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‘Real O’Neals,’ ‘Goldbergs,’ ‘Bob’s Burgers’ Are Most Profane Network Shows, PTC Finds

‘Real O’Neals,’ ‘Goldbergs,’ ‘Bob’s Burgers’ Are Most Profane Network Shows, PTC Finds

Watchdog group measures broadcast’s “(bleeped) ‘s**t’ and ‘s**tting,’ (bleeped) ‘f**k’ and ‘f**king,’ ‘erections,’ ‘boobs,’ ‘penis,’ ‘masturbating,’ ‘nymphomaniac,’ ‘ass,’ and more”

The Parents Television Council is none-too-pleased with the profanity it finds on network TV, particularly the shows on which teenage and child characters use what it calls “overtly sexualized and adult language.”

“During the study period of February-May 2016, language used by child and teen-aged characters included: (bleeped) ‘s**t’ and ‘s**tting,’ (bleeped) ‘f**k’ and ‘f**king,’ ‘erections,’ ‘boobs,’ ‘penis,’ ‘masturbating,’ ‘nymphomaniac,’ ‘ass,’ and more,” per a Tuesday PTC press release.

Quite a list.

TheWrap asked the watchdog group to rank the top offenders for us. Here they are in order: 1) ABC’s “The Real O’Neals,” 2) ABC’s “The Goldbergs,” and 3) Fox’s animated “Bob’s Burgers.”

“It’s bad enough that children are increasingly exposed to vulgar dialogue on television at all hours of the day. It’s even worse that they’re seeing the vulgarity coming directly from the lips of other children,” said PTC President Tim Winter. “This troubling new trend should concern every family, given the inarguable evidence that children are influenced by what they see on TV.”

“Adding fuel to the fire is the contemptuous content ratings system that allows TV networks to rate such explicit content TV-PG or TV-14, suggesting to parents that the programs are appropriate for their kids,” he added. “Yet children are being exposed to age-inappropriate levels of profanity and sexual dialogue especially on family-targeted sitcoms, such as ABC’s ‘The Real O’Neals,’ which contained more sexual dialogue involving teen and child characters than any other primetime program on broadcast TV,” he added.

Fox has the second-most programs containing child and teen characters using profanity and sexual dialogue, thanks in large part to Sunday’s “Animation Domination” block, which includes “Bob’s Burgers.”

Elsewhere, primetime programming on CBS and NBC is largely targeted to adults, includes few family-themed programs, and thus contains relatively few child or teenage characters.

Spokespersons for ABC and Fox had no comment.

How ABC Has Turned Inclusiveness Into Its Greatest Strength

There’s an abundance of family sitcoms on television right now—and when it comes to the major networks, most of them are on ABC. Modern Family kicked off this relatively recent trend. Its critical and commercial success gave ABC a nice template to work off of, and over the past couple of years, they’ve gradually branched out further, becoming even more inclusive in the kinds of families they depict.

With Blackish, Fresh Off the Boat, and The Real O’Neals, ABC has diversified its slate of comedies more than ever before. Each of these shows distinguish themselves in crucial ways. Take Blackish: a show that in its second season became consistently funnier week after week and masterfully tackled real-life issues like police brutality. Fresh Off the Boat also found its stride in its second season, and although the show is set in the 90s, it smartly addresses and subverts cultural stereotypes we still see today.

The Real O’Neals, which premiered mid-season this year, is the latest show to join their ranks. On its surface, a sitcom following an Irish-Catholic family doesn’t exactly seem diverse (let alone groundbreaking), but having the show focus on a gay teenager, who’s also narrating the story, is an angle that hasn’t really been explored before. It’s hard to imagine this show airing on a broadcast network five or ten years ago, but our country has also made major strides in support of marriage equality since then. The show is indicative of how America is changing, and it’s a great example of art imitating life—TV following in the footsteps of real-life progress. With middling  ratings, The Real O’Neals was renewed for a second season by a hair, but it fits in nicely with the other family comedies on ABC’s schedule.

