The Sitcom, Explained by Bridger Cunningham

"Bridger Cunningham" (a.ka. ... in the comments section) is our newest recurring contributor, leading off with an exclusive article about the current state of the sitcom. Read below, and offer your thoughts in the comments below!

I love sitcoms and decided to do some analysis as you all do on here. Behold my view as a newbie getting to know the ratings and schedule game:
List of 28 Sitcoms by Ranking:
Top 10/The Winners:
1st: Big Bang: 3.4 CBS
2nd: Modern Family: 2.29 ABC
3rd: The Simpsons: 2.22 FOX
4th: The Goldbergs: 1.84 ABC
5th: Kevin Can Wait: 1.82 CBS
6th: Speechless: 1.68 ABC
7th: The Mick: 1.62 FOX
8th: blackish: 1.61 ABC
9th: The Middle: 1.6 ABC
10th: American Housewife: 1.57 ABC
The Middle of the Pack/Respectable:
11th: The Great Indoors: 1.55 CBS
12th: Falimy Guy 1.47 FOX
13th: Mom: 1.44 CBS
14th: 2 Broke Girls: 1.38 CBS
15th: Life in Pieces: 1.32 CBS
16th: Man With a Plan: 1.31 CBS
17th: Fresh off the Boat: 1.29 ABC
17th: The Good Place: 1.29 NBC
17th: Son of Zorn: 1.29 FOX
20th: Superstore: 1.25 NBC
21st: Bob's Burgers: 1.21 FOX
22nd: Last Man Standing: 1.2 ABC
23rd: The Odd Couple: 1.01 CBS
24th: Brooklyn 99: .99 FOX
25th: Last Man on Earth: .98 FOX
26th: New Girl: .95 FOX
26th: The Real O'Neal's .95 ABC
28th: Dr. Ken: .89 ABC
Top 10 places:
ABC: 6. CBS: 2. FOX: 2. NBC: 0
CBS: 1.65. ABC: 1.49. FOX: 1.34. NBC: 1.27
Averages, Minus The Network's Largest Hits:
ABC: 1.4. CBS: 1.4. NBC: 1.25. FOX: 1.21
If you were to take the total shows and divide by 2, as per the lowest offering (NBC), Here would be total demos pulled in:
ABC: 7.5. CBS: 6.6. FOX: 5.4. NBC: 1.27.
My Analysis:
It seems as though ABC and CBS dominate the sitcoms and have the brand nearly down to a science. Both have an advantage of having 8 and 10 shows and tower above the other two networks. FOX has a generous offering of 8 shows, yet its average is toward NBC in numbers, which only has a paltry two offerings. ABC offers more higher-ranking shows, taking 6 of the top 10 places. CBS has the highest average due to Big Bang and Kevin Can Wait ranking 1st and 5th, respectively. However, most of their lineup is in the middle of the pack, taking 11th-16th Places. FOX only had two top 10 contenders, The Simpsons and The Mick, taking 2nd and 7th, respectively. NBC trails toward the bottom of the pack, yet both of their shows are above the anemic cut and have room to grow.
Most of ABC's lineup is a success, with 8 of their 10 shows being in the top 10 or middle of the pack. Fresh off the Boat and Last Man Standing trail toward the bottom in 17th and 22nd, yet seem to hold up okay being the successful weaklings. Last Man Standing is the bottom of the middle bar, and according to all of you, is allowed to be there because Friday viewers are lower. That leaves The Real O'Neal's and Dr. Ken in danger if room is needed, as both are in 26th and 28th places, respectively. Their success ratio is 80-percent, which is an impressive measure for having the most shows and risks.
CBS is lopsided as The Big Bang is in astronomical territory. Beyond that, Kevin Can Wait is holding its own, and five of its shows are in the middle of the pack. All of you predicted Odd Couple is done, and it makes sense. It starts the anemic range with 23rd, and is the weakest. It is obvious this show will leave. That makes an 88-percent success rate of odd portions. A higher sitcom offering (8 shows), yet most rank in the middle of the pack.
FOX is a hard read. It is evident these figures are inflated with sports, as the 3rd place Simpsons has delivered numbers as low as 22nd place Last Man Standing. The Mick has dipped lower, hitting levels in line with 23rd place Odd Couple in spite of a cushy 7th place overall average. Family Guy rests in the middle in 12th, then its remaining 5 shows scatter between 17th-26th, with 3 shows taking 24th-26th of the 28 ranks. I could see New Girl being cut if Fox needs to make room, as that show has been on forever. That makes a 62-percent success rate, far more disappointing than ABC and CBS.
And NBC is clearly at the bottom with shows ranking in 16th and 19th. But would NBC really blade out all of its shows just because their competitors are doing so much better with sitcoms? They would be foolish. Both shows will clearly be back next year. The network has a 100-percent success rate, only due to lack of options for sitcoms.
So what do I see? ABC is failing elsewhere and would be wise to retain the successful 8 of its 10 shows. Would they really renew Dr. Ken? Perhaps if they had limited options. But I see The Real O'Neals more than likely being dispensed if they find a brand of new shows. They are best nurturing the shows they have, and seem to be heading in the right direction renewing the Middle so early on. Given the 2017 trend of focusing on our ailing Steel Belt in the Great Lakes, this show fits right in with Indiana! ABC seems positioned to possibly grow and perhaps add more comedies. Even if Modern Family ended, the show would only lose a tenth for its network averages, even with two stinkers in the subzero territory. The only question is where would new shows air, and how well would they do?
