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.
In a memorable episode of the classic TV sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun, Sally the alien and Officer Don are discussing becoming intimate for the first time. The straightforward Sally asks: “Well, Don, are you ready to rock my world?’ And the nervous Officer Don gulps and responds: “Well, perhaps jostle it a little bit.”
Officer Don clearly understood the perils of overpromising. It’s a lesson that President Obama and his administration are learning the hard way these days.