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Fox rues comedies’ fate

<font color="#990000"><strong>FOX ON THE RUN:</strong></font> “It used to be that Fox could always be counted on to make something...


FOX ON THE RUN: “It used to be that Fox could always be counted on to make something genuinely funny,” wrote Tim Goodman in the San Francisco Chronicle this week, surveying the wreckage at the end of this years’ TV season, “a sitcom that was fearless in execution, wicked and original. But those days appear long gone,” he laments, noting that Fox was, at least in 2007-2008, trying to be “CBS Lite” with shows like ‘Til Death and Back To You – three-camera laugh track sitcoms featuring stars from recent hits that did little to push the envelope or appeal to young viewers.

This sort of advice to innovate would be fine a world where Two And A Half Men isn’t the biggest comedy in primetime and According To Jim didn’t get renewed year after year in spite of the fact that we’re hard pressed to name a single person who watches it. Jim fans are, as far as we can tell, like the Nixon voters who gave him a landslide victory in 1972 despite the fact that people like New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael didn’t know anyone who cast their ballot for him. We suspect that, like Kael’s Nixon voters, Jim watchers are out there, right next to us, and we don’t know they’re their because their vote, like their choice of show, is their little secret, and they know how we’ll react anyway.

With the cancelation last week of Back To You, it looks like Fox might be pulling back from the middle-of-the-road comedy, but star Kelsey Grammar obviously didn’t want to say goodbye so quickly, and a story on Reuters has him personally lobbying CBS and its chief exec, Les Moonves, to get the network to take on the show that, according to Tim Goodman, was a better fit there.

Moonves told Grammar on Monday that they were “thinking about it,” but by Tuesday it looked like they’d had their think when Grammar talked to CBS’ head of entertainment, Nina Tassler. “She dismissed it,” Grammar recalled, which means that the star, and 20th Century Fox Television, the show’s producer, will have to shop the show around to the remaining networks, though Grammar admitted that he’s heard little from the studio.

“I really believe in the show,” Grammar said. “If I didn't I wouldn't have tried to fight for it.”

CBS offered a glimpse of its new shows on Wednesday with a compilation reel of a half a dozen new titles on the TV Week web site, but it was hard to get really excited about most of what we saw. 11th Hour, The Mentalist and Harper’s Island are dramas with more than a little bit of Lost, The Medium and any number of police procedurals in their DNA, and the comedies looked even less promising, from The Ex-List and Worst Week to Project Gary, a three-camera sitcom marked by more-than-usually strident performances. Looking over the horizon at fall’s new season, I’ve got to say that I have a bad feeling about this.

 
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