HOLLYWOOD — Network TV’s comedy crisis may be over.
There hasn’t been a breakout sitcom hit since “Malcolm in the Middle” bowed on Fox back in 2000. Even as drama franchises like “Law & Order” and “CSI” thrive, webheads have been bemoaning the state of their laffer slates.
But as the Big Six prepare to unveil their fall skeds to advertisers in New York this week, there are signs comedy is alive and kicking, thanks to a number of sitcom pilots that are actually, well … funny.
An uptick in primetime yuks is sure to bring smiles to many faces in Hollwood.
Studios stand to make hundreds of millions more in backend profits if this year’s comedy crop makes it to syndication. Nets love laffers because they repeat far better than dramas. And agents are already dreaming of package fees and commissions from clients no longer sitting on the sidelines bemoaning the glut of reality shows.
It’s NBC and ABC that seem to be leading the laugh parade into fall.
Peacock, which has avoided family comedies in recent years, has the Tim Doyle-penned “Stuck in the Middle with You” and the John Larroquette/Christine Baranski half-hour “Happy Family.”
Both are witty, well-cast and, at times, laugh-out-loud funny– in short, everything last year’s NBC losers “In-Laws” and “Hidden Hills” weren’t.
Also on the family tip, NBC execs are said to be very happy with how “Saturday Night Live” funnyman Tracy Morgan‘s comedy turned out.
And with “Friends” entering its final season, Peacock suits are pumped at the early reaction to the net’s remake of the BBC smash sexcom “Coupling.”
Over at ABC, toppers have been vowing to add four to six comedies this fall — and it seems they’ve got the goods to do it.
Most impressive is a half-hour from scribes Ann Flett-Giordano and Chuck Ranberg (and “Chicago” producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron) that revolves around the mismatched in-laws of a newly-engaged couple. It’s part “All in the Family,” part “Frasier,” part “Will & Grace” — and yet still feels completely original.
Also likely to break out: the Tom Shadyac/Michael Bostick romantic laffer “Platonically Incorrect” and the “Notting Hill”-like “I’m With Her.”