TV Keeps Aping Internet Comedy. Yawn, Snooze

IFC has a new series coming up called “Modern Toss,” which is a collection of blink-and-you’ll-miss-them gags, created by Mick Bunnage and Jon Link, done using both animation and live action (and in some cases blending the two).

Like a lot of what’s in latenight these days (the series will air at 11 p.m. starting March 17), it’s virtually impossible to review. Some of the bits are kind of funny, most of them aren’t, and the prevailing attitude seems to be that if you don’t like one of them, another will be along directly. Current TV, meanwhile, has its own Flash-animated sketch show, “SuperNews,” premiering later the same week, on March 20.

“Modern Toss” — a British import — and much of what’s on Current reflects the YouTube-ization of television, along with Cartoon Network’s “Adult Swim” lineup, the VH1-Jack Black experiment “Acceptable TV” (which featured user-generated content), and assorted entries on Comedy Central. Under this philosophy, the goal is to serve up inexpensive material in bite-sized bursts, for an audience with a gnat-sized attention span.

That isn’t to say that there’s no place for sketch comedy, but reducing your programming to what approximates a series of rapid-fire sight gags — thanks to the fact that Flash animation is so relatively cheap that a chimp could do it — sounds more like throwing in the towel than being genuinely inventive.

If TV comedy wants to hang on to its audience, the longterm challenge remains to develop half-hours (or even hours) that will hold viewers for their duration. Creating shows consisting of 40-second gags will surely provide fodder for web tie-ins but ultimately seems to exacerbate the problem more than solve it, since such content is just as easily consumed between tasks at work, leaving the producers still struggling to make a dime off it.

“Modern Toss” refers to itself as “a state of excellence in a world gone tits up,” which is delightfully British, but not entirely accurate. Actually, I’d call it another dollop of generally uninspired silliness, in a comedy world where silliness is always welcome but which is still desperately in need of more genuine inspiration.

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