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August 2005 Sitcom Scoop By Jamie

As we close in on the beginning of yet another network television season, let’s glance back at the 2004-2005 season. We saw a lot of break- out hits. Desperate Housewives, Lost, House...Anyone notice a trend here? Where are the sitcoms? Joey? There probably isn’t a bigger Joey fan out there than me, but I would hardly call it a breakout hit, and it is as close to a hit that the genre had last season. What’s going on in the network television business? The sitcom is without a doubt my favorite form of programming, but the style has seen a tremendous down-turn in popularity among the major networks over the course of the past several seasons. I can remember when I first really got into tracking network television in the fall of 1997, NBC had programmed 18 sitcoms on their fall schedule...last year? They had a total of 3. What’s happening to this genre? There needs to be an injection of life into this style of television before it is only a distant memory. I really don’t see what the problem is. The sitcom provides for a wonderful platform to showcase an actor or ensemble’s talent. There is endless possibility for story development for the writers.

One problem with this genre in recent years has been that many shows are force fed to us just because they have a big name star headlining the series. Let’s face it, if a show doesn’t have a lot of character development and a great story line....we will just tune out. I seriously hope this style of television receives the injection of life that it needs and soon. I thought that with the return of Jason Alexander last fall in the CBS sitcom “Listen Up” that we could possibly be in for a break out hit. Nah, the show flopped. You may ask why. The show had great name recognition in not only Jason Alexander but also Malcolm Jammal-Warner as well. The show had a great time slot. But there was something lacking. For me, I never did really care for the characters. To be involved in a situation-comedy a viewer must make a type of connection with a character on the show. I mean if you don’t care about a character on the show why tune in, right? This show just seems to lack any true character of its own.

Which moves me to my next gripe. NBC. I’ve always been a great fan of NBC. In fact at one time almost every show that I watched regularly aired on this network. What in the world has happened? The network has gone down the tubes if you ask me. And they can’t blame it all on the loss of “Frasier” and “Friends”. Some of it can be chalked up to sheer stupidity in my opinion. NBC’s first mistake: in the spring of 2000 NBC announced their schedule for the next season. One major omission was left out of this schedule in my opinion. That omission was “Jesse”. Remember this show? As you will find out I am a major fan of this show and I still can’t believe NBC cancelled it after only two seasons. Now look where NBC is.

I really think that Regis Philbin helped knock the sitcom to its feet. During the first year of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”, I can think of at least three sitcoms that were canceled to make more room for this show on the schedule. One of those was Peter Mehlman’s “Its Like, You Know...” Does anyone else remember this show? It was promoted as a west-coast Seinfeld. Jennifer Grey played herself and was great in the show. This show had the potential to be huge. But instead, ABC opted for 8 nights of “Millionaire” a week.

I have noticed that there are several new sitcoms on the schedule this fall on the various networks. A few of these jump out at me when I am reading descriptions, cast listings, and such. One of those shows is, “How I met Your Mother”, which stars Neil Patrick Harris (Doogie Howser, M.D.) and Allyson Hannigan ( Buffy The Vampire Slayer). The show’s premise seems pretty fresh, the show has a great cast, and the show has a great timeslot. (Monday 8:30, CBS) Let’s just hope the show doesn’t fall prey to the same fate as “Listen Up”. Another sitcom that I am interested in seeing premiere this fall is “Twins”, which will air on the WB on Fridays at 8:30. This show stars Sarah Gilbert (Roseanne). Like I have stated, I have seen no more of these series than anyone else, so I may watch the first episode of each of them and never tune into them again. But these are two of the new sitcoms that jump out at me when I am browsing the fall line-up.

In this column, I am also going to try to feature a television sitcom some of us may have forgotten about each week. The show I have picked for the first edition of my column this week is “Just The Ten Of Us”. Does anyone else remember this show? It aired in the late 80's as part of ABC’s T.G.I.F line-up. The show began as a spin-off of “Growing Pains” and actually ran for 47 episodes. The series followed the life of Coach Graham Lubbock, his wife Elizabeth and their 8 children as they are uprooted from their New York City home and moved to Eureka California when Graham gets a job at St Augusteen’s, an all boys school. Well being a family that includes 4 attractive teenaged girls you can imagine the chaos that ensued once the girls enrolled at their father’s new school.

The show was well-acte and, well-written and always made you feel good after you watched. I’ll grant you, I was about 8 when this show began airing. I still remember making sure I was in front of the television whenever this show came on. Since the show has been canceled a few of the stars have went on and continued acting, but many have not been on television as of late. Jamie Luner, who went on to star in Fox’s “Melrose Place” and the WB’s “Savannah”, is probably the best known from the cast. If for some odd chance you ever get the chance to sit down and watch this show, please do so. I promise the show will leave you with a nice feeling inside after you get done laughing so hard your ribs hurt.

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