Individually, none of these shows are groundbreaking, per se; nor are all of them unanimously adored by critics. However, it’s incredibly important—not just for television, but for society—that these shows are on the air. People want to see themselves reflected in stories, and not all groups have had many opportunities to do so. It’s hard to believe, but Fresh off the Boat is the first sitcom starring an Asian-American family since Margaret Cho’s All American Girl aired its one season in 1994.

There’s a powerful relationship between art and real life, and if shows aren’t reflecting reality as accurately as they could be, that’s a big problem. Television may be a single medium, but it’s one that has grown and changed over time alongside society. Portraying families of all different races, religions, and sexualities, and reflecting those stories also produces comedy that is specific and authentic, and that’s something worth recognizing. In many cases, it also means we get better television.

Streaming has been helping lead the charge for more inclusivity as well. Amazon’sTransparent might be one of the best examples of this. Netflix’s Orange is the New Black prominently features women of color and LGBT characters as series regulars. This is another important step forward for television to make. As fights for LGBT rights continue in certain states across the country, TV has slowly been catching up, and becoming increasingly more inclusive. Another Netflix comedy,Master of None addressed the lack of equal representation in the entertainment industry with a brilliant episode called “Indians on TV.” Clearly, when it comes to representing everyone on TV, there’s still a long way to go. For now, these shows hold even greater importance for what they’re accomplishing.

Aside from CBS, with its staunch devotion to all things Chuck Lorre, ABC might be the only major network right now that has such a clear and deliberate “identity” for its comedies. Fox still has New Girl, but without Mindy Project or another standout show to take its place, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what makes something a Fox comedy. The same can be said for NBC. In another era of TV, NBC brought us Must-See TV hits like Cheers, Seinfeld and Friends. Those shows did monstrous ratings and were enormously successful. In the years that followed, even when NBC was ranked lowest among all the major networks in viewership, it still had critical favorites like The Office, 30 Rock, Parks and Rec, and Community.NBC currently holds the number one network spot again—but do they have any sort of cohesive identity? It’s equally difficult to determine what the network is looking for in their comedies right now.

While other networks struggle to find an identity that works, ABC has been quietly rebranding themselves, building a solid schedule of inclusive family shows. Look at any of the half-hour shows on their current schedule: nearly all of them feel like they belong there. When it comes to sitcoms, they have the most clearly defined “identity” right now. Having the confidence to try new things and tell more diverse stories has paid off. It’s given us breakout stars like Constance Wu (Fresh off the Boat) and Noah Galvin (The Real O’Neals) and has effectively rebranded the network as a hub for smart family sitcoms.

Streaming has drastically changed the way audiences consume television. Major networks no longer have the same level of influence they once did, and it’s harder than ever for them to stay relevant. Yet for all of the strides and innovative programming Netflix and Amazon have been making, neither seem to be tapping into this niche of diverse family shows the way ABC is. Netflix and Amazon probably aren’t interested in creating any kind of singular identity; they’re more concerned with having as wide a range of shows as possible. But having this type of niche is one of the ways a network like ABC can stand out in today’s streaming age.

This fall, ABC will add another comedy, Speechless, to its schedule. The show stars Minnie Driver as a mom raising a special-needs child. They’ve done well so far with getting more stories for Asians and African-Americans on TV, so it will be interesting to see how they handle portraying the speech-impaired community. ABC deserves credit for what it’s done so far, and hopefully, these shows are just the beginning of what will continue to be a long and interesting wave of diverse family comedies. There is so much more comedy for all of the networks and streaming services to mine, and so many more types of families to showcase. If more networks like ABC can find what works for them, then they might still stand a chance in this current fractured TV landscape.

Hollywood’s New Leaders: Television

Maria Zuckerman, 38 (fourth from right)
Zuckerman has overseen development and production of HBO’s slate of original movies since 2007. With projects ranging from Dee Rees’ recent Emmy champ “Bessie” to Spike Lee’s “Mike Tyson: Undisputed Champ” and early Tom Hooper effort “Longford,” she’s built a reputation of working with both established veterans and filmmakers on the rise, forging a special relationship with talent across the pond on multiple British co-productions (including Peter Morgan’s “The Special Relationship”). “It’s so exciting now because everybody’s talking about the barrier between film and TV coming down. I feel at HBO Films we were pioneers in helping to migrate feature talent to TV.”

