Leave it to a sitcom vet like Melissa Rauch to remind the industry that everything old can be new again. After persuading Warner Bros. TV to dust off the Night Court IP and revive it for NBC, multi-cams are suddenly hot again, with every broadcast network — and even a few streamers like Netflix (home to new hit That '90s Show , which just got renewed ) are putting studio audience comedies in development.
While no one is straight-up abandoning single-cams — the success of CBS' Ghosts and ABC's Abbott Elementary have certainly made sure of that — there's no beating the cost-effectiveness of one of TV's most tried and true genres.
"Everybody had a hunch they should probably be doing more of them," says one high-powered comedy agent. "Night Court is a good sign there is an appetite for that. Everything I'm hearing out of CBS, for example, is that they have pretty hard caps they are trying to hit on these multi-camera shows. The Conners is an exception because it had such a high-end cap to start with. So that's an expensive show for ABC. But you can start off doing a multi-cam a little cheaper and maintain the cost better. All five networks, at least on paper, are interested or have something in the works."
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CBS has one of the more higher-profile multi-cams in development — a father-son joint starring Damon Wayans and Damon Wayans Jr. from former Last Man Standing executive producer Kevin Hench. The comedy revolves around legendary talk radio host and happily divorced "Poppa" (Wayans), who has to drag his grown son (Wayans Jr.), who has all his charm and none of his drive, kicking and screaming into adulthood before he turns 40. CBS also is developing two multi-cams from Kapital Entertainment, TrillTV, and CBS Studios — They're With Me , about a blended family, and The Hilsons , about a mother who moves in with her two adult sons.
ABC is staying in the Ty Burrell business by featuring the Modern Family star in a new sitcom from Punky Brewster duo Eugene Garcia-Cross and Robin Shorr called Forgive and Forget . The show, which comes from 20th Television, follows Ben Flemings, who, when his life-of-the-party father is diagnosed with Alzheimer's, is forced to take in the one man he's worked his whole life not to become.
Fox went script to series on a new multi-cam starring Patricia Heaton from Kapital Entertainment and penned by comedy veterans Carol Leifer and Andy Gordon . It's about the host of an upscale lifestyle show who, after spending two years in prison for embezzlement and tax evasion, moves to Tennessee to live with her estranged sister.
NBC, which in November launched its new multi-cam Lopez vs. Lopez , is now focusing its attention on Mike O'Malley's new family divorce comedy that stars Jon Cryer, Donald Faison and Abigail Spencer , as well as the new multi-cam Amigos — about a group of six LA-base Latin friends — from Sierra Teller Ornelas ( Rutherford Falls ) and Marcos Luevanos ( Lopez Vs. Lopez ).
Meanwhile, the CW under Brad Schwartz has reached out to the creative community to say it's definitely open to the traditional genre. Perhaps he should consider opening the Nexstar checkbook to multi-cam granddaddy Tim Allen, who's rumored to be looking at doing another family sitcom after finishing up season 2 of The Santa Clauses .
Now that Netflix has found success with The Upshaws and That '90s Show , look for the streamer to pilot another multi-cam or two in the vein of, say, HBO's Lucky Louie from 2006. "It's a courageous attempt to do a multi-cam that feels more adult," said the high-powered agent. "They don't always have to be soft comedy."
And while Paramount+ is moving ahead with its Frasier revival , word has it HBO Max is considering whether to develop multi-cams, too.
The rush to find the next big multi-cam has certainly boosted the value of those already on the air. The Conners is now in its fifth season on ABC. Call Me Kat is in its third on Fox. The Neighborhood was just renewed for season 6 while Bob ♥ Abishola will come back for season 5.
And to think Bob ♥ Abishola co-creator Gina Yashere wasn't even sure she wanted to go into the multi-cam business in the first place.
"I was worried about being exploited, having the culture exploited and not represented in a way that was authentic," said Yashere, a Nigerian standup who quickly changed her mind after collaborating with Chuck Lorre, Eddie Gorodetsky and Alan J. Higgins on the comedy about a compression sock salesman (Billy Gardell), who falls for a Nigerian immigrant (Folake Olowofoyeku). Now, she likes to brag how some of the things they do on the multi-cam — like how they transformed a Burbank lot in season 3 to look like a Nigerian open market — looks as good, if not better, than what can be found on a single-camera comedy.
"I think there's been a snobbery about multi-cameras," said Yashere, who serves as co-showrunner with Matt Ross and appears as Abishola's pal Kemi. "The market moved toward single cams and those seemed to be the shows got all the accolades and awards. I think our show is as well written as any other show on TV, if not better. We just don't get the same level of respect." Not anymore.
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