11 thoughts on “Mr. D feeling lonely in Canadian comedy world”

  1. Good comedy needs to offend someone.

    I don’t mean it has to be offensive, but it’s about holding a mirror to society and showing it the ugly truths, hypocrisy and even the banality of everyday life.

    Comedy is harder to do in a country where funding is dependent upon government funding and therefore retractable with sufficient public/manufactured outrage. We’ve done good TV comedy before…was never a big fan of “Corner Gas” myself, but KITH’s “Death Comes to Town” had some good, boundary pushing characters and “Kenny versus Spenny” was great.

  2. A lot of issues in Canadian TV boil down to how completely risk averse the networks are in their original programming (and some of that has to do with funding), and how little of it they do. TV is ruthless – the US networks throw a bunch of comedies out and see what sticks, and most don’t, whereas in Canada every failure is taken as an Omen Of Doom for the industry as a whole. If a network makes 1 comedy and it doesn’t land, they have a 100% failure rate and an excuse to take fewer rather than more risks.

  3. It`s not just an issue relating to Canadian half-hour comedies. This has been discussed heavily on other sites regarding American half-hour comedies as well. I know this is a site dedicated explicitly to Canadian content but I`m gonna provide you with some American numbers as a comparison. Note that this is a comparison only looking at scripted non-animated network half-hour comedies (cable comedies are a whole other kettle of fish). There are 25 which aired this fall season. Of these, 13 are in their first season and only 7 have made it beyond 3 seasons. That’s not a great success rate. The numbers show that the networks, with few exceptions, have been unable to create a hit new comedy for quite some time. Network television has taken some big hits in their live ratings these past few years, especially in their preferred demo, 18-49. The truth is that viewers, particular younger viewers, do no watch live tv so do not watch commercials so the networks are making a lot less money on ad revenue. This is true for all scripted tv but especially true for comedies. Dramas have a slightly better success rate and have had more success in online streaming revenues such as Itunes, Netflix, GetGlue, Hulu, etc. Also, dramas tend to sell better internationally than comedies since comedy, in general, is a cultural thing and does not translate as well into other languages or cultures.

    Look at each network individually. CBS has 8 out of the top 10 highest-rated comedies on U.S. network tv, but only 4 would be considered ratings-hits for CBS as they have much higher ratings thresholds than the other nets, 8 million viewers is their cut-off IMO. ABC is fairing badly with only 2 shows considered hits–they already cancelled their 3rd-highest rated comedy, Back In the Game for only getting 6 million viewers on average, which is sadly a lot more than what either FOX or NBC pulls in for their comedies. FOX or NBC doesn’t have a single comedy hitting 4 million viewers per week, which is beyond terrible. No wonder NBC grabbed Working the Engels when they did–they need something, anything. I wouldn’t be shocked if there are a lot fewer comedies scheduled on the nets for next year’s fall season.

    Below is a list of the 25 scripted non-animated half-hour comedies on network tv which aired this fall along with their ratings and the season they are currently airing. Note that I have selected the third-aired episode for each show this season to be looked at in this comparison (except for We Are Men since it never aired a third episode, so the second episode was used as a marker).

    Big Bang Theory (CBS) 17.19m & 7th Season
    The Millers (CBS) 12.17m & 1st Season
    Modern Family (ABC) 10.43m & 5th Season
    The Crazy Ones (CBS) 9.92m & 1st Season
    Two & a Half Men (CBS) 9.03m & 11th Season
    The Middle (ABC) 8.12m & 5th Season
    Mike & Molly (CBS) 8.08m & 4th Season
    How I Met Your Mother (CBS) 7.38m & 9th Season
    2 Broke Girls (CBS) 7.18m & 3rd Season
    Mom (CBS) 6.65m & 1st Season
    Back In the Game (ABC) 6.44m & 1st Season
    Last Man Standing (ABC) 6.22m & 3rd Season
    Super Fun Night (ABC) 6.02m & 1st Season
    The Goldbergs (ABC) 5.73m & 1st Season
    We Are Men (CBS) 5.42m & 1st Season
    Trophy Wife (ABC) 4.69m & 1st Season
    The Neighbors (ABC) 4.16m & 2nd Season
    New Girl (FOX) 3.89m & 3rd Season
    The Michael J. Fox Show (NBC) 3.84m & 1st Season
    Brooklyn-Nine-Nine (FOX) 3.42m & 1st Season
    Dads (FOX) 3.42m & 1st Season
    Sean Saves the World (NBC) 3.37m & 1st Season
    Parks & Recreation (NBC) 3.25m & 6th Season
    The Mindy Project (FOX) 2.96m & 2nd Season
    Welcome to the Family (NBC) 2.45m & 1st Season

    In my opinion, half-hour comedies are on their way out. More and more, we are seeing the emergence of the 1-hour dramedy. Also, I think half-hour comedies, being less-serialized, are more likely to be skipped by viewers since you can still know what’s going on in a show, even if you miss a few episodes here or there. And in a world of hundreds of channels plus streaming options to choose from, that spells the death knoll for half-hour comedies. Sorry, but it does.

