Welcome to a new Wildcard Wednesday! This week, I’m running last month’s pre-empted Q&A entry, where I answer questions submitted by readers. Thanks to everyone who sent in something — if you don’t see your “Q” here, I just may “A” it next time. (And keep ’em coming; any related topic on which you want my opinion and/or a little research? Let me know!)
Marty asks… Which of the three blondes on “Three’s Company” is your favorite?
Chrissy is easily the best-defined and therefore the most helpful with laughs and story.
Scott writes in with… I remember a television adaptation of the movie “9 to 5.” I was wondering if you had ever covered that in your “Short Lived Sitcom Potpourri?”[…] I know the show existed, but can’t find it streaming anywhere […] Was it that bad?
I’ve never covered the series because I’ve only screened about 11 episodes from its five-season run — at least one entry from every year except the brief third season that was without Valerie Curtin. From what I’ve seen, it’s always — in every iteration — a mediocre ensemble workplace comedy focused on the secretaries at a large corporation. The first season is shot single-cam and looks very much like the movie, which is a problem, because the movie is exceptional and features a terrific cast that the TV series (even with Rita Moreno and Jeffrey Tambor) just can’t replicate. The second season replaces Tambor with Peter Bonerz and goes to a multi-cam format. From what I’ve viewed, it’s funnier and this ensemble has better chemistry, but it was still a rocky production — James Komack took over as showrunner midway through. He also joined the cast for this brief third year I haven’t seen. Upon the show’s syndicated return with Sally Struthers and an entirely new male cast (plus another boss change between Seasons Four and Five), it settles into some stability… but never real excellence, especially because it seems like the three ladies have become interchangeable in terms of personalities. Ultimately, it’s not bad, it’s just blah, and while affiliation to the film 9 To 5 got the series attention, it could never live up to that high standard — it probably would have been better as a similar office sitcom without any implied connection to the movie. This would have saved the series from unfortunate comparisons and given it more leeway to be creative with its own design and character work. That’s my two cents today, based only on what I’ve been able to study.
Brandon Richter is curious… What do you think of the HBO show “Sex and the City”? Do you consider it a sitcom, and if so do you think you’ll ever discuss it here?
Yes, I consider the original show a sitcom — every episode was approximately a half hour in length and regularly attempted to make its audience laugh more than anything else. And I indeed considered it for coverage — it just never seemed very popular whenever I’ve polled/surveyed readers about what they’d like to see here. Earlier this year I ultimately decided that, although I think it could be valuable in helping to explain the rise in single-camera sitcoms — utilizing a rom-com sensibility that thus embraced a lot of trends from its era’s more mainstream multi-cams as well — along with the emergent notions of “prestige TV” as offered by the emerging pay cable, I realized that the bond between Larry Sanders and Curb Your Enthusiasm told a similar story, while Malcolm In The Middle and Scrubs provided the mainstream traditional link. That said, I enjoy the original Sex And The City — especially its middle seasons. In terms of quality, I think it’s interesting because it starts tonally darker and pessimistic, but it’s actually funnier and more situationally smart in the first half of its run, before it becomes lighter and more obviously haha-seeking, despite indulging more of the sentimental rom-com tropes that situate story points around drama (and seem directly counter to the cynical perspective espoused during the show’s earliest identity-setting years). Accordingly, I think the series is at its best in Season Two, and the latter half of Two, specifically. (I also appreciate the arc in Season Three that turns its leading lady into an anti-hero; it’s pretty courageous storytelling for that time.) These are probably all the thoughts I’ll share on the series here, but I’m glad to do so, so thanks for asking!
Mr. Melody wants a preview… As your blog heads to the sitcoms of the 2000s, what are your pre-analysis thoughts about Chuck Lorre and his sitcoms?
His sitcoms vary in quality, based on their premised situations (including the characters therein) and their actual writing staffs. So, some are worthwhile and some are not — there’s a big range between the best and the worst. Unfortunately, I think the bad ones tend to overshadow and scare people away from the good ones, especially the snobs who look for any excuse to write-off multi-cams wholesale due to their inherent bias for drama and/or a more cinematic, prestigious look. I don’t necessarily blame him or his shows alone for this century’s dwindling appreciation of multi-cams — or purely laugh-seeking series in general — but this era would have naturally benefited from at least one other auteur as associated with this format, for there’d be more shows and thus more chances to exemplify greatness within this aesthetic.
Issa Kelly asks… [I]s there any hope that the multi-cam can have a qualitative renaissance? Or is it doomed to be looked down upon ad infinitum and languish in mediocrity?
It’s hard to predict long-term trends because the industry evolves with both technology and popular tastes. In the immediate future (five years), however, I think multi-camera sitcoms will continue to exist, largely as an appeal to viewers who are nostalgic for the classics of the 1980s and 1990s. But with the marketplace so fragmented as a result of our accelerating on-demand culture, they’ll continue to be a niche enjoyment, in the same way that the sitcom genre, at large, has lost its ubiquity because of its slow subjugation to the twenty-first century notions of “prestige” television — which favors the serious and cinematic over the light and theatrical. This is not going to change soon… although I do think there will eventually be a craving for more laugh-out-loud material again, and that could augur well for the multi-cam — or, at least, a new ambassador or two to represent its charms favorably. That’s probably the best we’ll get.
Have a question for me? Submit it at the “Ask Jackson (Q&A)” link.
Come back next week for a new Wildcard! And stay tuned Tuesday for more Scrubs!