CBS has the right figures and status to brag about, but what if the Big Bang ends? The network slides right down to ABC's levels minus Modern Family. Most of their shows are okay. Yet most rank below ABC sitcoms, so the Big Bang ending would deflate CBS' status. Odd Couple is evidently meeting its end, but the question is would CBS sacrifice another show? Some of you indicated 2 Broke Girls may end as the show is aging, but I also see Life in Pieces and Man With a Plan being in question. That makes 4 of their 8 shows which are questionable or did not succeed in a renewal. I would not justify adding more sitcoms, as the Big Bang is aging, and the rest of the shows are in the middle of the pack at best.
FOX has been declared by several posters as a mess, and their sitcoms represent that picture. All have delivered low ratings between 0.9-1.2 and are inflated by Football. The Simpsons and Bob's Burgers was listed as renewed by your posts, so that leaves six remaining shows up in the air. Family Guy seems to hold some semblance on Sundays, and Brooklyn 99 has a deal in place with TBS which may guarantee more shows. And that is about where the stability train stops for FOX. The Mick seems to be garnering press and posted higher deliveries than Brooklyn 99 and New Girl. That leaves New Girl, Son of Zorn and Last Man On Earth as three contenders if space is needed on the schedule. Given Fox doesn't air 10pm shows, it would seem as though space is a premium on their schedule. However, little seems to be working on this network. Last Man on Earth has enough episodes stockpiled to justify another season. Son of Zorn airs on an evening which scripted programming does poorly, and New Girl is in its 6th season. These two shows are likely contenders for the chop, but what would Fox air? Even if The Big Bang and Modern Family ended, Fox cannot match ABC and CBS and relies too heavily on Football inflating its Sunday shows. I would never recommend Fox air more sitcoms, as it seems they have some cleanup to do.
NBC should be deemed a loser by these standards. Yet they are the network in 1st place. Their dramas seem to glow, and they have sports. Yet somehow they lost their way with sitcoms. I remember years ago it seemed like NBC had hits scheduled in sitcoms everywhere. Their two shows are not breakout hits, yet seem to avoid dropping below the 1.0 mark. I would hope NBC resurrects Must-See TV on Thursdays, as this seemed to be the night the network boasted its greatest hits. Why not create another hour of sitcoms? Perhaps if their two sitcoms are stable, they will pass up the other networks' shows dropping like flies on CBS and FOX. They already rank above 3 of FOX's 8 shows.
I would only recommend ABC and NBC open up additional real estate for additional sitcoms, adding two additional shows. ABC because they have the highest per-capita of successful sitcoms (8 of 10), the most per-capita of successful shows minus their highest-rated sitcom Modern Family (7 of 9), and it seems to be the one staple succeeding on their network. And NBC because having 2 sitcoms is under-performing their potential. But the question is where would you schedule additional comedies?
NBC seems evident they need another hour on Thursday, given this used to be their signature night. Move Chicago Med elsewhere and free up another hour. It doesn't appear NBC likes original programs on Sundays, and their dance card is full on other nights. Mondays are about the Voice. Tuesdays are in great shape, so why tinker with success? Wednesdays are, OK, but the sitcoms would face stiff competition if they took Blindspot's place. And Fridays seem to be a faux-pas for shows.
ABC fails in the 10pm hours, yet sitcoms never seem to do well there. My only thoughts would be Sundays or another hour on Fridays. Sundays seem like a sinkhole, yet America's Funniest Home Videos always appear stable. Why not free up the 8/7 hour with sitcoms and move Once Upon a Time if the show is renewed? Given the lighthearted tone of AFHV, this may be a compatible piece. It would face obvious competition from Sports, the Simpsons and NCIS: LA. Another hour on Friday could damage Shark Tank if they move it, and Dr. Ken shows audiences can be anemic on Fridays. but how cool would it be to have the TGIF block restored on Fridays!

I am grateful to see sitcoms are not a passing fad, as I feared when reality TV littered the landscape like beer bottles and cigarette butts after Mardi Gras. ABC is the greatest success, and NBC shows the most promise. CBS has a veneer ready to crack if The Big Bang ends, and Fox is anemic. I hope given talk of stirring up economic development that the entertainment industry sees how lucrative sitcoms remain. They were everywhere from the 50's to the mid-70's, then faded out until The Cosby Show made them viable again in the mid-80's. They flourished until reality TV became the rage in the early 2000's, then went dormant until CBS and ABC resurrected the buzz at the start of this decade. They can be syndicated, and even seem to have aided cable and alternative platforms in creating profitable investments. And with so many of us hoping to write our own sitcoms, I'm rooting for the laughs to continue to roll!

What are your thoughts? To view the follow-up article on the crass-com, click here.

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