EXCLUSIVE: When Fox didn’t order a single multi-camera pilot this past season and presented an all single-camera comedy lineup for next season at the upfronts, it seemed like the network had closed the door on the traditional sitcom format. That is not the case. Not only is Fox plotting a return to the multi-sitcom form, it is going back to its heyday when standup comedians like Bill Cosby and Jerry Seinfeld & Larry David ruled the TV comedy world. Fox has greenlighted The Short-Com Comedy Hour, a new series to launch next summer that will feature short-form sitcoms, or “short-coms.” It is envisioned as both a contemporary spin on multi-camera comedy and an alternative development platform for the network, a showcase for comedic talent and incubator for future multi-camera comedy series created by and starring standup comedians. “We are basically ripping open the traditional scripted comedy development process with The Short-Com Comedy Hour,” Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly said. “Our end goal is to provide distinct comedy voices with a world-class platform to experiment, grow and perfect their ideas and to hopefully build them into mainstream comedy hits in the future.”
The exact number of episodes for The Short-Com Comedy Hour has not been locked in yet but is expected to be between 6-9. Each hourlong episode will include four “short-coms.” Each will be created and self-produced by a standup comedian with the intention for them to write a character for themselves in the one-act scenes. “Those characters will be informed by aspects by of the comedians’ personal lives,” Fox’s co-head of comedy Suzanna Makkos says.
Makkos and fellow Fox co-head of comedy Marcus Wiley, who both grew up on multi-cams and started their careers in comedy when sitcoms dominated the TV landscape, said the genre had remained a priority for Fox. “We never moved away from multicamera comedy,” Marcus said. “We put a pin in it for the last development cycle when we had the priority of re-establishing the Fox’s live-action comedy brand with single-camera comedies on Tuesday. Now it seems the final frontier is bringing the multi-camera genre back on our air where it has long traditions, going back to Married… With Children.” Makkos and Wiley were brainstorming ways to tackle multi-camera development when they thought of big comedy series like The Honeymooners and The Simpsons that started in an untraditional way, as a short-form feature on another show. The unconventional approach with The Short-Com Comedy Hour will also be supported by some traditional multi-camera development this coming development season.
Makkos and Wiley’s first stop in the search for talent for The Short-Com Comedy Hour is the Just For Laughs comedy festival, which both are attending. The two also have comedians in mind. Additionally, Fox will hold showcases for up-and-coming standup talent. The program will focus primarily on standup comedians and multi-camera ideas shot in front of live audience but will not exclude creators with some standup background or standup comedies who have ideas that are better suited as single-camera vehicle in the vein of Louis CK’s Louie.