In a world where the most successful form of advertising involves the heavy use of non sequiturs, one could argue the audience is benefiting from the creativity that today’s offbeat comedy revolution has displayed. 30 Rock is our generation’s Seinfeld, while shows like Community aggressively give the type of entertainment that would have kept them on the cutting room floor not even ten years ago. Personally, I feel the same way about the assimilation of offbeat humor to national television as a Punk fan would feel if T-Pain did a Ramones cover album. There are just certain things that should stay in their place.
There’s an unwritten rule in the entertainment industry that I’m sure you’ve all figured out by now which is: when something works, do it again until it doesn’t anymore. The problem with offbeat humor is that not only is it hard to replicate, but it’s borderline impossible to accomplish without backlash from execs. Couple that with the passion that comes with writing a show, that means everything to you, that runs the risk of cancellation constantly because it goes against all industry standards and practices and you have a recipe for disaster. One doesn’t have to look hard to find accounts from showrunners like Dan Harmon (Community) and Bill Lawrence (Scrubs/Cougar town) being borderline brought to tears by notes and meetings with execs telling them to rewrite and sometimes nix their episodes all together.
The point I’m trying to get at is offbeat humor, as it stands right now, is the pinnacle of television comedy. That’s great and all, but the ceiling is literally right above it. For this style of entertainment to progress on a network , a change to television programming standards and practices MUST happen, and in my opinion, it won’t. Herein lies what I feel is a future that we’re getting a glimpse of right now. Knock off shows like Suburgatory, Shit My Dad Says and I Hate My Teenage Daughter are the first of their kind to use their titles and minute unimportant details of the show (Hey, a biracial kid!) to seem controversial when in actuality, they’re just the same crap we’ve seen for years. While shows like Community get “rescheduled” and despite all the internet petitions still can’t get the numbers Whitney does in its last episodes.
Now I’m going to be real with you, I like Whitney and I Hate My Teenage Daughter. I’m not saying conventional comedy is bad, I’m just saying maybe we shouldn’t hope for Community to return on NBC, but to find new life on cable networks with shows like the brilliant Louie and It’s Always Sunny where I personally believe it belongs.
Also for those of you who don’t know what standards and practices are, here is a funny and informative clip from Aqua Teen Hunger Force, a show on Adult Swim on the subject.