Now that Joey
is DOA on its return, again we have the debate about the death of what we know as the traditional sitcom. My question is, was Joey
that bad? No, it wasn't as topical as Sex and the City
or as well written as Frasier
, but Joey
never set out to be either of those shows. It was a sitcom with some basic, familiar characters and uncomplicated story lines. Twenty years ago shows like Growing Pains
and Who's the Boss?
were top-10 hits, and I think Joey
compares in format to these shows. Do you think that Joey was a substandard version of the traditional sitcom, or have we so evolved due to clever writing that it has all but destroyed the basic sitcom? A show like Frasier
at its peak only comes along once in a decade, so if that has become our benchmark for comedy, of course anything else is going to pale in comparison. On a related note, can you envison a day when the comedy categories in the Emmys will become obsolete now that, by default, noncomedy shows (like Desperate Housewives
) have to be nominated just to fill up the numbers. Although, if TV goes in cycles, remember that everyone had declared the sitcom dead in the early '80s (even Cheers
suffered in its first few years), until The Cosby Show
came along and reinvented the genre (or maybe just filled a desperate void). Can you see that happening again? Will we be so sick of the glut of criminal-procedural dramas that we'll return to the comfort of the 22-minute laugh track again? Or has that gone for good? TV in the '60s, for example, was composed of totally escapist sitcoms that served as distractions from the unrest of war, racism and protests in the real world. Maybe we've dealt with our demons as a society so we don't need to escape with "simple" TV. Then again, maybe I am reading too much into it. Maybe Joey
's just a plain stinker from any angle. What's your take on this?Answer:
The failure of Joey
shouldn't be regarded as a referendum on the state of TV comedy. It was lousy and only kept getting worse. It was a sad misstep for a beloved character who needed more funny people to bounce off than he got by moving from Manhattan to Hollywood. But really, harking back to Growing Pains
and Who's the Boss?
as templates of success? All that proves is that there has always been an appetite for harmless mediocrity in TV comedy, and that will continue. The failure of Joey
also had to do with expectations. No one expects much of According to Jim
. If you want to relax with a show like that, you'll get what you expect, nothing more. The real concern among those who care about comedy on TV is how difficult it is for the networks at the moment to support innovation in the form. It's often said that given today's climate, Seinfeld
would never have been given a chance to grow and flourish — same with Cheers
. That's the scary part of this discussion. But I'm not worried about the conventional, safe sitcom. They're not going anywhere.