The Death of Sitcom

frostytheplebe

Seventh Part of the Seal
Over the years, I've watched this type of afternoon/evening TV show go down hill at an increasing pace. Now they are in a downward spiral. It seems that the entire genre has taken a back seat to mindless teenagers who swear up a storm, didn't go to college, and just berate each other and cry... I'm speaking of course of REALITY TV!
Gone are the really qualities sitcoms starting M*A*S*H* and going down the line with Taxi, Cheers, and Sienfeld. After Cheers left primetime television following a hugely successful run (Discounting seasons 6, 7, and most of 8), sitcoms really became a dime a dozen. Frasier picked up where Cheers left off and some argue (not me) that is was a better show overall. Wings was a less successful spinoff that also had a decent run.
A few members of cheers attempted to have their own careers after the show. The Tortellis, another spinoff never made it passed the pilot episode, but Ted Danson saw quite a bit of success from the movies he was in, followed by Becker. Becker was his stand alone achievement. It had a successful run with a fun cast, and his own sarcasm augmented the dry humorous attitude of the show.
Sienfeld was arguably (again, not by me) the greatest sitcom of all time. It saw huge success with a following that has remained intact since the show's final episode. However, it empowered the cast to go out and attempt a slew of TV series that flopped one after another. The only one to see any real post Sienfeld success was Julia Dreyfus, on her latest show "The New Adventures of Old Christine" which has somehow managed to stay on air.
Other various classic TV sitcoms also saw a lot of success such as Coach, Home Improvement, and 3rd Rock From the Sun. However by the mid to late 90s with the end of these shows, and the rise of shows like Survivor, The Real World, and then an over abundance of reality shows on MTV and VH1 (I'm sorry weren't these Music channels?), Sitcoms were slowly going out of style.
During the mid 2000s attempts were made to revitalize the genre with shows like 'Back to you" (very funny!) but these were badly hurt by the writers strike. Today this group is kept alive by shows like "Two and a Half Men," and "Scrubs."
However today, the term sitcom is now including animated shows like the Simpson and Family guy.
That said, I've been flicking through my overpriced cable looking for a decent new Sitcom and did not find ANYTHING of interest. I can usually pick out a show that will flop after one or two seasons and most of what I saw, including a new show featuring some stupid kid who ten years from now will be the next Lindsay Lohan, and another show featuring Melissa Joan Hart, it doesn't seem like there is much potential and the amount of good sitcoms out there is quickly starting to thin.
 

LeHah

212 Squadron - "The Old Man's Eyes And Ears"
That said, I've been flicking through my overpriced cable looking for a decent new Sitcom and did not find ANYTHING of interest.

Consider yourself blessed. For every Office, All In The Family or MASH, theres a dozen types of My Mother The Car, Hi Honey I'm Home and Family Guy.

Its a dead genre because its rarely any good. Do something other than watch TV, man.
 

Shaggy

Vice Admiral
I think sitcoms have become like superhero movies. People are cranking out loads of them with little mind paid to the quality of the show. Then as viewership drops the network execs start flailing around for something new and they settle on "reality" shows because there's little financial risk for a potentially big reward.

For the most part I've completely written off sitcoms and network TV, mainly due to "reality" shows, and have gone more and more to USA and SyFy, maybe because I crave something more than simple comedy. Burn Notice is one of my favorite shows because it's funny and has good action in it, rather like True Lies. Eureka and Warehouse 13 have that same sort of underlying comedy with weird mysteries. And Whale Wars is just unintentionally hilarious, it is my only reality show guilty pleasure.

Anyway after Fox cancelled the live action Tick series, sitcoms have been dead to me.
 

Farbourne

Rear Admiral
What happened to good sitcoms? Why are there so many awful ones on?

Easy...you grew up, and got older, wiser, and smarter.

Back in the day there were a ton of awful, un-funny sitcoms on, just as there are today. But, obviously, the bad ones (usually) don't get syndicated, re-played, remembered, and talked about, so we get this idea about the mythical "good old days" when TV was so much better. The same thing happens with music (and, for that matter, video games)...at any given time, there is a ton of crap, a fair amount of unspectacularly average products, and a few gems. Wait ten years, and the only ones people will remember are, mostly, the gems.

Also, your standards are probably higher now. I recently was watching some old episodes of Family Ties, Who's the Boss, and other like shows on TV land. I had loved those shows when I was about seven... Now, with an adult eye, I see that they were awful. On family Ties, for example, Michael J. Fox is the only member of the entire case with a shred of acting talent, and even he is only funny about a third of the time.

