Friday, January 20, 2012

It’s just not funny. What happened to sitcoms that actually made us laugh?

Last Man Standing
This past Thursday, ‘The Big Bang Theory’ marked its 100th episode.

While I was watching it, I realized something amazing – this show is the exception rather than the rule.

What do I mean by that? It’s one of the few sitcoms on the air that is actually funny.

I mean, think about it, the majority of shows billed as comedies on the air these days aren’t really funny.

Take Monday night’s CBS comedy block of ‘How I Met Your Mother,’ ‘2 Broke Girls,’ ‘Two and a Half Men’ and ‘Mike and Molly.’ Only two of those shows are funny.

2 Broke Girls
In the case of ‘How I Met Your Mother,’ sadly the show has lost any spark and momentum it once had. Now fans are fatigued by the fact that we’re seven seasons in and there’s still no hint of the mother. What was once unique about the show is now becoming super (wait for it) annoying. When you couple that with the fact that they’re adding a baby to the mix, it becomes apparent it’s time to let the show go.

Essentially, the same can be said for ‘Two and a Half Men.’ Actually, this show should have been put out of its misery years ago – long before Charlie Sheen cracked up and the show runners threw a Hail Mary pass that ended with an Ashton Kutcher touchdown. Even though the ratings are still up, the quality is non-existent and it’s time to let this show go.
Modern Family
On NBC, the aging ’30 Rock’ is also starting to show signs of wear and tear. While the first two seasons were funny, that’s when it peaked. It’s been all downhill since then. ‘Community’ has a subversively funny undertone, but unfortunately that doesn't seem to be resonating with audiences and the show is now struggling in ratings and demographics.

Then there’s ‘The Office’ – a show that can’t quite seem to find the ‘Cheers’ magic. By that I mean, when you lose one of the lead actors (like ‘Cheers’ did with Shelley Long) you have to essentially catch lightning in a bottle when you bring in a new lead. ‘The Office’ hasn’t managed to do that and it's failing. Big time.

On FOX, things are a little more interesting. They have their staple of animated comedies like ‘The Family Guy’ – which still hold up well (although ‘The Simpsons’ should be put out to pasture) but their live action comedies aren’t exactly setting the ratings world on fire.

That brings us to ABC, which probably has the strongest comedy on network television today (Showtime’s ‘Episodes’ and FX’s ‘Wilfred’ are still better) in ‘Modern Family.’ It also has the ‘The Middle’ – which a lot of people seem to like (I’m not one of them) and undeservedly compare to ‘Roseanne’ and ‘Happy Endings,’ which might actually have a future if the writing keeps improving like it has this season.

That’s really it for established sitcoms.

The new crop of comedies is fairly dubious, too.

Work It
CBS’s ‘Two Broke Girls’ has been lambasted for being crude and crass – but both those things appeal to me so I enjoy it. That being said, the walking stereotype that is ‘Rob’ should be abolished as quickly as ABC’s unfunny ‘Work It’ – which was trying to be ‘Bosom Buddies’ and instead ended up being a really unfunny ‘Sorority Boys'

That brings us to NBC’s ‘Are You There, Chelsea?’ Now I happen to love Chelsea Handler and her E! television show. I’ve also read three of her books and laughed out loud at each one. I expected her sitcom to be a slam dunk. The only thing I can honestly say about it that isn’t cruel, though, is that the girl that plays the roommate is kind of funny. The rest of the show is as loud and obnoxious as the overused laugh track.

Are You There, Chelsea?
On ABC, freshman series ‘Suburgatory’ shows promise, but it could come at the expense of ‘Cougar Town,’ which is too bad, because the worst thing about that show was its name. It was actually pretty funny from time to time.

Tim Allen returned to his favorite network with ‘Last Man Standing,’ where he’s the father of three girls instead of three boys this time. Of course, the only highlight of that show is Kaitlyn Dever, who has shown she’s as deft at comedy as she was at drama on last season’s ‘Justified.’She deserves better than this forced farce though

And, finally, FOX’s ‘The New Girl,’ starring indie wonder Zooey Deschanel, seems to be gaining traction – but I think that’s mostly because Deschanel appeals to men in a nerdy/sexy way. The show really isn’t that funny, no matter how appealing Deschanel may seem.

I have a suggestion for those who are going to try and launch new comedies next season, and here it is: Try treating your target audience like they’re smart instead of stupid. I know it’s a stretch, but it’s worth a shot.

The New Girl
As viewers, we don’t need a laugh track to tell us when to laugh (at least I don’t). If it’s truly funny, we’ll know when to laugh.

Also? Stop casting Rob Schneider in anything. He’s not talented and he’s never been in something that’s truly funny.

Finally? If a comedy is smart, well-written and well-acted, then viewers will come. So try and give a show more than two weeks to find a target audience before you axe it. Remember, ‘Seinfeld’ wasn’t a hit in its first season either.

What do you think? What are the best comedies on television right now? What are the worst?


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