Networks Moving Forward With Their Plan to Kill TV Comedy

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Get ready to laugh until you don't. In their increasing effort to parrot trends and kill whatever works with over-saturation -- never forget Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? -- television networks are stuffing their upcoming schedules with comedy pilots. According to a piece in the New York Times today, 40 comedy pilots are being produced this season, including 10 alone for Fox. Says Fox's entertainment president Kevin Reilly, "We're going to recommit." So, more Brothers?

Naturally this is just laughably stupid on multiple levels, not the least of which being that with the exception of CBS Mondays -- and really, just CBS shows produced by Chuck Lorre -- ABC's Modern Family and NBC's The Office, comedies don't have good ratings. Community -- a hilarious show and one of the new successes touted in the article -- barely cracks 5 million viewers per week. Maybe people watch comedies over dramas on Hulu, but on their couch, CSI: Wherever normally wins out.

Worse though, there's the fact that networks haven't proved they have enough sustainable comedy ideas, no matter how many funny people they employ. Look no further than ABC. As entertainment president Stephen McPherson tells the Times, "We, the networks, drove comedy into the ground by being derivative." And with his network premiering the new James Burrows (Cheers) comedy, Romantically Challenged, later tonight -- critics hail it as "terrible," "stale," "robotically assembled from spare parts" -- it's certainly clear they've learned from those prior mistakes. Now where is that laugh track?

· In Bear Times, a Bull Market for Sitcoms [New York Times]