It may be just a funny feeling, but the long-awaited full-blown comedy comeback may finally happen next fall judging by this year’s crop of primetime pilots. I haven’t seen a development season with so many strong comedy contenders at the broadcast networks in years. NBC already picked Outsourced, with Perfect Couples, Paul Reiser’s Next and This Little Piggy also getting solid response. CBS’ has what appears like another slam-dunk from Chuck Lorre in Mike & Molly, with Bleep My Dad Said, Team Spitz, True Love and Livin’ on a Prayer all buzzed about. At Fox, Traffic Light, Keep Hope Alive and Wilde Kingdom are going strong, possibly joined by the Christian Slater starrer Security, and the untitled couples pilot wowed them at ABC, which is high on Mr. Sunshine, with Wright vs. Wrong and Happy Endings also in contention. What is even more remarkable is that a lot of the frontrunners feel different from the tried-and-true broadcast comedy fare, like a workplace comedy set in India (Outsourced), a comedy about an overweight couple (Mike & Molly), a show based on a Twitter feed (Bleep) and an Israeli transplant (Traffic Light).
A big comedy comeback also has history on its side. They say turnarounds in the genre are always triggered by family comedy, which blows the doors down for the rest to follow. In the 1980s when comedy was declared dead too, it was NBC’s The Cosby Show that brought the genre back to its glory. This time around, it was ABC’s breakout family comedy Modern Family that seems to have energized comedy creators and executives, fueling the current resurgence.
As for serious drama, it seems to be struggling outside of AMC and FX. The biggest new hourlong show on the broadcast nets this season is the musical dramedy Glee. Of the three hourlong new series picked up by NBC so far, only the serialized The Event fits the serious drama description. It’s joined by romantic dramedy Love Bites and popcorn spy show Undercovers. Fun procedurals are in fashion with CBS’ Hawaii Five-O, Fox’s Breakout Kings and NBC’s Rockford Files.