Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Bumper Crop Year

Most years, when the fall premiere season arrives, it is a safe bet that a majority of the shows will land with a thud. For some reason, only one or two shows will stick in a given year, but then along come these bumper crop years where the small screen is suddenly awash with brilliance.

This year is one of those years.

For some time now, TV pundits have spoken at length about the death of the sitcom. One of my favorite TV critics, Jamie J Weinman, whose blog Something Old, Something New gained enough of a following that Macleans Magazine snapped him up as their TV guy, made a very prescient prediction back in 2004.

In a nutshell, he posited that the single camera comedy was going to replace the traditional multi-camera format.

For some time, this prediction seemed like the yammerings of a yahoo, as networks kept on cranking out the multi-cam shows, like According to Jim, Til' Death, two failed Kelsey Grammer projects (Back to You, Hank), and any number of other, unmemorable wastes of time.

In the past several years, only two multi-camera shows have reached the level of hit status - Two and a Half Men, and The Big Bang Theory. And while these shows are definitely hits with audiences, creatively they are somewhat hit and miss.

But this year we hit the jackpot. Shows like Community, Modern Family, The Middle, Glee (Not a sitcom, but pretty darn funny), and Seth McFarlane's latest franchise "The Cleveland Show" have been hitting all their marks, breathing life into what had appeared, for some time, to be a dying, or even dead, genre. All of these shows, as it happens, are single camera shows, with no laugh track, not shot in front of a live studio audience. Kind of like Corner Gas... Actually, exactly like Corner Gas.

I'm not sure if Corner Gas had any influence on this trend (and it's a long shot that it would have), but just as Corner Gas recharged Canadian TV, especially Canadian comedy, shows with the exact same format, such as 30 Rock (which is probably what sparked this trend in the US) have done the same in the US.

WHatever happens, it will be interesting to see how this trend grows and develops.

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