TV SMILES KINDLY ON COMEDIES
Networks Order Bumper Sitcom Crop;
(The Wall Street Journal, May 17, 2011)
(Link to story on wsj.com)
'Anemic' Genre Now 'Reheated'?
BY SAM SCHECHNER
This fall, TV executives are betting laughter can make a comeback.
As broadcast networks unveil their schedules for the coming season to advertisers this week, they have ordered up a bumper crop of sitcoms and expanded the hours they devote to comedy. The move accelerates a renaissance in a genre that has for years lagged behind dramas in viewers—but remains highly profitable when it works.
With "upfront" week scarcely started, the four biggest broadcast networks have already ordered 15 new live-action comedies, according to people familiar with their plans, with others in development. That tally is up from 13 last upfront, and eight in 2008, according to figures from Interpublic Group of Cos.' Magna Global.
Walt Disney Co.'s ABC and Comcast Corp.'s NBC are making the biggest bets, ordering 11 new sitcoms between them. ABC has ordered five new sitcoms, including one starring Tim Allen, and is expected to announce a new comedy block when it unveils its schedule to advertisers on Tuesday, according to people familiar with its deliberations. NBC said Sunday that it would supplement its Thursday comedies, which include "The Office" and "30 Rock," with a new batch on Wednesday nights, including "Up All Night," starring Christina Applegate and Will Arnett.
"Any network wants more comedy," said NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt in an interview. "It's the most desirable type of programming in financial terms."
Comedies can be tricky. But networks have incentive to try. Sitcoms keep more ...