Carey and Martin Lawrence all starred in long-running comedies."

You may not like all of those (and I surely don't), but you have to admit it's an impressive roster. With this deficit in mind, here's a look at some of the big sitcom titles coming to your TV this fall.

NBC

NBC is making a strong push to bring back Wednesday nights for sitcom land with the pairing of "30 Rock" and "Twenty Good Years" back to back from 8 to 9.

Though the premise for "30 Rock" sounds too familiar to another NBC offering "Studio 60" - a behind-the-scenes look at a "Saturday Night Live"-type show - my money is still on this one doing well. It's in good hands with the very talented Tina Fey starring and writing, and she will be joined on screen by Rachel Dratch, Alec Baldwin and Tracy Morgan.

I had hope for "Twenty Good Years," given its two leads, but the early word from Herc at AICN (who I always trust) is that this one will just stink. It's a shame, given Jeffrey Tambor and John Lithgow star as two aging best friends who vow to live their remaining years to the fullest. Heather Burns and Jake Sandvig round out the cast.

Coming later will be "Andy Barker, P.I.," a second stab at sitcom work by Andy Richter. And, eventually, we will finally get new episodes of Scrubs, hopefully in its usual doubled-up format.

ABC

ABC seems to be making the strongest comedy push this fall, so I wish them well.

The biggest buzz surrounds "Ugly Betty," which if I'm not mistaken will take the 8 to 9 slot on Fridays. Executive produced by (but unfortunately not starring) Salma Hayek, this one focuses on "Ugly" Betty Suarez (America Ferrera), a rather plump, unstylish girl from Queens trying to swim with the sharks at a high-fashion magazine. Given the "surprising" success of "The Devil Wears Prada" this summer, look for this to do very well, even in the graveyard that is Friday night. Eric Mabius and Vanessa Williams round out the cast.

In other ABC offerings, Peter Cambor and Jennifer Westfeldt play an unexpecting couple in "Notes from the Underbelly" at 8:30 on Thursdays. Hilarity hopefully ensues as they first try to keep it a secret, then field often-unwanted advice from friends and family.

Preceding that in what I guess will be known as "young couples' hour" will be "Big Day," in which the whole season focuses on one couple's wedding day (maybe I'm wrong, but aren't you dooming yourself to just one season with this rather silly premise?) Marla Sokoloff from "The Practice" and Josh Cooke are our young heroes, and Wendie Malick and Kurt Fuller round out the cast.

One last fairly promising title from ABC is "The Knights of Prosperity" (silly title winner), in which a group of unlikely bandits conspire to break into Mick Jagger's swank New York City apartment. Not sure when this one will be scheduled or if Sir Mick will make an appearance, but I like this premise and Donal Logue is involved somehow, so I'll tune in.

RIP: In what could only be described as mercy killings, ABC has pulled the plug on "Hope & Faith"and "Freddie."

CBS

CBS is turning to a familiar name for a new offering in its Monday night sitcom bloc. Coming at 8 this fall will be "The Class," an ensemble comedy from "Friends" co-creator David Crane about a group of 20-something friends who met in the third grade and reunite 20 years later at a party.

If this sounds like a shameless ploy to re-create the "Friends" formula, it certainly is. It has five unknown (for now) stars - Andrea Anders, Jon Bernthal, Lizzy Caplan, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Heather Goldenhersh. This one should be a big hit with everyone in the world except me.

Coming later in the season but still unscheduled, Seinfeld's Puddy (the always-welcome Patrick Warburton) will star in "Rules of Engagement," about relationships in New York City.

RIP: "Courting Alex" and "Out of Practice." I couldn't tell you the first thing about either of these.

FOX

Fox has two major sitcom offerings this fall, led by "Til Death," which will see if Brad Garrett's schtick can sustain a show Thursdays at 8 (my money's on yes, but I won't be watching.) Garrett and Joely Fisher play a middle-aged couple who find they have new neighbors in newlyweds played by Eddie Kaye Thomas and Kat Foster. I'm sure many enlightening life lessons will ensue, if you really need any.

Following "Til Death" will be "Happy Hour," which just sounds dreadful. As far as I can tell, it's about a small-town dude who moves to the big city, loses his girl and falls in with a smooth operator in need of a roommate. If that tired premise doesn't turn you off, you can tune in to see stars John Sloan, Lex Medlin, Nat Faxon, Jamie Denbo, Beth Lacke and Brooke D'Orsay.

Seth MacFarlane of "Family Guy" and "American Dad" will surely keep the jokes flying fast and furious when he takes a stab at a live-action sitcom, "The Winner," not yet scheduled.