Try going back and watching some of those old sitcoms (not MASH or Cheers, etc., those truly are great) but some of their less storied contemporaries, and you'll see that there really were awful sitcoms back then, too.

And there are some good ones being made even today. The Big Bang Theory is quite clever (especially if you are a geek like I am), for example.

I won't argue that so-called "reality" TV is the scourge of the new generation, though.
 

Bandit LOAF

Long Live the Confederation!
Over the years, I've watched this type of afternoon/evening TV show go down hill at an increasing pace. Now they are in a downward spiral. It seems that the entire genre has taken a back seat to mindless teenagers who swear up a storm, didn't go to college, and just berate each other and cry... I'm speaking of course of REALITY TV!

I think the problem is that you're naming the handful of absolute classic sitcoms from previous years... but you're leaving out other categories. For every amazing show you mentioned there were dozens and dozens of other shows that were immediate flops, that weren't succesful enough to make it to syndication or that were popular for a time and just aren't considered relevant anymore.

(Case in point--Google tells me M*A*SH first aired in a block of four sitcoms. The others were "Anna and the King", "The Sandy Duncan Show" and "The New Dick Van Dyke Show". I bet no one has thought about any of these shows in many years. )

During the mid 2000s attempts were made to revitalize the genre with shows like 'Back to you" (very funny!) but these were badly hurt by the writers strike. Today this group is kept alive by shows like "Two and a Half Men," and "Scrubs."

Scrubs was really a shame because the early episodes of Scrubs were the closest thing to M*A*S*H I'd seen in years, able to pull off goofy comedy and still have an emotional impact... but it moved up its own ass to a stunning level that made you feel bad about ever liking it. (Scrubs is finally dead now, though--ABC didn't pick it up for next year.)

That said, I've been flicking through my overpriced cable looking for a decent new Sitcom and did not find ANYTHING of interest.

NBC's 2009-10 Thursday night sitcom lineup was *great*--one of those rare nights of TV that I looked forward to each night. "Community" and "Parks and Recreation" were both outstanding sitcoms. "The Office" and "30 Rock" are both getting a bit long in the tooth but were still worth watching. (They're bumping Parks and Recreation to midseason replacement for 2010-11, which will surely number among mankind's most terrible sins... but check those shows out, regardless.)

And there are some good ones being made even today. The Big Bang Theory is quite clever (especially if you are a geek like I am), for example.

As an impossibly huge nerd I have to disagree with this--to me it feels like a paint-by-numbers sitcom that has these sort of cloying shout-outs to our 'geek culture'. I'd really like to like it more than I do.

(You know what it does have going for it, though? It's the most colorful damn thing in the universe, like somebody exploded a rainbow in front of my TV for some reason. It's hard not to watch it because the sets and the costumes and everything is so pretty.)
 

frostytheplebe

Seventh Part of the Seal
And Whale Wars is just unintentionally hilarious, it is my only reality show guilty pleasure.

Whale Wars... you know I used to watch this show because I studied Naval History in college and have always been big in to Maritime procedure and law. What can I say, I always saw myself in the Navy.
I watched this show just because the crew were SO INCOMPITENT! They got nothing done and didn't save a single whale!
Second and third seasons really got boring and repedative. I mean most of the show consisted of just, "Today we almost caught the whaling fleet, but something broke down on the ship that we didn't see coming, or we neglected to do."

I even saw that their fleet temporarily tripled until they sank one of either ships!

Personally, I like Deadliest Catch better. That show sucks you in and keeps your attention... but thats more of a drama.
 

Worf

Vice Admiral
The problem with sitcoms, and many other scripted shows, is pure cost.

Reality TV is cheap. You spend a bit on marketing, a bit on cheap prizes, and that's it. Your actors work for free (contestants), and you just need a voiceover or host. No script, no writers, no second takes (unless a re-take will let them do a "did team X manage this? Find out next week!" thing). Sure you still need a crew and all that, but it's still cheaper. Filming and all that is quick, too, so you only need the crew for maybe a few weeks tops.

Sitcoms, dramas, etc., require writers, set directors and prop directors to create/build the necessary props, etc.

A typical reality series can be filmed completely in about two weeks, maybe three, if you do an episode a day. It requires some planning on the challenges, but if you're on season two, you can re-use most of the challenges from the first season (== free!). As a result, in a year you can easily do two full seasons' worth of shows and a miniseries and all the promos and everything.

