Viewership for Current Television Shows Sparked by Comedies, Scenery

By Meta J. Mereday


With all of the buzz surrounding the launch of the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), programming for current television shows has become paramount. 

Competition for viewership to justify advertising expenditures has driven networks in traditional and cable formats to expand their horizons. 

One programming genre seems to have captured the viewing public and has taken center stage on the television screen.  Situation comedies have been the hallmark of television programming since the early days of the medium. 

Early pioneers in television comedy including Milton Berle and Lucille Ball have been replaced on current television shows with more variety and diversity with names such as Damon Wayans and Wanda Sykes.  Nevertheless, remakes of former classic shows are on the rise as well and creating a new generation of viewers.

According to the Los Angeles Times, sitcoms are making a comeback and keeping sorely needed jobs in Los Angeles.  The article states that in 2010, activity for on-location shoots for television programs doubled over the same time in 2009. Dramas were up 36 percent, TV reality programs rose 128 percent and sitcoms jumped 1,580 percent.

Clearly, sitcoms have surpassed the other production formats, but name association and branding is key.

A family known for bringing original programming to television is the Wayans family who became famous following the success of the variety show “In Living Color” produced by Keenan Ivory Wayans that often paid homage to many comedic talents and Black pioneers of television comedy including Moms Mabley, Flip Wilson, Redd Foxx and Richard Pryor. 

His brother Damon made his own mark with his successful sitcom, “My Wife and Kids.”   Damon’s son, Damon Wayans, Jr., currently co-stars in “Happy Endings.”

However, the viewing public should not be taken for granted.

The long awaited launch of OWN is a prime example of the importance of programming and understanding what the public expects in its current television shows. 

Despite having a strong brand, solid financial backing and viewer interest, the actual results have yet to match the high expectations.  

With Winfrey signing off from her widely acclaimed talk show after an impressive 25 year run, she will devote more time to her network.  

While the trend for current television shows are leaning more towards situation comedies versus talk shows, programming geared towards viewer preferences must be considered. 

TV Land was a launched to provide a station to showcase the “old classics,” especially the sitcoms of the 1960s and 1970s.

Recently, a number of its viewers expressed displeasure with the airing of more recent classic shows such as “Roseanne” and “Married with Children.”  

If name association is not the automatic draw for viewership for current television shows, maybe it is the scenery.

Another major attraction for current television shows is “location, location, location.”  A popular dramatic show such as the “Hawaii 5-0,” which is a successful remake of the cult classic brings back into view the picturesque Hawaiian Islands. 

Miami and Las Vegas have often been featured as backdrops for current television shows.  Other tropical isles are sprucing up their beachfronts and offering amenities to increase local production. 

Recently, Puerto Rico’s Governor Luis G. Fortuno signed a law that provides film incentives and broadens the existing 40 percent production tax credit to include television programs and documentaries.  By attracting more television production to the island, more viewers are exposed to Puerto Rico and more commerce and jobs are created for the local economy. 

Whether your preference is sitcoms or photogenic locales, the fate of current television shows still remains with the major component that holds it all together – original programming.   

Mereday is a contributing writer for Regal Black Men’s Magazine, a publication dedicated to the African American community.

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