Congratulations to Neal Brennan, Dov Davidoff, Michael Kosta, Kevin Smith and Ali Wong, who are the first named comedians (and filmmaker/talker — looking at you, Kevin Smith!) to film their own mini-sitcoms for network TV today under the auspices of FOX’s Shortcom Comedy Hour.
Smith talked about his deal this week on his “Babble On” Smodcast podcast.
“Most everyone else is a stand-up,” Smith acknowledged.
Well, everyone else with the FOX Shortcom deal is a stand-up comedian, but let’s continue. The concept, as taped, will be a variety show with Craig Robinson and his band, The Nasty Delicious, hosting the tapings today in Hollywood.
They’ll air this summer on Saturday nights alongside the animated FOX ADHD segments and series.
Each of the “shortcoms” will be about 11 minutes, thereby allowing four of them would fill a 44-minute hour. Unless they decide to fit all five of these initial shortcoms plus Robinson’s interstitials into a single broadcast, in which case each individual vignette would be shorter.
To wit, Smith said his debut episode is about 7-8 minutes long.
His takeaway from the FOX concept is that “their philosophy is it’s instantly meme-able” or viral by broadcasting shorter episodes, and by airing the initial pilots, it allows for more concepts to make it to broadcast to begin with — Smith cited Happy Days as a hit sitcom that originally aired as a sketch within Love, American Style; also FOX’s Dish Nation as a stand-alone concept that begat a series. “It feels like they’re doing the same thing with this as a summer show,” Smith said. At the end of the summer, audiences and the network can decide whether any of the comedians’ “shortcoms” are worth a longer-term investment.
“I’ll do it just for the story!” Smith said. “Who fucking cares? Nobody ever comes to me and says, ‘Hey, do you want to be the fucking lead in a sitcom?”
Of course, since Kevin Smith has been promoting this to his audience, it’ll be interesting to see how much they pack the studio, and how supportive they’ll be of all of the actual comedians and their sitcom concepts.
FOX Entertainment President Kevin Reilly had said when they announced this project last summer: “We are basically ripping open the traditional scripted comedy development process with The Short-Com Comedy Hour. Our end goal is to provide distinct comedy voices with a world-class platform to experiment, grow and perfect their ideas and to hopefully build them into mainstream comedy hits in the future.”
Minority report? Ken Levine, writer/director/producer on such classic sitcoms as M*A*S*H, Cheers, Frasier, The Simpsons and Everybody Loves Raymond, offered a dissenting opinion today on his site, thinking that FOX merely was trying to duplicate and capitalize on Louis C.K.’s success, instead of perhaps encouraging the same growth out of experienced comedy writers. As Levine wrote: “15 minute multi-cam segments are not sitcoms. They’re elongated sketches. And again, that’s fine. I’ll try it out. I hope they’re great. I hope I laugh my ass off. But successful sitcoms are the ones where the audience connects with the characters and have an emotional investment in them. It’s hard to create that in fifteen-minute chunks. It’s hard to do any story with depth in fifteen minutes. And to me what makes LOUIE so great is that it does have depth. Louis C.K. has time to let his stories breathe. And it’s never the number of cameras – it’s the content.
“The argument can be made that with webisodes, shorter bite-sized (or byte-sized) sitcoms are being made every day. True. And some are quite good like HUSBANDS. But if you ask the creators of these webisodes what their ultimate goal is many will admit it’s to get their show picked up by a network where they can expand them to a half hour.
“So we’ll see. I’m approaching this experiment with some reservations but all good wishes. I hope it works. I hope they find the next Mitch Hedberg (who, by the way, shortly before his death had a deal to develop a show… for FOX. And how refreshing to hear a network want to use the summer to develop comedy rather than just more reality shows.”