Whereas a drama/sitcom takes 2-3 weeks from start to finish - a week to 8 days for the writers to come up with an episode, a week with the actors filming, and a week of post-production. A typical season can take the better part of a year to film. Plus, you have to work around actor's schedules, which may mean filming scenes from other episodes, out of order, etc. There's a reason for the summer break and winter break - it gives time to catch up on episode production. And the actors can be expensive, $100K-$1M per episode they're in. And the writers have to maintain some semblance of a story arc.

Animated shows are even more expensive, which is why their seasons are even shorter.

Then there's shows that aren't fully scripted, but aren't fully ad-hoc as well, like what you get on History or Discovery (e.g., Mythbusters, Deadliest Catch, Dirty Jobs, etc), which are also pretty expensive to film because there's often time delays involved, but you can script a lot of actions and hope to fill the remaining time with adhoc shots of interesting stuff. The real work though is in post-production to produce a cohesive work and fix up a lot of things and do all the illustrations and overlays, etc. Still pretty quick to actually do, but the effort's in post.

Boils down to money, and as revenues drop (people skip ads), quality of shows declines to the reality dreck of Survivor and crap. Still a few good sitcoms and dramas, but they're well established, award winning ones, so the networks can command premiums because they know they got the eyeballs.
 

Prometheus

Spaceman
Sitcoms going down?

Finally!

Everything about them feels soooo old-fashioned and trite. Of course it doesn't help when they have re-runs of sitcoms that are already decades old all the time.
 

Mancubus

Rear Admiral
The problem with sitcoms, and many other scripted shows, is pure cost.

Reality TV is cheap. You spend a bit on marketing, a bit on cheap prizes, and that's it. Your actors work for free (contestants), and you just need a voiceover or host. No script, no writers, no second takes (unless a re-take will let them do a "did team X manage this? Find out next week!" thing). Sure you still need a crew and all that, but it's still cheaper. Filming and all that is quick, too, so you only need the crew for maybe a few weeks tops.

Sitcoms, dramas, etc., require writers, set directors and prop directors to create/build the necessary props, etc.

A typical reality series can be filmed completely in about two weeks, maybe three, if you do an episode a day. It requires some planning on the challenges, but if you're on season two, you can re-use most of the challenges from the first season (== free!). As a result, in a year you can easily do two full seasons' worth of shows and a miniseries and all the promos and everything.

Whereas a drama/sitcom takes 2-3 weeks from start to finish - a week to 8 days for the writers to come up with an episode, a week with the actors filming, and a week of post-production. A typical season can take the better part of a year to film. Plus, you have to work around actor's schedules, which may mean filming scenes from other episodes, out of order, etc. There's a reason for the summer break and winter break - it gives time to catch up on episode production. And the actors can be expensive, $100K-$1M per episode they're in. And the writers have to maintain some semblance of a story arc.

Animated shows are even more expensive, which is why their seasons are even shorter.

Then there's shows that aren't fully scripted, but aren't fully ad-hoc as well, like what you get on History or Discovery (e.g., Mythbusters, Deadliest Catch, Dirty Jobs, etc), which are also pretty expensive to film because there's often time delays involved, but you can script a lot of actions and hope to fill the remaining time with adhoc shots of interesting stuff. The real work though is in post-production to produce a cohesive work and fix up a lot of things and do all the illustrations and overlays, etc. Still pretty quick to actually do, but the effort's in post.

Boils down to money, and as revenues drop (people skip ads), quality of shows declines to the reality dreck of Survivor and crap. Still a few good sitcoms and dramas, but they're well established, award winning ones, so the networks can command premiums because they know they got the eyeballs.

While all you say is true, there is actually a number of ongoing drama series that are really, really good stuff I.E House, Dexter, Californication, to call some that got even to this part of the planet . I'ts just Sitcoms that are bad these days..
 

razgriz21

Spaceman
I can't stand Jersey Shore at all.

I miss Everybody Loves Raymond (Patricia Heaton is a MILF) along with Coach.
 

frostytheplebe

Seventh Part of the Seal
I can't stand Jersey Shore at all.

I miss Everybody Loves Raymond (Patricia Heaton is a MILF) along with Coach.

I dunno, I liked everybody loves raymond, but I spent most of the time wanting Ray to actually stand up to his wife for once, she blamed him for everything, where if you actually trace everything back, most of their situation was her fault. I actually liked "Back to You" despite that it failed after less then two seasons, because she faced off against a man who actually had some dignity about him, Kelsey Grammer.
 
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