Dysfunctional families, doctors and cops will take over your TV in March

“The Real O’Neals,” ABC This series is another one of those “perfect family” shows where everyone is crazy, offensive and secretive. Throw in one gay character for good measure. In this case, they’re also Irish Catholic so expect “The Real O’Neals,” which stars Martha Plimpton and Jay R. Ferguson, to burst with tasteless Jesus jokes, bad Virgin Mary jokes, trite repressed sexuality jokes and anything else the hacks in Hollywood (in this case, Casey Johnson and David Windsor) can scribble down in the writers’ room. We’re hoping this one dies before the nearest priest can administer last rites.



Best Bets for March 02, 2016: The Real O’Neals

Getting real takes major turns for relatives whose series of revelations inspires them to drop their “perfect family” facade and live how they really want in this new sitcom. Martha Plimpton and Jay R. Ferguson star as the heads of the clan, with Noah Galvin, Matt Shively and Bebe Wood as the offspring with their own surprises in the “Pilot.” Todd Holland, a major creative factor of “Malcolm in the Middle,” is a director and executive producer here.



ABC gets ‘Real’ funny with family secrets

February 24, 2016 Updated: February 25, 2016 7:15p

The Real O'Neals | Photo Credits: Bob D'Amico/ABC / © 2015 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.

Photo: © 2015 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.

The Real O’Neals | Photo Credits: Bob D’Amico/ABC

Can Irish Catholics catch a break on mainstream TV? You not might think so, given the recent failed attempts to build comedies around them: Fox’s “Mulaney” and “The McCarthys” on CBS were both instant losers in the Irish sweepstakes. But maybe, just maybe, the “Real O’Neals” creators have found their lucky charms.

The Real O’Neals Review: ABC’s Wacky Catholic Comedy Is Close to Divine


The Real O’Neals Review: ABC’s Wacky Catholic Comedy Is Close to Divine

TV Review Grade B+There’s something sweetly old-fashioned about the premise of ABC’s latest family comedy, The Real O’Neals, in which the an image-obsessed Catholic mom desperately attempts to hide her family’s foibles — and her teenage son’s recent coming out — from public scrutiny.

But with quick and clever references to Pretty Little Liars, Game of Thrones, Mumford and Sons and Jimmy Kimmel (just to name a few), the show also manages to be completely of the moment — and damn funny, too.

It’s that nifty juxtaposition — how many shows would attempt to feature the Virgin Mary and a shirtless cologne model in the same scene? — along with the reliable brilliance of Martha Plimpton and a hilarious, star-making turn from newcomer Noah Galvin that makes The Real O’Neals a worthy addition to ABC’s growing list of well-liked comedies with delightfully specific points of view (i.e., black-ish, The Goldbergs, Fresh Off the Boat).

The show’s pilot (airing Wednesday, March 2 at 8:30/7:30c, followed by a second installment at 9:30 — before settling into a regular Tuesday timeslot) kicks off with the family sprinting and screaming from some unseen catastrophe, a riotous moment that establishes both the tone and the pace of everything we saw in three of the episodes ABC made available to the press.

JAY R. FERGUSON, MARTHA PLIMPTONPlimpton makes brusque, conservative matriarch Eileen feel vividly real within minutes — and she’s helped tremendously by a script (by Don’t Trust the B—- and Galavant‘s Casey Johnson and David Windsor) that gives her great zingers like her horrified response to what she erroneously thinks is son Kenny’s first sexual experience: “Father Phil was here — in his collar!”

What she learns by the end of the pilot, though, is that Kenny is actually gay, her eldest boy Jimmy is anorexic and her daughter Shannon (The New Normal‘s scene-stealing Bebe Wood) has a cracked moral compass. The kids are in for a surprise, too, however, as Eileen and husband Pat (Jay R. Ferguson) are planning to get divorced (even if they want to keep it a secret from their entire community).

