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Tears of a Clown: What is Going On With NBC's Comedy Development?

Color me concerned.

Longtime readers to this blog know that I've been extremely effusive about my love for the comedy division over at the Peacock. After all, NBC has had an amazing track record of late with their comedies like My Name is Earl, The Office, and 30 Rock even while foisting a certain suitcase-opening reality series on the American public.

Under Kevin Reilly's leadership, they single-handedly saved the single-camera comedy from virtual extinction after the death of Arrested Development and redefined the boundaries of American comedy programming with thoughtful, well-crafted, quirky series that have entertained this jaded writer endlessly.

So I was a little wary when, back in May, NBC only ordered one single comedy for the 2008-09 season following a development season that wasn't really anything to write home about (ahem, Area 57, ahem) save for a few precious gems like Zip and Lipshitz Saves the World. For the first time in thirty years (yes, thirty) NBC didn't order a single new comedy for its fall schedule. I find that... sobering, to say the least.

As for that one comedy ordered to series this year, it was a six-episode midseason order for a US adaptation of The IT Crowd. My hopes for this series' success were not high. After all, the script was virtually a facsimile of the original UK pilot episode and it even featured one of the cast members from that very same series (Richard Ayoade).

Now, according to The Hollywood Reporter, even that midseason order for The IT Crowd is now being called into question as the series has not gone into production, though several scripts have been written. (Meanwhile, co-star Jessica St. Clair was removed from the project.)

The reason behind the possible snub? According to "sources," newly installed network chief Ben Silverman and lieutenant Teri Weinberg (both formerly of Reveille) "didn't quite spark to IT [Crowd]."

However, the duo is said to be ramping up some comedy production with casting underway on comedy Kath & Kim, a US adaptation of the Australian comedy from Reveille, and is also said to be redeveloping Zip, about a con man/single dad and his brood dreaming of living the good life in Beverly Hills. That latter pilot is from (you guessed it!) Reveille as well. Hmm, is it a coincidence that the two comedy projects that Silverman and Weinberg are keeping alive just happen to come from their old stomping ground?

While I absolutely loathed the script for Kath & Kim, I will say that I was really excited by the original script for the witty Zip, which made my list of the top comedy scripts this past development season. My only hope is that this intelligent project does reach fruition. Otherwise, this could be the first season in a long time that NBC is devoid of any new laughs.


TxGowan said…
I'm confused. Isn't Chuck a comedy? Or do you mean exclusively single camera sitcoms?
Jace Lacob said…
Gowan, Chuck is a one-hour dramedy, not a comedy, which is traditionally defined as a half-hour, regardless of single-camera or multi-camera format distinctions. (I'd place ABC's Ugly Betty in the same category.)
Anonymous said…
I am sure it is no coincidence that Ben Silverman picked 2 shows that his old company had developed to keep around over a show that a rival (Fremantle) had developed even if he doesn't have a financial stake in Reveille anymore.

@Gowan. Comedy=1/2-hr. I refuse to believe DH or Betty are comedies, whatever the Emmy selection committee might say.
Anonymous said…
I find this extremely troubling, especially in an age of things like Deal or No Deal (the stupidest show in the history of television, next to Chains of Love) taking over the 8pm hour on most networks.

Would NBC ever greenlight shows like Seinfeld or Cheers today? I doubt it.
Anonymous said…
Kath and Kim was HORRIBLE. One of the worst scripts I've ever read.

NBC does have the best comedy lineup on television right now but they need to have things lined up for the future and should be champions for more great comedies like 30 Rock and The Office.
Carrie said…
I'm not sad to see The IT Crowd go, because the pilot was AWFUL.

As for the other shows, is it possible for Ben Silverman to greenlight an original comedy? One that hasn't been adapted from another market? I know that was his bread and butter at Reveille, but I refuse to believe that there are absolutely no interesting ORIGINAL comedy ideas being pitched right now.

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