A hot topic about television is the “Rebirth of the Sitcom.” Most point towards ABC’s Modern Family as the harbinger of this latest comedy renaissance on broadcast television. But there are plenty of other sitcoms that are delivering serious viewers – it’s not just NCIS, X-Factor, Dancing with the Stars, and the NFL that bring in audiences. So where has comedy been?
The truth is that it never really went anywhere.
Simply put, comedies are enjoying a strong creative wave. And as the content gets better, there will naturally be more of them on the schedule. A slow economic recovery also adds to their vitality as a welcome respite for viewers who are hungry for some fun.
More so than other genres, humor is subjective. Funny comes and goes with the times. Many of the “subversive” comedies of the 1970s look tame by today’s standards. What makes a 22-year-old from St. Louis howl might just get a chuckle from a 47-year-old in Boston – or even a blank stare.
That’s why it’s so important to consider another factor in this “comedy renaissance” – their regionality. With influences of both setting and content, comedy is not going to be the same for people everywhere. During another “Golden Age,” Roseanne and Home Improvement would deliver the midsection, while Frasier and Friends would hug the coasts.
Many will offer up ABC’s Modern Family as the current standard-bearer of the comedy boom. And in many of the top 25 markets, that’s true. For the month of October, not only is it the top A18-49 comedy in 13 of the top DMAs – it’s also the top scripted program in 12 of them. In fact, in Boston it delivered a staggering 15.4 A18-49 average rating, well above the #2 program in the market, Big Bang Theory at 9.9. Funny thing is, on a national basis, Modern Family had an average A18-49 rating in October of only 3.9, while Big Bang Theory delivered a 3.4. So there are true pockets of viewer interest on the local level that just don’t appear in the national ratings.
But Modern Family isn’t the only comedy that’s having success. In nearly all of the top 25 markets, a majority of the top 10 scripted programs are comedies. In Tampa-St. Petersburg, Two and a Half Men is the top scripted show overall – and Modern Family is #14. In San Francisco, the top program is Glee.
And it’s not just the established programs, either. The New Girl and 2 Broke Girls are delivering local viewers – The New Girl was the top scripted program for A18-49 in Dallas and Portland (OR), while 2 Broke Girls was #1 in Pittsburgh.
There are only two markets that don’t have comedies at the top – Sacramento (House) and Miami (X-Factor). Yet 5 of the top 10 shows in these markets are comedies.
The bottom line is that Americans love their comedy – and broadcasters are giving them more quality laughs than they’ve had in a while. The sitcom is alive and well, with the powerful ability to deliver strong targeted audiences locally to advertisers. And that’s no laughing matter.