Ultimately, though, this is Kenny’s story — the show is loosely based on the life of gay journalist Dan Savage — and luckily for The Real O’Neals, Galvin adroitly juggles every ball that’s thrown his way. There are fantasy conversations with Jesus Christ and a disapproving Jimmy Kimmel (“Grrrl, nuh-uh,” the late-night host clucks, when Kenny considers not coming out to his girlfriend). There’s an aborted sex scene in which Kenny briefly mistakes the aforementioned girlfriend for Orlando Bloom. There are even tender moments of understanding between Kenny and his family.

This isn’t to suggest you’re in for a thick layer of sap. Eileen might publicly defend Shannon’s Catholic school science-fair project that disproves God’s existence, after all, but the kid is still grounded ’til she repents — and believes. In other words, while The Real O’Neals may be soft and gooey at its center, but it’s the hard, tart outer shell that gives it its unique flavor.

The TVLine Bottom Line: With Plimpton and Galvin serving up some of the best mother-son hilarity since Lucille and Buster Bluth, we’re lighting a candle thatThe Real O’Neals doesn’t wind up in ratings purgatory.

Channing Dungey to Succeed Paul Lee as Chief of ABC Entertainment

LOS ANGELES — A long-running internal battle among ABC executives over creative control and future strategy led to the ouster on Wednesday of the network’s entertainment president and the elevation of a pair of his lieutenants.

Paul Lee, who found hits like “How to Get Away With Murder” and led an industrywide push toward more diverse casting, resigned under pressure. Channing Dungey, previously ABC’s drama chief, will take over the prime-time part of his job as the head of ABC entertainment, making her the first black network president.

Ms. Dungey’s elevation is a breakthrough for an industry that has often struggled with diversity, especially among the senior executive ranks.

“Channing is a gifted leader and a proven magnet for top creative talent, with an impressive record of developing compelling, breakthrough programming,” Ben Sherwood, president of the Disney-ABC Television Group, said in a news release. Ms. Dungey, 46, who has worked on series like “Scandal” and “Once Upon a Time,” said she was “thrilled and humbled,” adding that Mr. Lee was “a valued mentor and friend.”

Patrick Moran, the executive vice president of ABC Studios, will take over Mr. Lee’s duties there and report directly to Mr. Sherwood.

Mr. Sherwood, who became Mr. Lee’s boss last year and demanded more creative involvement — something Mr. Lee resisted — used ABC’s soft standing in the overall ratings race to make a case inside Disney for a management shake-up. Mr. Sherwood had been trying to sideline Mr. Lee for at least a year, several talent agents noted, at one point even introducing Robert A. Iger, Disney’s chief executive, to a possible outside successor.

Still, Mr. Lee’s ouster was a surprise to many in the industry, in part because ABC had a lot of momentum last season, riding its Thursday night drama lineup and a crowd of other hits — “Modern Family” and “Shark Tank” among them — to a first-place finish among adults in the 18- to 49-year-old demographic for the May sweep. Even though ABC has since dropped in the ratings, declines are now seen as an inevitable industry norm and less of an urgent reason for executive replacement.

Mr. Lee took over ABC in 2010, which was a time of instability for the network. Among his accomplishments, Mr. Lee better defined the ABC brand. He also emphasized racial diversity, backing sitcoms like “Black-ish” and “Fresh Off the Boat” and the drama “Quantico.” A decision to concentrate on soapy dramas on Thursday nights — advertised as “T.G.I.T.,” or Thank God It’s Thursday — was well received, with Mr. Lee’s profile on Disney’s corporate website joking that he even improved sales of “red wine and popcorn” in the process.

Within minutes of his resignation announcement, however, Mr. Lee’s profile had been removed.