RIP: The death knell for "The Bernie Mac Show" began sounding a few years ago, but it finally rang true last spring. Though it was a bit preachy at times, I always liked the Mac's delivery, and the kids were all very funny. You will be missed, Mr. Mac.

The CW

I'm afraid I have nothing but enmity for the CW when it comes to comedy, given how shoddily they're treating "Everybody Hates Chris." I'll still tune each week, but moving this one to 7:30 Sundays, where it will surely get murdered by NFL football, is unforgivable.

Even worse, "Chris" has the ignominity of lauching the CW's new comedy bloc I can only call "ghetto night." The only new entry in the dreadful lineup that follows "Chris" is "The Game," which purports to go "behind the scenes" of a NFL team with the girlfriend of a third-string wide receiver for the San Diego Chargers. It stars Pooch Hall, Coby Bell, Tia Mowry and Hosea Chanchez.

Well, there it is. I'll definitely be tuning in for "30 Rock," probably tuning in for "Ugly Betty" and maybe tuning in for a few others. Feel free to let me know what you think about the state of sitcom TV.

13 comments:

Chris said...

I just read that "Ugly Betty" will be playing Thursdays at 8 ET competing against the likes of "Survivor" and will be the lead-in to "Grey's Anatomy," also recently moved to the Thursday slot.

Reel Fanatic said...

Thanks for the update, Chris ... I had seen some reports of Thursday, and some of Friday ... Thursday will be a tough slot, but it should do well anyway

Marty said...

Unfortunately, The Sitcom is dead.
I guess we can 'hope' for something to blow us away this fall, but I doubt it.

carrie_lofty said...

You said of "Big Day": maybe I'm wrong, but aren't you dooming yourself to just one season with this rather silly premise

I thought the same about "Notes from the Underbelly." Anatomy and basic human development dictate that the secret has to come out - literally - after a maximum of nine months. Most times, the introduction of a baby to the plotline ("Mad About You," "Friends," etc.) signals the death knell of a show. This one just seems to have skipped to the end of its run straight away.

Reel Fanatic said...

You may be right, Marty, but I always try to give one or two shows a chance to win me back each year

The baby is absolutely almost always a cry for help, like you say, Salome .. this one may well be finished right at the start

Koenig said...

I believe "Big Day" and "Notes From the Underbelly" have both been pulled until midseason.

Reel Fanatic said...

Ah ... guess my news is out of date by a bit .. thanks for the update, Koenig!

themarina said...

When I saw the ads for "Ugly Betty", I was immediately sold. I'm not big for TV watching but there are a few that I follow religiously and this one may be added to my list. Looks like it'll be a funny one.

I share your thoughts on the new one from the "Friends" dude. I swear, I was the only person who didn't (and still don't) like that show. I guess maybe I just didn't get it...

Reel Fanatic said...

I don't have strong animosity towards "Friends," Marina ... I just didn't quite get it as much as most people seemed to .. I think the sad fact is that I was simply too old (at least in my mind)

the get up kid said...

i loved friends, seasons 1 thru 5, most notably episodes written by scott silveri. but something changed; i'm not sure what, but maybe as you said, i just got too old.
i think a lot of the inventive minds that could have kept the sitcom alive if given the chance were shut out by the success of the shows previously mentioned, and are now writing and producing in other areas in television, such as sketch com (mr. show, SNL, Ben Stiller show) and animated shows (Futurama, FG, Simpsons, the entire adult swim lineup). I think people like bob odenkirk, charlie kaufman, tom kenney, ben stiller, david cohen, tim heidecker, dave willis, and david cross could have done great things with the sitcom format. oh well, i guess i'll have to be content with animated and tv drama for the next few years.

Reel Fanatic said...

It truly would be great if some network had the sense to hand the reins to Odenkirk and Cross for a sitom, Get Up Kid, but something that smart is probably just wishful thinking

Sitcoms Forever said...

Reality TV seems to be eating everything up. It is either reality TV, Law and Order versions 1-110 it seels, and SCI on so many chanels and way to often. I remember shows like Night Court, Taxi, Cheers and the list goes on that carried Networks at times. Now it seems the Sitcom is just to expensive for the Networks to invest in with so many chanels in the market fighting for the same ad dollars. It is a shame though. If you look at a small Canadian company and see this concept (www.jamesmillerproductions.com and www.stretched.tv) they are trying to get past development with new shows including a sitcom that I think would fly and looks funny. They also though are trying drama and reality shows if you see their "in Development" section. I thing many comedy writers are also feeling the pinch of the "Death of Sitcoms" but hopefully network execs start to realize they have gone way to far the other way. Just my thoughts.... Feel free to respond.

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