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Comedy is king again on network television
USA won the rights to begin airing “Modern Family” reruns next year and the network, which has made its fortune in large part through successful original dramas, made the upcoming comedy repeats a centerpiece of its presentation to advertisers this past week.
Syndication success also creates an interesting boomerang effect for networks. Ratings for original episodes of “The Big Bang Theory” and “How I Met Your Mother” on CBS went up this year _ unusual for series that have been on the air so long _ because more viewers became familiar with the characters through reruns.
It was instantly evident when ABC previewed “Modern Family” for advertisers three years ago that the comedy was something special. None of this year’s crop jumps out in the same way. Fox is getting some buzz for a sitcom created by and starring Mindy Kaling of “The Office,” and the network’s “Ben and Kate” seems sweet. NBC has high hopes for Matthew Perry’s “Go On” because of the way he channels Chandler from “Friends.”
Among the most promising dramas is ABC’s “Nashville,” with Connie Britton of “Friday Night Lights” in a career and love triangle. There are a handful of creepy dramas, often with supernatural elements, with the best looking like Fox’s “The Following,” with Kevin Bacon trying to track down a serial killer. That doesn’t start until midseason, however.
As it has for a few years now, CBS appears in a different league than its rivals. Its margin of victory as the first-place network was the widest it has been in 23 years, and the network has no intention of messing with a successful formula. Its three new fall dramas are each criminal or legal procedurals.
CBS may eventually pay for taking “thinner and thinner slices of the same stuff,” Reckwerdt noted. Judging by the warm response by advertisers to its new shows, that day of reckoning doesn’t appear imminent.
Jimmy Kimmel, who has appeared for 10 straight years at ABC’s presentation to lob some verbal grenades at network executives, neatly summed up the leap of faith that TV executives are asking of advertisers.
“We’re going to show you some shows that either we’re excited about or pretending to be excited about,” he said.
“It’s up to you to figure out which is which.”
EDITOR’S NOTE _ David Bauder can be reached at dbauder”at”ap.org or on Twitter (at)dbauder.
By Mangosuthu Buthelezi
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