NBC is really good at two things. First, they create great comedies. Then, once they have things looking well, they mess it up royally. Their fumblings are almost poetic. Conan is the obvious example here, but take Parks and Recreation. This show became one of the funniest on television during it’s second season last year and how does the Peacock reward it? By bumping it back to mid-season in favor of Outsourced. Really good move (can you taste the sarcasm?)
Now it seems CBS is making a move on NBC’s domination of Thursday night funnies. The first hint was the push of The Big Bang Theory to 8pm on Thursdays as direct competition to Community, in its sophomore season comedic genius. The strategy makes sense, as Theory garnered a massive audience and became the top sitcom of 09-10. Then they throw in their new $#*! My Dad Says to follow Big Bang and have a nice little block of comedy on Thursday. But add on the fact that CSI follows these two and there is a massive audience there.
And it looks like they’re making a pretty big commitment to this block. CBS gave a raise to Big Bang’s three main stars over the next three years. And when shows can get canned before they’ve given room to breathe (Seinfeld sucked its first few years, remember), a three year behemoth at the traditional comedy slot is not a good sign.
And what’s NBC’s answer to all of this? Outsourced? The “hey let’s make a whole program about making fun of Indian people” show? *Face palm* Keeping Parks and Recreation out the public eye for half a season? *Double face palm*
Who is safe? Alternative comedies on cable. FX plays its safer with the raunchy It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, 10pm on Thursdays. After 10 and before 11:30 is a dead zone for laughs on networks (The Jay Leno Show proves my point). ABC has Wednesday on a lock with Modern Family and Cougar Town. Monday belongs to CBS (groan). Tuesdays belong to reality programming (which no comedy could hope to compete against) or Glee. NBC’s Thursday night comedy block was their one hope of regaining their pre-2000 dominance.
Needless to say, fans of great comedy should be worried. TV shows unfortunately live and die by their ratings (if only they could measure the internet! Woe is me). Big Bang is a decent show, watch it if you want (but not Two and A Half Men, never watch that show), but its not revolutionizing television. CBS has a massive audience because they create shows that pander to the lowest common denominator. $#*! My Dad Says could have been decent. The Twitter account its based on is very funny, but the show looks about as generic as you could get. Two and a Half Men is some of the laziest writing I have seen outside of a sixth grade poetry assignment. And then the Emmy's keep going to these guys! Jon Cryer winning over Neil Patrick Harris last year? Jim Parsons for best leading actor this year? Really? Sheldon is a moderately interesting character and Parsons does bring a nice nerd vibe to primetime TV, but he wasn't the best comic actor last year.
So what’s going to happen? Hopefully America will wise up in the next few weeks and start watching the truly great comedies on TV right now. Or the networks will wise up and start factoring in DVR and internet streaming seriously when looking at the success of a show. We could be in the later stages of TV’s new golden age. Let’s keep it around for a while.