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Networks Hope Comedy Will Be King Of TV This Fall


Comedy will be king again. At least that's what the big broadcast TV networks are hoping. They unveiled their re-tooled fall schedules this week, hoping to woo advertisers.

And TV and media critic Eric Deggans joins us for a quick tour of what's new. Eric, welcome back.

ERIC DEGGANS: Thanks for having me.

BLOCK: So a lot of comedies headed our way, Eric, why is that?

DEGGANS: Well, I think we've seen the success of ABC's "Modern Family" really inspire a lot of people to take a look at developing comedies for their schedule. "Modern Family" is really successful on Wednesdays and it's become kind of a tent pole for ABC, where they can develop shows around it and draw viewers to sample those shows, and then move those shows onto other nights.

And so, you look at NBC, for example. They have a show called "Guys With Kids" that's about three different fathers who have children who hang out together. And then they have another show called "The New Normal" that's about a gay couple trying to find a surrogate who will have a child for them. That's actually a story line that's ongoing right now on "Modern Family."

So it's almost like they took the "Modern Family" formula, which is based on three separate families and also includes a gay couple who's trying have a kid, they kind of split that into two different shows that are new shows on their network.

BLOCK: And another comedy show headed to the screens this fall is "The Mindy Project." Let's hear a clip from that.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: There's no one like Mindy.

MINDY KALING: (as Mindy) Maybe I won't get married, you know? Maybe I'll do one of those "Eat, Pray, Love" things. Ugh, no, I don't want to pray, forget it.

BLOCK: Eric, tell us about "Mindy."

DEGGANS: Well, Mindy Kaling is the star of "The Mindy Project." And she used to be on "The Office." And she's sort of best example of another trend that we've seen, which is the rise of the funny female. "The New Girl," one of Fox's more successful comedies...

BLOCK: This is the show with Zoey Deschanel.

DEGGANS: This is the show with Zoey Deschanel. And now they've built another show around Mindy Kaling that also sort of has - it features a quirky, funny female bouncing off of several men in her life. And so, there's obviously a bit of synergy going on there and a bit of inspiration going on their.

BLOCK: I can just hear some TV executives saying, Get me a quirky.


BLOCK: I mean, is nothing original in TV? Why am I even asking that question? I know the answer.

DEGGANS: You've got to understand that imitation is the sincerest form of television.


BLOCK: There's also a lot of talk, Eric, about the musical competition show "The X Factor" and two new judges - Demi Lovato and Britney Spears.

DEGGANS: Exactly. "The X Factor" is one of those curious examples where the show actually performed halfway decently. It got strong ratings when it aired last fall. But because creator Simon Cowell had promised that it would get ratings that would rival "American Idol," when it did about half that, everybody in the industry looked at it, you know, is there a problem here.

So, Fox I think felt the need to retool the show a little bit. And they brought in these younger pop divas to serve as judges, replacing Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger.

BLOCK: So, Eric, what are you especially looking forward to seeing among these new shows that we've been talking about?

DEGGANS: Well, I'm really looking forward to the CBS drama "Elementary." It takes the Sherlock Holmes character and brings him not only to the modern age but to America. And I guess I'm particularly excited because the BBC did such a great job updating that character in London, for its series "Sherlock." And the producer of that series was in talks to update it for CBS, but they kind of fell apart, so CBS did it on its own.

I'm also very excited to see that there is a slight uptick in ethnic diversity in the leads of some of these new shows on network television. We've seen, for example, Andre Braugher, from "Homicide: Life On The Street," in a ABC drama about a rogue nuclear submarine called "The Last Resort." And we've seen Anthony Anderson - another African-American actor who people have seen in many movies comedies - he's one of the three leads on this NBC show "Guys With kids."

So, a slight uptick in ethnic diversity, which is always a great thing to see.

BLOCK: OK, Eric, thanks so much.

DEGGANS: Thank you.

BLOCK: Eric Deggans is TV and media critic for the Tampa Bay Times.


This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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