And this is rarely getting updated, which is fine because I doubt anyone out there is reading it…
There were a couple premiers this week. Summerland is about a free-wheelin’ gal who suddenly has to take care of her orphaned niece and nephews. This drama is populated not with characters, but with Character Types and Stages Of Grieving. Not much here to care about.
Come to Papas is a wacky husband comedy that isn’t particularly funny.
To me, the big news this week is that HBO is getting into the traditional sitcom business. This is surprising, since the traditional live-studio-audience, multi-camera sitcom has been suffering and is not known for the sort of material that marks HBO’s originals.
It is, however, a brilliant move. The sitcom business is struggling, with the three biggest hitters going off the air over the course of two years (Friends, Frasier, Everybody Loves Raymond) and networks eager to fill their slates with reality TV and police procedurals. The few surviving sitcoms that are getting audience or critical attention are largely not traditional sitcoms but single-camera shows filmed without a live audience: Malcolm in the Middle, Arrested Development, Scrubs (and, of course, the long-running animated sitcom The Simpsons.) But part of the reason for the struggle is that sitcoms pull in an older audience, not the young folks that the advertisers crave. HBO doesn’t care about advertisers., and they like shows that can draw the attention of an older, more sophisticated audience. HBO hits the competition where they ain’t, and there’s always something to be said for that.
But the part that makes this brilliant is that it foresees an upcoming shortage. The syndication of sitcom reruns is a huge business; while they may be falling out of favor during network prime time, they are still the staple of local programming in the hours before and after prime time. The things that are filling network hours, the reality shows and the hour-long dramas, are not the sort of things that fare well in broadcast rerun syndication. There will be a large demand for quality popular sitcom reruns that will not be being filled. Making the next Cheers, the next Seinfeld, Roseanne, or Friends could make HBO a ton of moolah. And with HBO’s fertile creative system and the large sitcom talent pool that is going untapped, this seems an achievable goal.