A lot has been written about the success of the ABC’s revival of Roseanne and NBC’s Will & Grace and their role in reviving the multi-camera comedy genre on broadcast TV. But while the reboots with original casts did beget one another — NBC’s Will & Grace led to ABC’s Roseanne and CBS’ Murphy Brown; Roseanne’s success helped Last Man Standing‘s resurrection at Fox — their influence on the networks’ original development is not conclusive.
This season, NBC and ABC, the two networks that had multi-camera revivals on their 2017-18 schedules, Will & Grace and Roseanne, respectively, had no other multi-camera comedy series, passing on any multi-camera pilots they’d ordered last year and ABC cancelling the two existing multi-camera comedies it had, including Last Man Standing,
Next season, ABC again will have all-single-camera comedy series except for Roseanne after picking up three more single-camera shows, Single Parents, The Kids Are Alright and The Goldbergs spinoff Schooled. The network also stuck firmly to its core family comedy brand with all new and returning series but Schooled falling into the genre.
NBC will have only one multi-camera comedy series besides Will & Grace, the newly picked up Abby’s, which will launch in midseason. The network also picked up new single-camera comedy I Feel Bad and rescued cancelled Fox single-camera comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine as it too is staying close to its brand of urbane comedy fare.
All of CBS’ three new comedy series, Welcome to the neighborhood, Fam and Untitled Damon Wayans Jr., along with Murphy Brown, are multi-camera. While last season CBS picked up two multi-camera and two single-camera new comedies, that was more the exception rather than the rule — just the season before CBS introduced a crop of all-multi-camera comedies, Kevin Can Wait, Man with a Plan and Superior Donuts. CBS has found success with the single-camera The Big Bang Theory spinoff Young Sheldon, and, to some extent with Life In Pieces, through the network has always been known for its multi-camera comedy brand.
The network that underwent a big comedy makeover is Fox. Making a push into multi-camera comedy was a priority for new Fox entertainment president Michael Thorn from the moment he moved from 20th Century Fox TV to the network late last summer. One of his first moves was completing the off-cycle pilot order to multi-camera comedy pilot The Cool Kids, which had had sold to the network in his previous role at the studio. The Cool Kids is now eyed as potential companion to Last Man Standing, whose revival Fox did not consider until after Roseanne‘s premiere on ABC earlier this spring. Fox, which had left the multi-camera space a few years ago, is adding three new comedy series next season — will multi-camera — LMS, Rel and The Cool Kids — while cancelling all but one of its single-camera comedies, LA to Vegas, which is still in contention for midseason.
“I believe in them, we all believe in them, and to find one that has a signature Fox bold character at the center would be great,” Thorn told Deadline about multi-cam sitcoms in January. While Fox’s comedy brand had evolved over the past decade into quirky, edgy single-camera series like New Girl, The Mick, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Last Man On Earth, the network first established its comedy identity with an edgy multi-camera sitcom, Married… with Children.
During NBC’s upfront call today, NBC Chairman Bob Greenblatt also downplayed any major impact of the revival trend, started by the network’s Will & Grace, on the networks’ comedy brands.
“We love Will & Grace as multi-camera… and hats off to Roseanne, it was one of the best shows of the past thirty years, so I’m not surprised that, if you bring the cast back together, it would do well,” Greenblatt said. “But even with that, ABC and we are mostly single-camera. Each has its own identity. We’re thrilled with what we’re doing.”
Quipped Greenblatt, “Multi-cam versus single-cam has been an ongoing discussion over the years. You want the ‘best-cams.”