Tuesday, September 7, 2004

The Death of the Sitcom?

With both Fraiser and Friends having ended their run, I have been reading that the sitcom is dying, if not already dead. I don't believe it for a minute. After all, this is something I have heard before.

I will admit, that the new crop of sitcoms debuting this season do not seem very promising to me. I do not have high hopes for Joey, the spin off from Friends. While I do believe that actor Matt LeBlanc has talent, the character of Joey is not one that will allow him to display it. For me Joey was always the most boring character on Friends. He seemed to be the token fool on the cast, with not a lot of depth or complexity. On an emsemble cast such as Friends, Joey could be quite funny, but only because he had other people to play off of. I'm not sure that as a lead character he will be able to anchor a show. The rest of the characters are going to have to both be very interesting and they are going to have to be able to act as straight men for Joey. Of course, beyond my concerns over whether Joey could hold his own on a show, there is the fact that the writing team being Friends is the same one behind Joey. Given the fact that I think the quality of Friends declined significantly in its last several years, I don't have high hopes for the quality of scripts on Joey.

As to other sitcoms debuting this season, some of them boast big names, but none of them seem very interesting. Center of the Universe features John Goodman, Ed Asner, Olympia Dukakis, and Jean Smart. Unfortunately, the show does not seem particularly original. Unfortunately, the concept does not seem very original. It concerns a couple (Goodman and Smart) who have problems because of their off the wall family (Goodman's parents Asner and Dukakis). Despite the collective talent of the cast, I don't think the series hold much promise. Listen Up features Jason Alexander as a sportswriter/TV host. A lot of the series centres on his homelife. The series is based on Tony Kornheiser's Washington Post columns, which I have heard are very funny (I've never read them myself). And Jason Alexander is very talented; he was by far the best actor on Seinfeld. Unfortunately, the concept behind the series, despite being based on Kornheiser's columns, reminds me a lot of Everybody Loves Raymond and Dave's World. In other words, it doesn't sound particularly original. ABC has re-arranged their TGIF line up, adding Complete Savages. The show centres on Keith Carradine as the father of five sons. Now I do have to give it marks for centring on a single father, something we have not seen in some time on television. The problem is that the show is on ABC, the network that has given us Hope and Faith and My Wife and Kids. I have to seriously wonder about the quality of the show.

As to returning sitcoms, the only one I really like is Scrubs, although it can be inconsistent at times. I do think Everybody Loves Raymond, The King of Queens, and The George Lopez Show are quality shows, although they aren't really my cup of tea. As to the rest, I am still a bit puzzled as to how most of ABC's sitcoms and most of CBS's sitcoms have managed to survive. Indeed, Still Standing seems to me to simply be The King of Queens with kids.

The outlook for sitcoms is then not exactly cheery this season from my point of view. But that does not mean the format is dying or dead as many in the media would have us believe. In the early Eighties many thought the sitcom was dead. It was at that point that Cheers and The Cosby Show revitalised the format. After both The Cosby Show and Cheers left the air, many thought the sitcom would go the way of the dinosaur. It was then that Friends and Frasier debuted, while Seinfeld finally got the recognition it deserved. Even if there are no breakout hits this season, I suspect there will be next season or the season after that. The sitcom format has been around for a combined total of 75 years on both radio and television. At no point in that 75 years have there been no sitcoms on the air. For better or worse, the sitcom will survive.

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