CBS' Two and a Half Men, with 14,073,000 viewers last week, crushed Heroes (which reeled in only 8,198,000 viewers). Plus Heroes' lead-in, the dorkcom The Big Bang Theory, also destroyed the 112-character Tim Kring serial. When television ratings decline, the incentive to invest in hour-long series with multiple locations generally goes with it. That's why it's time to make our dream of a SF sitcom in high definition come true. We've got all the details, plus a bonus Alf retrospective.It was predicted that the multi-camera show would make the once stale setups of situation comedies, but attractive people in high definition never really gets old.
The dramatic form in television has become itself a known commodity, fulfilling an audience's sometimes meager expectations. Most of these longer dramas are framed as an unfolding series of revealed information. Sure, there are distinct takes on that format, whether it be the J.J. Abrams iteration or the familiar CSI layout, but you can no longer expect any more surprises from a well-produced drama than a situation comedy. The field has tilted back. As long as we can acknowledge that a sitcom has its strengths, why not take advantage of what that successful form can do for science fiction? Fact: the alien comedy Alf rated more viewers than The Wonder Years when it debuted in 1987. I try to view this greatest hits YouTube of Alf once every decade:
NBC's John Lithgow-Jane Curtain vehicle Third Rock from the Sun was similarly hot when it came out. And while the friendly neighborhood alien concept has surely been beaten into the ground, the advantages of the short form remain inviolate: Sitcoms can replicate some of the magic of live theater, and scale back the high costs of producing science fiction television. From the audience participation in what's happening onstage to the limited number of sets, theater has elements specific to its format that make it both compelling and cheap. Such restrictions might reasonably be expected to dim the excitement when you're dealing with elements of the fantastic, but a few limitations can in fact be fun. It's like a writing prompt: make a certain number of things happen without the pressure of having to fully realize every idea you think of on greenscreen. Sitcoms help their cause in their formative years by being easier to sell in syndication. This kind of rope could help the right show gather a devoted audience. Plus there's more licensing opportunities when you're 20 minutes long: Two and a Half Men landed everywhere including the web, and Lost is buried on G4. That's a difference of quite a few dubloons. Effects work can actually get attention. We were blown away by the amount of CGI on Sanctuary — the show looks fabulous. How great would be to use those elements to that seemed something completely familiar as a sitcom, and yet have a world of the fantastic underneath? Think Frank Oz's Little Shop of Horrors - I mean, Rick Moranis is obviously the next logical former 80s star to be reinvented on the small screen. Is he really having more fun releasing country albums? Let's find a way to make this happen. As the early returns on No Heroics prove, a single room can hold as much magic as an entire universe of delights.