Fox Network To Try Something *New*…If They Can Make Themselves Go Thru With It

Or, as Ken Levine puts it:

Fox announces “ShortComs”
by Ken Levine

Fox has announced an experimental series for the summer called “Shortcoms.” These will be hour shows split into four segments. Each segment will be a multi-camera sitcom starring and written by a stand-up comic. Fox claims they will give the comics great freedom.

First off, I applaud any attempt to do comedy, especially an innovative one.

But I have some concerns:

Last year Fox picked up no multi-camera shows. The distinct impression was that they thought single-camera comedy was the only way to go and that multi-cams were too old fashioned. Now they’re saying they’ve always loved multi-cam shows?

On the surface giving these comics free reign sounds great in theory but are they really going to allow them that much leeway? Networks today are incredibly hands-on. Story areas, outlines, and scripts all must be approved.

And if they are going to give these comics freedom why don’t they do that with real writers? Especially since real writers know what they’re doing and comics are just feeling their way around the form.

I can’t think of another industry where experience is considered a detriment.

Lastly, this sounds like a transparent attempt to find the next LOUIE. But Louis C.K. is special and has a distinct vision. Will these 6-9 comics have true unique voices?   I listen to the comedy channels on Sirius/XM and I’d be hard-pressed to find nine truly original performers.  Most of them trot out an endless parade of bad tech help, women are bitches, men are assholes, kids are nightmares, Facebook sucksjokes.   (Unfortunately for all of us, the most original creative stand up comedian of the last ten years, Mitch Hedberg, is no longer with us.)

15 minute multi-cam segments are not sitcoms. They’re elongated sketches. And again, that’s fine. I’ll try it out. I hope they’re great. I hope I laugh my ass off. But successful sitcoms are the ones where the audience connects with the characters and have an emotional investment in them. It’s hard to create that in fifteen-minute chunks. It’s hard to do any story with depth in fifteen minutes. And to me what makes LOUIE so great is that it does have depth. Louis C.K. has time to let his stories breathe. And it’s never the number of cameras – it’s the content.

The argument can be made that with webisodes, shorter bite-sized (or byte-sized) sitcoms are being made every day.  True.  And some are quite good like HUSBANDS.  But if you ask the creators of these webisodes what their ultimate goal is many will admit it’s to get their show picked up by a network where they can expand them to a half hour.

So we’ll see. I’m approaching this experiment with some reservations but all good wishes.  I hope it works. I hope they find the next Mitch Hedberg (who, by the way, shortly before his death had a deal to develop a show… for FOX.   And how refreshing to hear a network want to use the summer to develop comedy rather than just more reality shows.