NBC says its comedies recently haven’t performed well in the fall, so they are saving some of their sitcom shows until winter. Instead of comedies, NBC’s fall viewers will see lots of dramas and various permutations of Law and Order shows.
Why are comedies struggling on a network that used to be loaded with them? Maybe it’s that people don’t feel much like laughing these days, or maybe it’s just that it is very tough to write a comedy in the current environment. Much of the TV comedy we remember from days gone by involved plots and storylines that pushed the envelope, with humor that often was based on making fun of someone or some thing. Modern sensitivities would find many of the shows that we laughed at a decade or three ago very offensive. How many episodes of Seinfeld or The Office, for example, would provoke howls of outrage if they were aired today? Asking a sitcom writer to be consistently funny while steering clear of any possible controversy or humor that might hurt someone’s feelings is tough duty.
You have to wonder about the future of comedy, given current views, and whether NBC’s comedy-free fall is a precursor of the future. Maybe we should change that phrase to read “comedy freefall” instead.
I haven’t been watching because the constant efforts to jazz up the Winter Olympics with new “sports” really don’t make this seem like the Olympics at all. I’m not a skier or skater or big winter sports participant, but in the past I’ve enjoyed watching traditional Winter Olympic sports like the bobsled — which is the best named sport, by the way — or the downhill, ski jumping, and hockey. But when we were over at our friends’ house for a dinner party Saturday night and the Olympics was on the TV, it featured an event where snowboarders were jumping up and skidding on bannister-like contraptions and launching off of artificial hills to do spins and tumbles. It was as if the Winter Olympics had mated with a circus act, and the next thing you know a performing bear riding a bike would appear. That single hopelessly artificial, jazzed up event perfectly summarized the desperate efforts to make the Winter Games more exciting and appealing to the slacker kids down at the local skateboard park. The X Games have invaded.
One of the other people at the party said my reaction reflects the thinking of old codgers. No doubt that is true. I’m not saying that people who can do skateboard-like moves on a snowboard don’t have some athletic ability, I’m just saying that such contrived events seem to reflect more of a desire to create ratings and interest, rather than the “Olympic spirit” that is supposed to be the underpinning of the Games. And that’s why I’m not watching.
Huh? The Secretary has presided over the most disastrous rollout of a federal program in living memory, the country is currently grappling with the fallout from that failure and other issues posed by the Act, and Senator Brown is channeling his inner Oprah and asking Secretary Sebelius to speculate about a legacy?
In fairness, these kinds of politicized questions aren’t unusual. As the NPR story also reports, a Republican Senator used his entire allotment of time to make a critical speech, without asking Secretary Sebelius a single question. What’s the point of having Cabinet officers testify if they aren’t asked questions?
These partisan antics are the kinds of things that drive me nuts about Congress. There are dozens of entirely legitimate questions to ask Secretary Sebelius about how this landmark statute is working, why the website wasn’t better designed, and other topics of great interest to Americans who are trying to understand why the rollout of “Obamacare” could be so mishandled and what they must do to comply with a complicated statute. Can’t members of Congress lay aside their party affiliations and their desires to make speeches, even once in a while, actually ask questions that should be answered, and get answers that will help them to decide how we can move forward?