If the sitcom is dead, then how did NBC cobble together a Thursday night schedule with four funny comedies in a row?
Maybe I'm asking the wrong question. Maybe I should be wondering how long NBC will be able to keep this shiny new four comedy line-up -- "My Name Is Earl" at 8, "The Office" at 8:30, "Scrubs" at 9 and "30 Rock" at 9:30 -- together.
After a promising move to Thursdays last January, "Earl" and "Office" have both taken a hit from ABC's new "Ugly Betty." "30 Rock" was a nonentity on Wednesdays earlier this season, and a 40-minute episode two Thursdays ago completely tanked. Previous NBC regimes have jerked "Scrubs" around the schedule so many times that its audience is small enough that the writers now seem to be taking viewer requests on what jokes to use.
But more on that in a minute. The larger issue is that while all four of these comedies have very funny people working in front of and behind the camera, the days of the mass-appeal comedy hit died with "Everybody Loves Raymond" (if not "Friends" or "Seinfeld" before that). "Scrubs" has spent its entire life span as a cult success at best, "Earl" and "Office" seem destined to share that fate, and "30 Rock" is going to be lucky to make it to 2007. As much as I admire NBC entertainment boss Kevin Reilly for resurrecting the two-hour Thursday sitcom bloc that made NBC the dominant power in the '80s and '90s, this feels like a tilting at windmills gesture.
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