Sitcoms Adapt to Find Success

New comedies borrow from drama, reality TV
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 5, 2009 4:23 PM CDT
The cast of 'Modern Family'.   (ABC)
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(Newser) – Once, sitcoms ruled the television landscape. Their stellar ratings and cheap production costs made them unstoppable in the ‘90s, but their success was also their undoing: With so many options, viewers tired of the format. TV moved on to serious dramas and trashy reality programming. Now, the sitcom, having adapted qualities of both, is back, writes James Poniewozik for Time. There may not be a single monster hit, but the majority of the best new shows on TV are comedies.

To reinvigorate the format, comedies have borrowed from other TV genres: The Office, Parks and Recreation, and Modern Family use documentary format and reality TV’s “confessional” device. Nurse Jackie, Hung, and How I Met Your Mother borrow elements from serious dramas, while Glee mixes satire with the unironic musical joy that made High School Musical a smash. Even Seinfeld finds itself changed in the Curb Your Enthusiasm reunion—the king of sitcoms is much more self-referential and R-rated than it was in its heyday.