To the Editor:
Thank you for Peter Bart’s insightful column on the depressing state of comedy in film and television (“Sorely needed: More comic relief” (Daily Variety, Oct. 6). I can very much relate to many of his points.
The sitcom genre is not dead per se. What is complete toast (in my opinion) are these cookie-cutter wannabes, which have clogged the pipeline with rehashed (and unfunny) jokes, characters and situations in an age where “Seinfeld” and “Friends” reruns air seemingly 24-7 (thus reinforcing just how thinly veiled, non-visionary and truly untalented the copycats are by comparison).
The next breakout hit in the sitcom genre will only come when the gatekeepers allow fresh voices to be just that, fresh. In particular, the minority voices: Black and, especially, Latino.
These viewpoints should not be crammed into the rehash assembly line; rather they should be motivated to “keep it real.” Only by staying true to cultural motifs, crossover realities and the visionaries championing them will we find that next big hit.
I myself am facing this challenge right now, as I take out a Latin theme sitcom.
Despite the backing of a big-five agency, a very established Latin director (and, at one time, an Oscar-nominated Latin actress with a fiery passion for such material), the project continues to face the scissors of the cookie-cutters we pitch to.
More often than not, fresh concepts are met with handcuffs and visionaries are forced to make a choice between selling out (and, ultimately, failing more often than not) or standing their artistic ground in the hopes that someone with some pull will loosen the reigns and allow something “different” to be just that.
American consumers are very smart. They see right through all of these attempts to fool them into laughing at the same jokes, characters (mostly one-dimensional, white/suburban shadows of what worked for a very different America) and situations again and again.
Conan O’Brien told a poignant joke on his show recently: “In the series finale of “Friends”- I hear they’re going to drop a bombshell… Apparently, they’re going to reveal that New York City has black people.”
Joking aside, the TV industry needs to embrace market realities, much like the music industry needs to embrace technology realities.
For television, the mine is still full of gems. We just need to dig deeper into who we are and who we have become as a society. We must embrace it.
If our industry leaders can not see or understand how to properly mine the new opportunities simply because they lack the perspective/life-experiences, then they need to bring in people who do and empower them to set sail, knowing surely the ships shall return coffers filled with gold.
I myself remain optimistic.
Thank you again for writing that great article. I applaud your efforts and encourage you to continue keeping it real.