The Classic TV Companion!

November 18, 2010

Before there was IMDB for the TV lover, before the internet, before personal computers… there was the Nick at Nite Classic TV Companion!  OK, that’s a slight exaggeration, because I seem to remember having a computer in my room during those formative years of watching classic television on Nick at Nite.  But if you wanted episode guides to some of those great old shows, you needed this book.

I recently found my well-worn copy and was bemused as to why I would need it at all!  But then I thought about how often I check IMDB on my iPhone to see who’s who in what episode, during what season, and any fun trivia about that episode or person.  So what did I do without it?  Turn to this book, of course!

“Brought to you by the ultimate authority on Our Television Heritage – here is the definitive, entertaining reference to some of TV’s enduring classics.”  Says the back of the book.  Also on there, some quotes from classic TV celebrities, like Bob Newhart, Edward Asner, and Conan O’Brien.  (Wait, what?  Yes!  Conan says, “At last, a book with not too many hard words.”)

I plan on browsing through the book a bit more tonight, then putting it back in the basement with all my other old books.  Maybe someday my children will find it and be really confused as to it’s purpose.

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I have always loved sitcoms in particular (even though my blog may say otherwise).  They are real while still being very funny, they have extremely likable characters, and most importantly, they have rewatchability.

An article in the NY Times a few days ago says this:

People like Mr. Lorre are particularly in demand this spring, amid a renaissance of sorts for the network TV sitcom, which not too long ago was pronounced terminally ill. On studio lots, where dozens of new shows are being fretted about and fought over ahead of the networks’ scheduling decisions in May, the number of sitcoms in development has spiked. “I think we’re on the cusp of a bull market for comedy,” said Kevin Reilly, Fox’s entertainment chief, whose No. 1 priority for the fall is adding more live-action comedies to his schedule.

Despite some exaggerated claims to the contrary, the sitcom never died. What happened in the unfunny middle of the last decade, post-“Friends,” post-“Frasier,” post-“Everybody Loves Raymond,” turned out to be merely an anemic period.

And, compared with reality shows at least, sitcoms have better prospects for future profits in syndication.

Why is this?  Because of rewatchability!

Analysts say networks are producing about 40 comedy pilots this season, 4 to 10 more than last season, depending on who is counting.

Virtually all the executives interviewed said that sitcoms are harder to make work than dramas. “You can sort of read a drama script and know what it could be,” said Angela Bromstad, the president for prime-time entertainment at NBC. ”But you can read a really funny script and make a very unfunny pilot and a very unfunny show. It’s such alchemy and such chemistry.”

Yes, chemistry is huge!  And as I’ve said before, that’s something you just can’t write.  And when it’s right, you don’t even think about it.  But when it’s wrong, it can be almost painful to watch.

The shows depend enormously on the viewers’ connecting with the characters. “It’s haiku,” Mr. Lorre said of the sitcom format. “It’s a kind of poetry. It may not be considered high art, but it has its own art form.”

Read the full article here.