Among the areas where Mr. Sherwood and Mr. Lee clashed was programming strategy. Mr. Sherwood, whose background is in television news, saw himself as having smart opinions on scripts and casting. Mr. Lee disagreed, something that came to a head in recent weeks, as the network moved deeper into planning for next season. Mr. Sherwood had long wanted ABC to focus more on CBS-style procedural series like “NCIS,” while Mr. Lee continued to back serialized dramas like “American Crime.”


“I’m especially proud of the incredible team I built and the strategic, creative vision we established and successfully executed,” Mr. Lee said in a statement.

Not all of Mr. Lee’s programming choices paid off. “The Muppets,” introduced in the fall to significant marketing hype, has been a flop. On Tuesday night, the show fell to a woeful 0.8 rating among adults 18 to 49 — a demographic that advertisers pay a premium to reach — and had just 2.4 million total viewers, a low for the series. ABC was also the first network forced to cancel a new series this season when its drama “Wicked City” went off the air.

Among the big four broadcast networks, ABC ranks third among total viewers and last among adults ages 18 to 49 for the season that started in September, according to Nielsen data.

Of the four networks, ABC has sustained the biggest declines this season in both categories, though every competitor receives a substantial ratings boost from sports.

With Mr. Lee’s resignation, Mr. Sherwood, who has faced setbacks in his early tenure, including a ratings drop at ABC News and a failed effort with the cable network Fusion, will notably gain direct control of ABC Studios. As ABC and other networks face an uncertain business future, the television studio could become a growth engine, especially if it begins selling more shows to streaming services.

For the most recent quarter, Disney’s broadcasting division, which includes ABC and a chain of eight local television stations, had operating income of $223 million, a 7 percent decline from a year earlier, as higher programming costs and a loss related to Hulu offset higher advertising sales.

ABC is also preparing to introduce several new series seen as holding ratings promise, including “The Real O’Neals,” about a Catholic family that stops pretending to be perfect and embraces its uniqueness. “The Catch,” another drama from Shonda Rhimes, who is behind series like “Scandal” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” is also on the way.

The Oxford-educated Mr. Lee became president of ABC after a successful tenure running ABC Family, a Disney-owned cable channel that Mr. Sherwood recently renamed Freeform. Born in Britain, Mr. Lee previously served in top jobs at the BBC.

Ms. Dungey joined ABC Entertainment in 2009, and most recently oversaw drama development. Her relationship with Ms. Rhimes, the most important executive producer ABC has in its stable, is said to be particularly strong.

If Ms. Dungey has prime-time solutions that escaped Mr. Lee, the entire television industry will be eager to know them. Same-day ratings continue to drop at a time when viewers have more options than ever and increasingly watch television on a delayed basis. Last year, for instance, there were 412 scripted shows offered by the networks, cable channels and online services.

It has been a boon for viewers but less so for executives who have to deal with advertisers who are still most interested in viewers who are watching within the first three days of a show’s broadcast date, an audience that is shrinking.


Network TV Is Suffering Through a Great Sitcom Recession. Here’s How to Pull Out of It.

Network TV is suffering through a Great Sitcom Recession, and there aren’t many signs of recovery on the horizon.

Colleen Hayes © 2014 ABC

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

November was another bad month in what’s been a pretty awful couple of years for the once-mighty network sitcom. NBC, which dominated the TV business for nearly two decades based on the strength of its comedy bench, announced it was ceding custody of an already-filmed Ellie Kemper half-hour from producer Tina Fey and selling the project to Netflix. The decision had nothing to do with the show’s quality—Netflix liked it so much, it has already ordered a second season—but instead was a depressing admission by the Peacock that it felt there was virtually no chance it could make the show a success given the network’s lack of even a single sitcom hit. This week’s announcement that NBC would also burn through the final season of the Amy Poehler–led Parks and Recreation in under two months added an exclamation point to the declaration of surrender: Rather than use the swan song of its longest-running and most critically admired half-hour to launch a successor sitcom, the network (probably correctly) decided it would be better off giving Parks a semi-dignified send-off and quickly moving on.

