My short answer: Yes
One things that’s become increasingly clear this very mediocre season is that the sitcom truly is back. No, there haven’t been any new sitcoms that have broken out (not that there’s many dramas that have either) but the biggest shows on TV in the demo are comedies. Modern Family has been the#1 demo show the last few weeks. The Big Bang Theory is now the highest rated demo show on Thursday night (last 2 weeks). The Office continues to be NBCs biggest scripted hit (and NBCs biggest hit overall that’s not Football). Mike and Molly is one of Fall’s biggest new hits and all of that can’t all be attributed to its lead in. I actually expect this show to continue to grow. Even Outsourced is holding more than an acceptable amount of its The Office lead in.
Another things that is clear: Comedies work better when paired with other comedies (in a block). CBSs Monday block has been hugely successful for years. NBCs comedy block has produced 2 Emmy Winners and much critical acclaim and does quite well with the younger male demo, not to mention high income households and therefore commands higher ad rates. After years of not being able to develop a successful sitcom, ABC came up with 3, last season. I don’t think it’s coincidental that they all launched in a much touted “Comedy Wednesday” block as opposed to the 9:30 Monday slot after DWTS (like another good, but unfortunately, prematurely cancelled sitcom “Samantha Who”).
The 10p hour has proved disastrous for new shows this season on any network that’s not CBS. Assuming that theory of comedies work better with other comedies, why wouldn’t ABC and NBC just extend their successful comedy blocks another hour and add two more sitcoms to their respective lineups.
Whenever I present this idea to anyone they simply say networks can’t do it. It doesn’t work. To which I say the last time I remember this even being attempted was Fall of ’91 when ABC had Anything But Love and a Terri Garr comedy “Good and Evil” scheduled there. The fact is, Anything But Love was hardly a smash and was on its way out. (I personally was a fan though) . Also, and more importantly, it was 1991. There were no DVRs then, there was no online viewing. People weren’t watching basic cable for hit dramas then. Most importantly, there was no reality TV. What I am getting at, is the TV industry has changed by leaps and bounds since this was last attempted. Networks now actively program Summer. The audience has changed, How they watch TV has changed and we’ve all had to change our thinking. We need to remove all our antiquated ideas that just doesn’t apply anymore. I think it would benefit the networks to at least try scheduling comedies at 10 especially when they already have existing blocks. Let’s face it, they can’t do much worse than some of their new dramas and in many cases it would give these shows their best shot at finding an audience. I will now examine how NBC and ABC might go about scheduling some of their comedies at 10p
Most pressing: They have Parks and Recreation sitting on the shelf, waiting to be scheduled. I honestly don’t see them transplanting this to another night as it wasn’t exactly burning up its Thursday slot last year and I personally think a move outside their Thursday block would prove disastrous. I just don’t see them risking killing one of their major critical successes. NBC also has Perfect Couples, Friends With Benefits and 6 eps of The Paul Reiser show waiting to be scheduled. One could make the argument, “well NBC has 4 new sitcoms waiting, they could always just start another comedy night”. The problem is where: Mondays are taken, Wednesdays are taken, Thursdays are taken by them. I don’t see them moving The Biggest Loser off of Tuesdays. I guess that does leave Sundays in Jan. It’s not inconceivable, but considering the young males they might be courting are already watching animated comedies on FOX, I don’t think so.
So what I would suggest first and foremost is for them to do what every critic has suggested thus far. Bring P&R back in Jan behind The Office. At 10p they could stunt with The Office reruns for a few weeks and move Outsourced to 10:30. Let’s face it, ABC and CBS have successful dramas in that hour already. ABC scheduled Modern Family reruns at 8p for most of last season and it provided a very good lead in to The Middle. I don’t see them trying Harry’s Law or Love Bites there as the audiences that would be watching those shows are already being served on CBS and ABC respectively . Maybe after a few weeks, Outsourced could move to 10 and one of their new relationship comedies could air at 10:30. OR in March Outsourced could take a break for 6 weeks and they could schedule their 2 new relationship comedies from 10-11. Either way the comedies would have a better shot airing as part of a comedy block and they know they wouldn’t be competing with the other 2 nets for comedies. NBC’s comedies also skew younger and they could certainly make an impression with 18-34. Bottom Line: It would give new NBC sitcoms a shot at succeeding and it could shore up a tough time period. If they somehow make an impression, next season NBC could use 1 or 2 of them to start another comedy night. (My guess is The Paul Reiser show gets a shot for a few weeks in Spring in place of 30 Repeats).
Suggestion: Based on this week’s numbers, I’d advise NBC to flip 30 Rock and Community – It seems Community could be doing much better not against The Big Bang Theory. Plus Community leading into The Office gave that show its highest number in weeks and in turn beat GREYS for the night.
ABC has Happy Endings and Mr. Sunshine awaiting timeslots. This is even more simple to me. ABC has no other nights to schedule these sitcoms and have a shot at success. The only night with no other comedies is Tuesday and when they tried that with Scrubs/Better Off Ted, well, we know how that turned out. Again, ABC’s only recent sitcom success has come on Wednesday. It’s also known that ABC hasn’t been able to launch a Wed 10p drama in… I honestly can’t remember. This slot for them is like what Tuesdays at 10p was for CBS for years between Judging Amy and The Good Wife. I was honestly hoping for ABC to move Cougar Town to 8:30 and use Modern Family to launch their best new sitcom this season, Happy Endings. I think their lineup would benefit tremendously from this move. They just renewed Better With You, so I don’t see this happening now (or until March/April at the earliest). It does appear ABC may be ready to try Off The Map Wed at 10p come Jan and I do think that would fit better after the female skewing Cougar Town and be good counter programming to the law dramas in that hour, but part of me still wonders if they might try Happy Endings at 9:30, slide Cougar Town to 10p and schedule fellow friend Matthew Perry’s Mr. Sunshine at 10:30. Mr. Sunshine is really a workplace comedy and doesn’t really fit with the rest of the comedies (or anything on ABCs schedule). ABC has ordered 13 eps of Off the Map so it possible they won’t have this slot free til April and then they could try the comedies there but if Off The Map hits, they wouldn’t want to change that schedule.
It’s all speculation at this point but the bottom line is, I think broadcast needs to start thinking about scheduling comedies in the 10p hour sooner than later.