Dec 04, 2020
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Headline, Industry News

Mediocre shows endure on TV

By: Bill Brioux

My son, who is 14 and watches too much TV, declared the other week that if he could ask God one question, it would be this: "Why did ‘Friends’ last 10 seasons and ‘Arrested Development’ get cancelled after three?"

My son’s priorities aside, it is a valid question. Why do some brilliant or at least critically acclaimed shows flame out early or never catch on while ultimately forgettable and sometimes downright horrible shows ramble on forever?

It is a phenomenon known to critics (OK, to me) as YesDearitis, named after "Yes Dear," one of the dullest sitcoms ever. That CBS turkey ran from 2000 to 2006. Teams of scientists are still trying to figure that one out.

It goes back even further, of course. Critics still wince at the mere mention of "Dave’s World" (1993-97). Try explaining the longevity of "Becker" (129 episodes) to anyone who grew up with "The Bob Newhart Show" or "All in the Family." Alan Thicke made a very nice living, thank you, on the aggressively bland "Family Ties" ripoff "Growing Pains" (1985-1992).

These shows are like those no-name winners on "Survivor." On TV, staying under the radar often helps keep your Tiki torch lit.

Even "Yes Dear," however, has nothing on "The King of Queens" (CBS). This blue-collar comedy, starring Kevin James as parcel deliveryman Doug Heffernan, departs May 14 after 203 episodes and nine quiet seasons. Nine seasons! Launched in September 1998, the same year as "Will & Grace," it outlasted that much more written about show and countless others. As the years rolled on and comedies like "Friends," "Frasier" and "Everybody Loves Raymond" took their final bows, "The King" continued to reign.

"The King of Queens" was never a Top 10 hit, ranking No. 19 in 2001-2002 and No. 25 the following season. Yet despite sitting on the shelf for most of this season, 13.03 million viewers caught last week’s episode, ranking it the second-most popular sitcom currently on American TV, behind only network stable-mate "Two and a Half Men."

That may say more about the sorry state of American sitcoms than the popularity of "The King of Queens." When your competition is tired comedies like "According to Jim," "George Lopez" or the no longer hot "The New Adventures of Old Christine," well, its easy to be king. (Except in Canada, where "Corner Gas" rules.)

Still, critical darlings such as "The Office," "My Name Is Earl," "30 Rock" or "Everybody Hates Chris" would kill for those numbers. Less than half as many people watch any one of those shows as watched "The King of Queens" last week, even if you factor in PVR, online streaming or IPod viewings.

"The King of Queens" would probably survive into a 10th season if not for the escalating paycheque of star James. After a salary dispute in 2005, CBS agreed to pay the comedian US$500,000 per episode for the 2005-2006 season. Just 13 additional episodes were ordered for this year, in part to allow James to pursue a feature film career. (He co-stars with Adam Sandler in "I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry," opening July 20.)

James, who scored big at Montreal’s Just for Laughs in 1996, seems to be the last of a long line of standup stars to enjoy sitcom success. Drew Carey, Tim Allen, Ray Romano, Jerry Seinfeld and Roseanne Barr all headlined long-running hits.

The new hot house for comedy stars seems to be satirical fare like "The Daily Show," where performers like Steve Carell are more schooled in improv than standup. Critics love the more subtle and cerebral approach, but mass audiences seem less enamoured. Performers such as James (as well as his co-stars, Leah Remini, and especially the durable and always welcome Jerry Stiller) bring intangibles such as likeability and warmth to their shows. Sure the domestic squabbles between the Heffernans were often corny and contrived, just as they were on "I Love Lucy" or "The Honeymooners." Still, we loved Lucy and were over the moon with Ralph and Alice Kramden. James has that similar everyman appeal.

"The King of Queens" isn’t dangerous and cutting edge like HBO’s "Lucky Louie" or Comedy Central’s funny and offensive "The Sarah Silverman Show." Will those shows last 203 episodes? No, they will not.

As TV audiences continue to shrink at what must be an alarming rate for networks, expect to see the next "King of Queens" on CBS or one of the other U.S. schedules announced at the end of this month. In a medium where mass appeal is king, all Doug Heffernan ever delivered was viewers.