  4. You forgot to mention the most important part, ESPECIALLY here in Canada. The comedies that are being produce, suck. Successful half hour comedies are in fact very profitable, it is why they will always be made. Saying they are on the way out is non-starter. The only networks that know how to make them are the cable networks, see Always Sunny, The League, Louie etc… The idea that Canadian half hours comedies are in a crisis is laughable. The crisis is that they are horrible. Did you watch Satisfaction? Bad! Did you see Seed? Bad! Have you tried to sit through, “Package Deal”? Unwatchable.

    If the networks continue to produce this type of material, then there will be a crisis. If they decide to take some risks, and give people what they want to watch, we could develop a solid slate of half hour comedies… good comedy pushes the envelope.

    Also, let’s take a hard look at who is in charge of commissioning these projects for the Canadian markets. The same person that screwed up getting your coffee right, three years ago. The system is broken at the top… good luck fixing that mess.

    1. A bit harsh, but if my experience watching “Package Deal” is any kind of barometer, you might be right.

      Without a language barrier, top comedic talent often migrates south where there’s (presumably) better pay, but most of all, more opportunities. It’s not that we don’t have funny people, it’s that they end up working on Community, SNL, etc.

      1. This is too facile an analysis.

        I have former students, and friends working in the US Comedy Market. At least 4 or 5 I can access on a moment’s thought. Credits including Michael J. Fox Show, Community, Up All Night, The Office, and many development deals besides. None of them are funnier than when they left. They didn’t “learn” to be funny. They are merely in a development environment where funny is allowed to get through. And that’s a very different thing, indeed.

        Also, people like Bob Martin, Mark McKinney have come back. Did they “lose it?” Hells to the no.

        They don’t migrate because of language barrier or even necessarily opportunity. They do so because they’re allowed to be funny in L.A.

        1. Oh and mixing Louie – a show that gets to be precisely what it is because it’s so cheap, and cable shows like the League that are made for peanuts, with Network numbers, budgets, and expectations is (and are) ridiculous.

          It’s like comparing Kenny vs Spenny w Corner Gas. You’re talking poo and oranges here.

          And I don’t take that as a value judgement on Kenny/Spenny. I’m a fan of poo since I was a toddler.

  5. It’s a promotions game. Economics plain and simple.

    A half hour show requires just as much promotion as an hour, for half the pay-off. Why make two sitcoms and spend double your ad money promoting that one hour block, when you can make Heartland or Murdoch and save that money?

    And even if, and that’s a big if, even if the show is a hit – you still only get those viewers for half the time you do with a one-hour show. Canadian networks have little to spend, and little incentive to risk anything on a show that won’t deliver – and especially on shows that might weaken a one-hour block.

    1. But the networks aren’t producing one-hour shows either. Other than a token few, I suppose.

  6. The real issue with comedy is point of view and fragmentation. The “Golden Age” of TV (whenever you want to fight about when that was) relied upon people “getting the joke.”

    you don’t have that anymore. even something as anoydyne as most SNL still can show the seams — people, a lot of them, HATED “The Californians” running gag. Whereas I (and many others I know) laughed every time.

    The trick is, there’s just no way you’ll find it funny if you haven’t driven a lot in LA.

    With sitcoms it’s the same thing. Networks need to reach a mass audience with jokes where people don’t follow the same news sources, like the same music, read the same books, consume the same stuff, do the same things in their leisure time…

    Johnny Carson used to have tens of millions of people laughing at 12 midnight. I remember the first time my parents saw Letterman and said, “why do you think that’s funny?” And I remember thinking, “ohhhhhhh.”

    “Cable is funnier” is only because those shows are aimed at men within about 10 years of each other, with similar reference points, who, lo and behold…also comment a whole shit ton on the internet, which, I hate to be Dad and point out, is still IN NO WAY REFLECTIVE OF THE BIG REAL BAD AUDIENCE OUT THERE.

    The number one show is NCIS People. And NCIS LA.

    Comedy’s the same way. You cream over The League? Great. Reba got 3X that audience.

    1. Funny you should mention Reba. Was at my moms earlier watching it–it’s one of three comedies of the last 10 years I actually watch reruns of–the other two are That 70s Show and Big Bang Theory. Speaking of Big Bang, it’s chalk full of cultural references and complicated dialogue and I’m shocked it gets such huge ratings. I really like it though. The characters are well-written and likeable, the dialogue is original and so concentrated and there’s nothing generic or corny about it.

      Most Canadian comedies, unfortunately , all suffer from unlikeable, annoying main characters and corny recycled plot lines Mr. D is the only comedy I actually find funny. Seed, Satisfaction and Package Deal were atrocious

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