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Death Rattle: How The Big Networks Killed the American Sitcom


by Nick Loconsole
ENTERTAINMENT COLUMNIST
@NickLoconsole

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Seinfeld

I have a confession to make, I am prejudiced. My prejudice doesn’t lie with a particular group of people, but rather with a handful of major corporations, ABC, FOX, CBS, and NBC to be exact. These four networks are responsible for killing one of the most successful pieces of programming in history, the sitcom.

Before I go further a lesson in terminology is needed. There are two types of sitcoms, the multi camera and the single camera. A multi camera sitcom is one that is shot with; you guessed it, multiple cameras. It is typically filmed in front of a live studio audience, these are the shows with the laugh tracks we all hate, and despite this the most watched sitcoms have followed this format.

Examples of this type of show include Seinfeld, King of Queens, Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men, and, Everybody Loves Raymond. This type of sitcom dominated the 90’s; in fact I don’t know of a sitcom from the 90’s that wasn’t shot in this format. Eventually a new type of sitcom was introduced, the single camera. This type of show was shot in a style similar to a movie or a television drama. There was no studio audience, and a sound stage wasn’t used. Very often this type of show was shot on location somewhere. Probably the most well-known examples of this are The Office, Louie, Parks and Recreation, and Curb Your Enthusiasm.

 

There was a time in my life where I preferred the multi camera sitcom, I love Seinfeld, and I can watch it all day. But in the past decade or so there has been a turning point I feel. The quality of writing in multi camera sitcoms has dipped to an all-time low level. Why is this? It’s because the big networks don’t have to pay for talented writers. Today’s television viewer doesn’t want to be challenged by a sitcom; people want to be able to sit down after a day at work and not have to think about anything. Every multi camera sitcom on television right now requires no knowledge of story, characters, or setting to be enjoyable to the average person.

On the bright side, the selection of single camera sitcoms is amazing. If you are looking for a show to easily binge watch one weekend, please check out Silicon Valley. The show was created by Mike Judge, aka the dude who made Beavis and Butthead, King of The Hill, and Office Space. FX seems to be the one network that is putting their focus into producing high quality comedies; Louie, The League, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia are three of the best comedies on TV. Bill Burr recently got greenlit for a pilot on the network, and Billy Crystal has a new series starting in a few months.

I think we should all rejoice in the fact that the selection of drama’s on TV are as strong as they are, if we need to laugh we can just go on Youtube and watch videos of cats. Anyway, rant over, bye.