A similar come-to-Jesus moment was likely behind CBS’s unexpectedly early cancellation of the Will Arnett–Margo Martindale sitcom The Millers, just weeks into its sophomore season. The same network that had always managed to make America fall in like with middle-of-the-road sitcoms such as Rules of Engagement, Still Standing, and Mike and Molly seemed to be conceding even it no longer had the power to force us to sit still for whatever mediocrity it slotted behind a monster hit (in this case, The Big Bang Theory). By themselves, the NBC and CBS decisions didn’t dramatically alter the small-screen landscape. Taken together, they’re symptoms of something far more depressing: Network TV is suffering through a Great Sitcom Recession, and there aren’t many signs of recovery on the horizon.

At first blush, the downturn in the sitcom economy might appear to just be part of the larger crisis facing the overall linear TV business—the oft-documented challenges posed by audience fragmentation, time-shifting, and the growth of streaming networks such as Netflix. But while times are tough all over, it’s different with comedy. Even as TV transforms itself in real time, broadcasters have still managed to find a way to restock their shelves with new drama hits: The Blacklist, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, Chicago Fire, and, possibly, this season’s Gotham and Scorpion. By contrast, the last time the networks launched an enduring, game-changing comedy smash was way back in 2009, when Modern Family exploded out of the gate for ABC. And it’s not just that there haven’t been a lot of new blockbusters. Scan Nielsen’s list of this season’s top 20 most-watched shows (below), and you’ll find just two comedies, period: Modern Family and The Big Bang Theory. This paucity of half-hour hits has left networks insiders “confused” and reeling, according to one top TV agent with deep ties to the comedy community. “It’s not quite dread, but more a sense of ‘What the fuck?’” he says. “There’s a question of ‘What do people want?’”



For those who subscribe to the “everything is cyclical” theory of television, the answer to that last question is simple: Viewers just want more good comedies. “Comedy will be dead until it isn’t,” says one broadcast veteran, who believes the genre is simply stuck in one of its periodic droughts. Industry insiders have called a code blue on comedy many times before. Most recently, more than a few small-screen pundits thought Friends would mark the end of the Universally Beloved Sitcom, until Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady made The Big Bang Theory a weekly obsession for more than 20 million Americans. But just as the economic crisis of 2008 was more than a standard-issue recession, comedy’s current troubles register as deeper than past downturns. NBC, which at one point in the 1990s had a weekly lineup packed with a whopping 18 sitcoms, could very well enter the 2015–16 TV season without a single returning half-hour. CBS cut back to a single hour of sitcoms on Mondays this fall for the first time in decades (and might even drop half-hours on the night altogether next season). Over at Fox, its biggest live-action comedy, New Girl,struggles to get to 5 million viewers each week.

The array of issues plaguing sitcoms right now suggests the traditional means of resurrection—making better shows—might not be enough. So how should networks battle back? In its announcement regarding its canceled Kemper comedy, NBC said it was focused on its “drama-heavy” midseason schedule, indicating retreat would be its short-term solution. But comedy is too essential a genre for networks to abandon altogether. Broadcasters have to come up with new strategies to deal with the comedy crisis. Based on our conversations with a number of TV-industry veterans,Vulture would like to suggest this modest list of four simple rules for pulling out of this recession and avoiding a depression:

1. Don’t launch a comedy you don’t believe in and aren’t willing to get behind.

The incredibly brief lifespans of ABC’s fall comedies Selfie and Manhattan Love Story(both of which will burn off their unaired episodes on Hulu), along with de facto cancellations of NBC newbies Bad Judge and A to Z, were easily predicted before the shows even debuted, mostly because of how their respective networks handled their launches. ABC slotted Selfie and Love Story Tuesdays from 8 to 9 p.m., depriving them of an established lead-in and pitting them opposite the biggest hits on both NBC (The Voice) and CBS (NCIS). NBC bundled the thematically dissimilar Bad Judgeand A to Z together on Thursday nights opposite ABC’s juggernaut Scandal while simultaneously announcing their 9 p.m. time slot would be filled by The Blacklist come February. Add in the fact that none of the four shows got much of a promotional push over the summer, and it was pretty clear Alphabet and Peacock execs weren’t counting on long lives for any of the shows. Historically, such obvious burn-offs have been accepted as an unavoidable by-product of a broadcast business model in which widespread failure is baked in. Unlike cable nets, which generally have the luxury of focusing on just one or two big scripted premieres every quarter, the Big Four can find themselves rolling out upward of two dozen new and returning shows over the course of a single month. That’s by design: Networks take a lot of shots because, the theory goes, the more at-bats you take, the better the chance of getting a home run.

