Thursday, September 14, 2006

Sitcoms

The sitcom used to be my favorite TV medium. It's half an hour with no point other than to make you laugh. That has to be a sign of how far we've advanced as a race. At least some portion of every day is set aside for nothing more important that simple laughter. Iran doesn't need nuclear energy, it needs sitcoms. (Contest: who can come up with the best Iranian sitcom? Ex.: Everybody Hates Schwartz.)

Sitcoms lately have hit a rut, though. Since Phil Hartman died and Michael J. Fox got Parkinson's it seems like the networks have shied away from novel situations for their situation comedies. Sitcoms don't have to all be about the same thing. You could, for instance, have a show about a bar. Call it something like, “Bottoms Up!” That might do OK. Or 4 Friends in New York Hang Out. It worked twice already (Seinfeld and Friends). Think of Three's Company. It wasn't that funny, it was the exact same episode every week (Ex.: Jack misunderstands something Chrissy says, spends the whole episode not asking, "is this what you meant?"), but it was an interesting situation and it worked.

A final note on sitcoms. Brad Garrett was really funny in ELR because he didn't have to carry the show. He could be goofy and weird in a way the lead character can't. It was pretty much his job. Why not, for the obligatory series-after-the-series-that-made-me-famous, cast him in another supporting role? It's not that it's impossible to make the jump from supporting-to-lead, but it's pretty rare. And it's obvious when it's going to work. Here's a guaranteed hit (listen up Networks): an all-star cast of secondary goofballs. No leads. Bring together – for instance – Costanza, Kramer, Karen (W&G), Robert (ELR), Woody, etc... and just set 'em loose on some random city. Complete mayhem.

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