Time Slot

TV Time Slot Hijinks

I read an article in Variety over the weekend — I can’t link to it because of the paywall, so good business move there, Variety — about ABC’s smash success with Modern Family, and the question of whether they can leverage it to create a really dominant comedy lineup, the way NBC did with The Cosby Show in the ’80s. No comparison is perfect, and I don’t think any network now can do quite what NBC did in the ’80s: that network was extremely lucky, because it already had several good comedies on the air (developed by the great Grant Tinker) that simply weren’t getting enough eyeballs because the whole network was in such bad shape. The network, realizing that Cosby was a likely hit, followed it with three pre-existing comedies in new time slots, and those shows all became hits. ABC doesn’t have that; like all the networks — even CBS — they cut way back on their half-hour comedy production when they thought (as in the ’80s) that the hour-long drama with comic elements was going to become the big new thing. The Cosby revival of comedy, real though it was, wouldn’t have happened if the network had had to try and produce new hit comedies from scratch; NBC already had committed itself to comedy development for two years before Cosby came along.