A ‘Modern Family TV’ miracle for sitcoms [source: Variety]

November 7, 2009 by
Filed under: reviews 

At Starbucks locations across Los Angeles, out-of-work comedy writers are polishing off their “Modern Family” spec scripts.
For the first time in a while — and definitely since the writers strike — there’s optimism in the comedy ranks. And much of that good feeling can be traced this fall to ABC’s breakout “Modern Family.”

“For morale in the comedy business, it’s been huge,” says Alphabet comedy topper Samie Kim Falvey. “All of us who love comedy and refuse to abandon it as a business feel validated.”

“Family” is one of several laffer success stories this season: ABC’s “The Middle” and “Cougar Town” also have performed well enough on either side of “Family” to earn full-season pickups, while CBS newcomer “Accidentally on Purpose” and recent NBC additions “Parks and Recreation” and “Community” have picked up some ratings ground recently.

Then there’s CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory,” which has graduated from hit to megahit thanks to its new timeslot behind “Two and a Half Men.”

But “Modern Family,” even rival network execs agree, is having a major effect on the laffer biz, thanks to what it represents: the revival of the family comedy.

ABC execs were high enough on the show that they picked up the pilot early, which Falvey says allowed the network and studio to cast the show well, starting with Ed O’Neill, as well as Julie Bowen, Sofia Vergara, Ty Burrell, Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson.

The Alphabet also gave the show an early series order, and screened the entire pilot at the net’s May upfront presentation to advertisers.

But “Modern Family” was by no means a slam dunk. The network gave the show the nearly impossible task of holding down the 9 p.m. anchor slot on a Wednesday night completely filled with new shows. And when awareness studies showed low returns for “Family,” the net shifted more marketing money to the show immediately following it, “Cougar Town.”

The net also was forced to give away “Modern Family’s” big pilot reveal: The fact that the three separate families are actually related, something that viewers don’t discover until the very end of the episode.

“We did some early research on tracking and marketing, and people were not getting how special this show was,” Falvey said. “A lot of the heart comes from understanding this is a big family unit.”

Levitan and Lloyd weren’t big fans of the marketing decision, but didn’t protest.

“They did everything you could ask for in launching the show,” Lloyd says.

Salke says she believes the show has fallen into the zeitgeist of the moment — that audiences, faced with economic woes in the real world, were looking for more feelgood fare.

“Shows like ‘Modern Family’ and ‘Glee’ have tapped into the audience’s real desire to be entertained, to laugh, cry, have fun,” Salke says. “It’s not the typical tone that you have seen.”

The success of “Modern Family” has helped populate network development reports with more family-oriented laffers. Net and studio execs say they’re also busy looking at other forms that have been missing as of late — including the modern take on a relationship comedy like “Mad About You.”

“People are looking, and saying, ‘where’s our “Modern Family”?’ ” Salke says.

[read the full story at Variety]

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