Monday, November 07, 2016

TV: FOX struggles with Sundays

Is FOX the new NBC?

Actually, it's much, much worse.


NBC owned Thursday nights in the 90s through the early '00s with its line up which included hits such as FRIENDS, SEINFELD, WILL & GRACE, JUST SHOOT ME and MAD ABOUT YOU.

For the first two hours of prime time Thursday, the comedy block ruled.

Despite the fact that the network couldn't serve up two hours of quality most Thursdays.


It shouldn't have been so hard to build a successful block of programming.

But year after year, NBC struggled to provide a two hour block of solid programming.

FOX has had its problems on Sunday nights.

While THE SIMPSONS has provided FOX with a hit for 28 seasons and over 600 episodes, FOX has repeatedly struggled to effectively build a block of solid programming.

In the last ten years, the big problems have included THE CLEVELAND SHOW, GOLAN THE INSATIABLE, BORDERTOWN and SIT DOWN SHUT UP on the animation side and MULANEY, COOPER BARRETT'S GUIDE TO SURVIVING LIFE and THE WINNER on the live action side.

It's been a disaster.

Show after show that led viewers to switch to other channels.

It didn't have to play out that way.

KING OF THE HILL was a hit show when FOX axed it (to make room for the hideous CLEVELAND SHOW).

Currently, we've heard grumbles about SON OF ZORN.

But this show -- a blend of animation and live action -- is actually funny.

It's also delivering ratings.

The lowest rated show for Sunday nights on FOX remains the live action LAST MAN ON EARTH.

Unlike BOB'S BURGERS, it doesn't have to pull in an audience due to being a lead in show.

In fact, LAST MAN ON EARTH follows the highly rated FAMILY GUY.

But week after week, it is the lowest rated program on FOX's Sunday night schedule.

Now in it's third season, the hope that adding more characters would round out the show and make it more entertaining has vanished.

The show is not new, viewers do not need time to get to know it.

Viewers know the show and, most importantly, they avoid it.

SON OF ZORN remains new -- both in that this is the debut season and that the blend of animated and live action is a new are for a TV series.  ZORN is at its best when Jason Sudeikis' Zorn is completely over the top and being pulled back down to earth by his ex-wife Edie (Cheryl Hines) or his boss Linda (Artemis Pebdani) or when his son Alan (Johnny Pemberton) has reached his exasperation limit with his father.

Tim Meadows, as Edie's new loves, deserves praise for hitting all the right notes in a role that could easily go wrong and alienate viewers.

His Craig is a better earner than Zorn, a better father figure than Zorn, a better romantic partner than Zorn -- just about better in every way.

Strutting through the role would turn the audience against Craig.  Meadows manages to hit the humor notes with a light but sure touch.

There's nothing light or sure about LAST MAN ON EARTH.

The on camera talent is solid -- Will Forte, Kristen Schaeal, Mary Steenburgen, etc.  But the premise was over the top from the start.

Possibly with scripts that also went over the top, the show would be a merry, comic ride.

Instead, the scripts focus n the mundane.

Each episode plays out like a SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE skit that was heavily padded instead of trimmed.

The alleged humor never materializes.

And it's been given plenty of time to find an audience.

What the ratings explain is that this show loses more viewers each season.

The answer for FOX might be another animated show -- though not from Seth MacFarlane.  If so, the answer isn't to clone/rip-off THE SIMPSONS.  That's been done repeatedly (mainly by Seth).  It hasn't worked.  KING OF THE HILL and BOB'S BURGERS resulted in loyal viewers because they were something different.

But if it's going for a live action show, it might need to copy.

Specifically, it should probably copy the most popular Sunday night live action show it ever had: MARRIED WITH CHILDREN.

A live action, multi-camera comedy about a family might work the trick -- provided it had strong female characters engaged in the comedy (Peg and Kelly Bundy and Marcy Rhoades D'Arcy were strong characters who delivered laughs -- a far cry from what FOX tried repeatedly after with programs like THE WAR AT HOME).

Can THE MICK be that sitcom?

Probably not.

FOX is going to debut that program Sunday, January 1st.

IT'S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA star Kaitlin Olson stars (and gets an executive producer credit) as an aunt stuck with her sister's kids due to a financial scandal.

Do you feel the laughs?

We don't either.

Nor has anyone who saw the original edit of the pilot.

Every moment seemed leaden and wrong-footed.

That tends to happen when you're doing a single-camera sitcom -- especially with actors not used to doing sitcoms.  A live audience could have helped tremendously.

Instead, a drastic re-edit of the pilot was done in an attempt to create comedy beats that weren't present.

The show is now deemed watchable by the suits but no one's expecting it to take off.

Which begs the question: When will FOX get it together?

We were told it's really hard to build a successful bloc of programming.

Even if it's really, really, really hard, it's also their job.

And it's one they better get good at pretty quick.  Viewers have indulged FOX on Sundays much longer than they did NBC on Thursdays but that can't last forever.

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