But, at least with comedies, maybe it’s time for networks to get out of the assembly-line business. The old model relied heavily on the idea of audience flow, where a sizable percentage of the viewers who tuned in for Friends or The Big Bang Theorywould automatically stay tuned for the next one, two, or three comedies on a lineup. Lead-ins are still important—maybe more so than ever before—but we’re now in an age where, save for Big Bang and Modern Family, there simply aren’t blockbuster comedies that can reliably serve as launching pads for newer shows. With a shortage of comedy hits, networks shouldn’t be wasting their energies on shows they don’t believe in, and if they do love a show, they need to have a better game plan for it. Reasonable people can disagree about whether NBC’s lack of faith in its Kemper comedy was justifiable, but this much is certain: Wasting time and money on a show it didn’t believe in would’ve been a far bigger mistake.

2. Stick with good comedies that have a passionate audience rather than cycle through a series of untested shows.

This is a corollary to Rule No. 1: In addition to not green-lighting shows they don’t absolutely love, networks should demonstrate extreme patience with those they do order—as long as those shows are connecting with at least some segment of the audience. This philosophy partially explains why Fox just committed to additional episodes of The Mindy Project, ensuring the low-rated show will survive for at least three seasons. While its overall ratings are minuscule, even by Fox standards these days, a closer look at its demographic composition reveals that among younger women, Mindy is a minor juggernaut. This week’s episode, for example, scored the same rating among women 18 to 34 as lead-in New Girl while handily beating ABC’sAgents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and NBC’s About a Boy in that demo. “If I’m a network, I would rather have a show that does a 2 rating with young women than a show that does a 1.4 rating across all demos,” our TV agent says. “The audience has become so fragmented that it’s rare to have a show that hits that quadrant of the audience.” The super-loyal young female fan base for Mindy is also appealing to streaming providers such as Netflix, which has demonstrated it’ll pay top dollar for the right to stream shows with passionate core audiences. If a network owns the syndication rights to a show—as Fox does with New Girl, but not Mindy—it can offset the loss in advertiser revenue that comes from sticking by a lower-rated show.

Historically, one argument against being overly patient was that sticking by a Nielsen laggard, a network was reducing its odds of finding the next big hit or, at the very least, accepting that it couldn’t be doing better with something else. But that was back in an era when it was much easier for networks to launch hits of any kind. “Big broadcast hits take a lot longer now to find their audience,” one network exec says. Plus, many in TV land are now convinced that viewers have become increasingly savvy to how the industry works and might even be holding off before committing to a new series. “There are so many comedies launched each year that we’ve trained viewers to expect [quick cancellations],” another top network suit says. “There’s no reward for viewers to start a habit with a new comedy early on.” None of this is to suggest that some shows don’t deserve a quick death. “If a show isn’t doing what you want it to creatively and it’s going nowhere in the ratings, fine, cancel it, move on,” the agent says. “But you really need to know you can do better.”

3. Figure out a way to get good writers interested in making multi-camera comedies again.

For most of the past decade, Hollywood’s best comedic minds have largely been focused on creating Very Cool Comedies that are shot like films (so-called “single-cam” shows). Traditional “multi-cam” sitcoms—ones taped “live in front of a studio audience,” à la Big Bang or Cheers —have fallen hopelessly out of favor among comedy elites. Even multi-cam vets such as Modern Family creators Steve Levitan and Christopher Lloyd (who cut their teeth on Frasier and Wings) and The Middle’s DeAnn Heline and Eileen Heisler (Roseanne) have now become converts to the gospel of single-cam. This exodus has resulted not only in TV’s best writers largely ignoring a form, but also a diminished number of opportunities for younger scribes to get training in the ways of old-school sitcoms. “Writers are being groomed and schooled on single-camera comedies,” one network exec laments. “They’re not doing multi-camera. And multi-cam is a real skill and a real art. These people are real craftsmen in the art of story structure and joke writing.” While networks—particularly CBS—have tried to keep multi-cams going, they’ve been doing so largely without the help of the genre’s best veteran talent and with a collection of younger writers who haven’t had enough training in the form.

