Sunday, January 23, 2011

Any colour as long as it's funny

Here's an interesting article in the New York Times (linked from the front page of Chortle) about a new, even more stripped-down, even more assembly-line approach to comedy production, courtesy of the good folks at Country Music Television.

Working Class - new CMT sitcom (photo from NYT)
Looking at the positive side of this style of production, it could break a whole new raft of really tight, really good comedy writers who are currently finding it difficult to get bigger networks to take a chance on them and their work. These lower-budget comedies could offer them the showcase they need to get noticed, in a way that sketch shows, radio comedy, and the Edinburgh Fringe seem to do in the UK and, as Mrmonkey pointed out, in the same way that Roger Corman has done over the years for aspiring film-makers. It could also mean more comedy, and there are few things I love more than comedy. If my television schedule is going to be filled with cheap programming, I'd greatly prefer it be filled with cheap scripted programming rather than unscripted (and madly inarticulate) programming. If I'm going to be expected to laugh at people, I'd prefer it if those people were in on the joke.

But of course we know that's not what will happen. What will happen is that the big networks will look at these new, brightly-liveried, low-cost, no-assigned-seating comedies and they will look at their own beloved, high-budget, single-camera, first/business/premium economy/economy/free-meal-with-every-seat comedies and they will change the way they make their shows. That's not actually going to affect the world's biggest comedy juggernaut too much. Two and a Half Men will continue as it has always done, because it's a traditional multi-camera setup and it's shot like an old-fashioned comedy. They might lose the studio audience (if they haven't already. I don't know if they tape that show in front of an audience, actually) but otherwise they're probably fine. But the shows I truly love could be in big trouble. Who's going to give Dan Harmon the money to bring in actual movie directors for his wonderfully crafted Community if shows like Working Class become the norm?

NBC's Community - photo from some other blog somewhere
Don't get me wrong, I'm a great fan of the traditional sitcom format, but Community and 30 Rock and The Office are some of my very favourite television programmes of all time. All time. 

Watching the DVDs of the first season of Community, it's easy to see the work that goes into this show, from everyone. They treat these episodes like 20-minute films. They care about the costumes, the characterisation, the story arc, the music, the effects, the props (check out some of the posters on the walls around the college when you have time), and they still manage to pack in jokes. You can't do that kind of thing if you've got a three-day shooting schedule and you're working on sets left over from someone else's pilot. 

I guess what I'm saying is that you should buy Community on DVD. I guess that's mostly my point.

1 comment:

Queenie said...

Well okay I will then!! Hadn't heard of it, but your dvd choices are usually top class!