According to Variety magazine, the "Bible" of the U.S. entertainment industry, the buzzword among the traditional Big Five networks for the new season is comedy. And that makes sense.
Audiences continue to shrink and networks must rein in costs. CBS is asking for a 20 per cent reduction on many of its procedurals including its three CSI clones as well as Without A Trace and Cold Case.
Procedurals are costly to film because many exterior locations outside studio walls must be needed as well as large casts and buckets of guest stars and even multiple writing teams.
Now Variety tells us a slow but expected return to half hour comedies is to be expected and why not?
Sitcoms faded about a decade ago after years of being the favorite fare of TV audiences.
I think I know the answer. The comedy veterans of early TV had retired by the 1990s or were dead. think Lucy Ball, Eve Arden, Phil Silvers in front of the camera as well as such producers as Larry gelbart (M*A*S*H) and Norman Lear (All In The Familyt) and Grant Tinker (Mary Tyler Moore).
The networks began hiring for comedy people who just were not that funny. I was on the set of the sitcom that starred Geena Davis. It was a fragile confection with such co-stars as Mimi Rogers and *(*(*(*( who while nice in person had not experience in starring in a sitcom shot before a live studio audience.
The movie stars too big for the TV screen were used and predictably both Bette Midler and Whoppi Goldberg bombed in their comedic vehicles.
Ratings for procedurals have declined --CSI without William Peterson is a less popular show and other CBS series like Without A Trace and Cold Case are still on the bubble --they haven't been renewed for next year.
NBC has a new procedural in Southland but its ratings have shrunk since it started up and Life is definitely gone.
However CBS has ordered a spin off from NCIS proving some procedurals are still functioning at acceptable audience levels.
But if not procedurals what? Well, there are two new medical shows. And a few new sci fi entries but remember such si fi classics as Star Trek were not that popular when first shown.
That leaves comedies.
Veteran Chevy Chase is in one called Community for NBC. Courtney Cox, Alyssa Milano and Patricia Heaton are back in new sitcoms. Scrubs unexpectedly got a renewal slip from ABC and CBS says all its comedies are coming back.
And sitcoms are dirt cheap to make with their emphasis on a few key sets.
A couple of hits among the new entries and sitcoms could be back to stay.