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Headline, Industry News

Mediocre shows endure on TV

By: Bill Brioux

My son, who is 14 and watches too much TV, declared the other week that if he could ask God one question, it would be this: "Why did ‘Friends’ last 10 seasons and ‘Arrested Development’ get cancelled after three?"

My son’s priorities aside, it is a valid question. Why do some brilliant or at least critically acclaimed shows flame out early or never catch on while ultimately forgettable and sometimes downright horrible shows ramble on forever?

It is a phenomenon known to critics (OK, to me) as YesDearitis, named after "Yes Dear," one of the dullest sitcoms ever. That CBS turkey ran from 2000 to 2006. Teams of scientists are still trying to figure that one out.

It goes back even further, of course. Critics still wince at the mere mention of "Dave’s World" (1993-97). Try explaining the longevity of "Becker" (129 episodes) to anyone who grew up with "The Bob Newhart Show" or "All in the Family." Alan Thicke made a very nice living, thank you, on the aggressively bland "Family Ties" ripoff "Growing Pains" (1985-1992).

These shows are like those no-name winners on "Survivor." On TV, staying under the radar often helps keep your Tiki torch lit.

Even "Yes Dear," however, has nothing on "The King of Queens" (CBS). This blue-collar comedy, starring Kevin James as parcel deliveryman Doug Heffernan, departs May 14 after 203 episodes and nine quiet seasons. Nine seasons! Launched in September 1998, the same year as "Will & Grace," it outlasted that much more written about show and countless others. As the years rolled on and comedies like "Friends," "Frasier" and "Everybody Loves Raymond" took their final bows, "The King" continued to reign.

"The King of Queens" was never a Top 10 hit, ranking No. 19 in 2001-2002 and No. 25 the following season. Yet despite sitting on the shelf for most of this season, 13.03 million viewers caught last week’s episode, ranking it the second-most popular sitcom currently on American TV, behind only network stable-mate "Two and a Half Men."

That may say more about the sorry state of American sitcoms than the popularity of "The King of Queens." When your competition is tired comedies like "According to Jim," "George Lopez" or the no longer hot "The New Adventures of Old Christine," well, its easy to be king. (Except in Canada, where "Corner Gas" rules.)

Still, critical darlings such as "The Office," "My Name Is Earl," "30 Rock" or "Everybody Hates Chris" would kill for those numbers. Less than half as many people watch any one of those shows as watched "The King of Queens" last week, even if you factor in PVR, online streaming or IPod viewings.

"The King of Queens" would probably survive into a 10th season if not for the escalating paycheque of star James. After a salary dispute in 2005, CBS agreed to pay the comedian US$500,000 per episode for the 2005-2006 season. Just 13 additional episodes were ordered for this year, in part to allow James to pursue a feature film career. (He co-stars with Adam Sandler in "I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry," opening July 20.)

James, who scored big at Montreal’s Just for Laughs in 1996, seems to be the last of a long line of standup stars to enjoy sitcom success. Drew Carey, Tim Allen, Ray Romano, Jerry Seinfeld and Roseanne Barr all headlined long-running hits.

The new hot house for comedy stars seems to be satirical fare like "The Daily Show," where performers like Steve Carell are more schooled in improv than standup. Critics love the more subtle and cerebral approach, but mass audiences seem less enamoured. Performers such as James (as well as his co-stars, Leah Remini, and especially the durable and always welcome Jerry Stiller) bring intangibles such as likeability and warmth to their shows. Sure the domestic squabbles between the Heffernans were often corny and contrived, just as they were on "I Love Lucy" or "The Honeymooners." Still, we loved Lucy and were over the moon with Ralph and Alice Kramden. James has that similar everyman appeal.

"The King of Queens" isn’t dangerous and cutting edge like HBO’s "Lucky Louie" or Comedy Central’s funny and offensive "The Sarah Silverman Show." Will those shows last 203 episodes? No, they will not.

As TV audiences continue to shrink at what must be an alarming rate for networks, expect to see the next "King of Queens" on CBS or one of the other U.S. schedules announced at the end of this month. In a medium where mass appeal is king, all Doug Heffernan ever delivered was viewers.

