Most of their favorite shows are comedies
If there is a comedy resurgence in primetime, it’s youth leading the way.
Comedy has always been considered a young person’s genre — it was the likes of “Happy Days” and “Three’s Company” that helped establish ABC as a viable rival to CBS and NBC in the late 1970s — but the sitcom surge at the end of this decade is being driven by the youngest of adults.
While half-hour comedies account for five of this season’s top 15 entertainment series among adults 18-49, they make up a whopping nine of the top 15 among the younger 18-34 half of the demo, including newcomers “The Cleveland Show” on Fox and “Modern Family” on ABC. Also on this 18-34 list are a pair of hourlong shows, ABC vet “Desperate Housewives” and Fox rookie “Glee,” both of which are referred to as comedies by their respective networks.
So, among adults under 35, 11 of their favorite 15 series are bringing the yuks.
Contrast this to five years ago — at perhaps comedy’s all-time nadir following the exits of longtime faves “Frasier” and “Friends” — when laffers accounted for only four of the top 15 shows among the 18-34 crowd, according to Nielsen.
In recent years, the sitcom struggled as adults under 35 couldn’t get excited about any of the new offerings, while those 35-plus were tiring of their longtime faves. Writers tried to shake things up by dumping the laugh track and shooting with a single camera, but nothing really clicked with auds.
It was NBC’s “The Office” that set the early standard in 2006, recruiting a loyal, mostly young audience in its second year.
Now in its sixth season, the show, shot in single-camera, documentary style, still doesn’t rank among primetime’s top 30 shows in overall audience (the 50-plus crowd hasn’t warmed to it), but it has shot up to rank as TV’s No. 3 series — and No. 1 comedy — among the 18-34 crowd.
And it seems to be thriving now that it’s surrounded on the Peacock’s Thursday sked by three other comedies similar in tone, even if none of them is nearly as strong a ratings performer. “30 Rock” has its fans — most seem to be Emmy voters — and promising rookie “Community” and sophomore “Parks and Recreation” are also tapping into a hungry young aud, both faring better among 18- 34-year-olds than 35-49.
Comedy leader CBS also has played a key role in the sitcom resurgence, even if its top laffers “The Big Bang Theory” and “Two and a Half Men” are about as traditional as comedies go, and play quite a bit better among 35-49 than 18-34. “Big Bang” this fall has surpassed “Men” to become TV’s No. 1 comedy in 18-49.
The Eye also counts on underrated leadoff hitter “How I Met Your Mother,” the youngest-skewing of its Monday comedies and a key player in keeping younger auds with the net for the rest of the night.
The best news for comedy as the year comes to a close, though, lies in the audience for ABC’s new Wednesday laffers, led by “Modern Family.” The net hadn’t had a hit comedy in years, but looks to have three keepers in “Modern,” “Cougar Town” and “The Middle” — all of which incorporate the single-camera style of shooting.
The success of 9 p.m. anchor “Modern Family,” especially, seems to have re-energized Hollywood’s comedy community. It is seen as the single-camera comedy with the greatest potential to top 10 million viewers, and it’s also the greatest hope in family comedy since “Everybody Loves Raymond.”
“Modern Family” is drawing a similar share among both the 18-34 and 35-49 audience. It will be interesting to see if it can broaden out even more and become an even bigger hit by gaining more traction among the 45-plus crowd.
Fox, meanwhile, is itching to get back into the live-action comedy arena after strengthening its Sunday animation block with “Cleveland Show.” Each of Fox’s Sunday laffers rank among primetime’s top 15 series in 18-34.
And since today’s 18-34 will be next decade’s 35-49, these are indeed happy days for the half-hour comedy.