It’s tempting to think that maybe this isn’t really a problem, that perhaps market forces and viewer evolution are simply conspiring to push multi-cams to extinction. But if networks are serious about producing hit comedies that can live forever in syndication and streaming, it seems silly to limit the odds of success by focusing their efforts on one type of half-hour (single-cam) while neglecting a format that still clearly has an ability to draw big crowds (as demonstrated each week by The Big Bang Theory and its audience of 20 million viewers). This doesn’t mean broadcasters should produce multi-cam comedies just for the sake of doing multi-cam (see The Millers orDads). Instead, networks ought to beg creators who’ve hand single-cam success—think Mike Schur (Parks and Recreation), Greg Daniels (The Office), or Liz Meriwether (New Girl)—to focus on multi-cams for a couple of years. Why not a Manhattan Project for multi-cams, where the best and brightest comedy minds are encouraged and empowered to freshen up the format, to find the next Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond, or Frasier? At the same time, nets should shore up their support for existing multi-cams with even the hint of a pulse. CBS’s Mom and ABC’s Cristela, for example, boast solid writing and strong points of view at their centers; they need to be supported in every way possible.

As part of a push to take more multi-cam chances, some observers also believe network development execs need to stop gravitating toward projects that appeal to their own personal tastes rather than mesh with what else is working on a given network. This, they say, is how NBC ends up programming quirky shows such as Go On or About a Boy behind a broad-based smash such as The Voice, or why ABC spent years banging its head against the wall trying to convince the Modern Family audience to embrace the sex-crazed singles of Happy Endings, Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt. 23, and Super Fun Night. “Too many people who work in comedy develop shows they like rather than the shows a network needs,” says one network exec frustrated by his colleagues’ inclinations.

4. Take more chances on unproven talent and ideas.

As networks have become more desperate for hits, they’ve started emulating their peers in the film business—relying more and more on established writers/producers and developing an endless parade of remakes and reboots of past movie and TV hits. Want to get depressed in a hurry? Check out the long list of movie and TV titles currently being eyed as possible TV comedies: Bewitched, Hitch, The Greatest American Hero, Real Genius, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, Problem Child, Bachelor Party, Big, Marley & Me, and Monster-in-Law. Networks seem convinced they need instantly recognizable titles to help them cut through the programming clutter, even though they know better than anyone that TV’s biggest hits have been wholly original. The problem is even worse when it comes to who works on shows: Stars still trump unknowns most of the time, and established showrunners are far more likely to get the best time slots.

“There’s such risk aversion,” says a longtime broadcast warrior depressed by the fear-based philosophy that guides so many decisions. “We should be taking chances on new voices, but the talent pool we choose from is too thin. And we’re recycling a lot of the same stars on shows. You want to find the next Ray Romano or Sofia Vegara.” This doesn’t mean broadcasters should turn over their futures to folks just starting out in TV: ABC’s Black-ish and The Goldbergs both come from writers who are pushing 40 but didn’t have a long list of created-by credits. Rather, execs ought to worry less about managing “relationships” with current business partners (sorry, Chuck Lorre and Tina Fey) and focus more on giving a shot to folks who haven’t had as many at-bats creating comedies. Or, if network suits just can’t stand the thought of handing over prime-time real estate to someone totally untested, maybe they ought to compromise by letting writers and producers from other genres bring a fresh set of eyes to comedy. We’d check out a Shonda Rhimes sitcom in a heartbeat.

Josef Adalian is the West Coast editor for Vulture.