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Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Headline, Industry News

Mediocre shows endure on TV

By: Bill Brioux

My son, who is 14 and watches too much TV, declared the other week that if he could ask God one question, it would be this: "Why did ‘Friends’ last 10 seasons and ‘Arrested Development’ get cancelled after three?"

My son’s priorities aside, it is a valid question. Why do some brilliant or at least critically acclaimed shows flame out early or never catch on while ultimately forgettable and sometimes downright horrible shows ramble on forever?

It is a phenomenon known to critics (OK, to me) as YesDearitis, named after "Yes Dear," one of the dullest sitcoms ever. That CBS turkey ran from 2000 to 2006. Teams of scientists are still trying to figure that one out.

It goes back even further, of course. Critics still wince at the mere mention of "Dave’s World" (1993-97). Try explaining the longevity of "Becker" (129 episodes) to anyone who grew up with "The Bob Newhart Show" or "All in the Family." Alan Thicke made a very nice living, thank you, on the aggressively bland "Family Ties" ripoff "Growing Pains" (1985-1992).

These shows are like those no-name winners on "Survivor." On TV, staying under the radar often helps keep your Tiki torch lit.

Even "Yes Dear," however, has nothing on "The King of Queens" (CBS). This blue-collar comedy, starring Kevin James as parcel deliveryman Doug Heffernan, departs May 14 after 203 episodes and nine quiet seasons. Nine seasons! Launched in September 1998, the same year as "Will & Grace," it outlasted that much more written about show and countless others. As the years rolled on and comedies like "Friends," "Frasier" and "Everybody Loves Raymond" took their final bows, "The King" continued to reign.

"The King of Queens" was never a Top 10 hit, ranking No. 19 in 2001-2002 and No. 25 the following season. Yet despite sitting on the shelf for most of this season, 13.03 million viewers caught last week’s episode, ranking it the second-most popular sitcom currently on American TV, behind only network stable-mate "Two and a Half Men."

That may say more about the sorry state of American sitcoms than the popularity of "The King of Queens." When your competition is tired comedies like "According to Jim," "George Lopez" or the no longer hot "The New Adventures of Old Christine," well, its easy to be king. (Except in Canada, where "Corner Gas" rules.)

Still, critical darlings such as "The Office," "My Name Is Earl," "30 Rock" or "Everybody Hates Chris" would kill for those numbers. Less than half as many people watch any one of those shows as watched "The King of Queens" last week, even if you factor in PVR, online streaming or IPod viewings.

"The King of Queens" would probably survive into a 10th season if not for the escalating paycheque of star James. After a salary dispute in 2005, CBS agreed to pay the comedian US$500,000 per episode for the 2005-2006 season. Just 13 additional episodes were ordered for this year, in part to allow James to pursue a feature film career. (He co-stars with Adam Sandler in "I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry," opening July 20.)

James, who scored big at Montreal’s Just for Laughs in 1996, seems to be the last of a long line of standup stars to enjoy sitcom success. Drew Carey, Tim Allen, Ray Romano, Jerry Seinfeld and Roseanne Barr all headlined long-running hits.

The new hot house for comedy stars seems to be satirical fare like "The Daily Show," where performers like Steve Carell are more schooled in improv than standup. Critics love the more subtle and cerebral approach, but mass audiences seem less enamoured. Performers such as James (as well as his co-stars, Leah Remini, and especially the durable and always welcome Jerry Stiller) bring intangibles such as likeability and warmth to their shows. Sure the domestic squabbles between the Heffernans were often corny and contrived, just as they were on "I Love Lucy" or "The Honeymooners." Still, we loved Lucy and were over the moon with Ralph and Alice Kramden. James has that similar everyman appeal.

"The King of Queens" isn’t dangerous and cutting edge like HBO’s "Lucky Louie" or Comedy Central’s funny and offensive "The Sarah Silverman Show." Will those shows last 203 episodes? No, they will not.

As TV audiences continue to shrink at what must be an alarming rate for networks, expect to see the next "King of Queens" on CBS or one of the other U.S. schedules announced at the end of this month. In a medium where mass appeal is king, all Doug Heffernan ever delivered was viewers.

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