theTVaddict.com: With regards to the current state of television sitcoms, what has changed since your days with Michael J. Fox on SPIN CITY?
Bill Lawrence: First and foremost on that list is that network executives have no clue as to what they’re doing when it comes to comedy. When we started doing promos for SCRUBS, the network insisted that we add a studio audience laugh track. Back then, the belief was that classic studio sitcoms were the way to go.
Now the very same executives are more then happy to say that nobody likes multi-camera sitcoms — it’s a dead medium. Of course the reality is that it’s not that multi-camera sitcoms don’t work, it’s that people don’t like crap. There are so many options out there with TiVo and 150 channels. My goal is to just not make crap.
You would think that when you go pitch a show as a comedy writer, a network executive would say, we obviously have no idea how it works, we should do what you want. Yet for some reason what ends up on the air is yet another comedy with a fat husband and a thin hot wife.
Hollywood loves to panick and make grand statements. One thing I always look at is that more people then ever are watching TV. Less people are watching network TV, so network TV has to evolve. We have to adapt and make television shows more fiscally responsible.
There are two ways to survive now. You can be the one in a trillion show that grabs the public as a whole, an across the board hit like AMERICAN IDOL or GREY’S ANATOMY. But that’s like catching lightening in a bottle, and good luck staying at the top, because it becomes a battle.
Or your other way of surviving is to become a cult show. BUFFY was one of the first. Your fan base is so loyal that you might have to go that extra mile, do something online, interact with them, provide them with extra material. But if you can keep that loyal group hooked, surviving time-slot change after time-slot change, you can survive in perpetuity. SCRUBS is not a giant hit, but we’re in for six years. The decision to survive for a 7th year is kind of in our own lap.
Check back tomorrow as Zach and Bill talk about how important music is on SCRUBS