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So have you heard? Sitcoms are dead. The headstone should read: “Situation Comedy. Born 1947. Died 2007. Thanks for the laughs.” Its survivors include a few single-camera shows like NBC’s “The Office” and HBO’s “Entourage.” May it rest in peace.
Not that I’m actually buying into this death thing. They’ve shoveled dirt onto the lifeless carcass of TV comedy before, most memorably in the early 1980s until a series called “The Cosby Show” suddenly appeared, drew a 50 share out of the gate and effectively put an end to exaggerated rumors of the form’s demise.
In fact, comedy on TV is not on life support even now despite the dire proclamations following last week’s broadcast network primetime fall schedule announcements. What’s happened is that comedies have morphed into a hybrid state, with hours like “Ugly Betty,” “Monk” and “Boston Legal” and even dramas like Fox’s “House” rendering all previous labels somewhat antiquated. Comedy hasn’t actually expired so much as altered its DNA.
Speaking of “House,” here’s a good joke: The finest actor on TV, Hugh Laurie, wasn’t nominated for an Emmy last year for his bravura work on the show. It has been 10 months, and I still haven’t stopped laughing.
But with yet another Emmy season starting to build up steam, I wondered how the famously self-deprecating Brit is holding up in the wake of that befuddling snub. Last week, I sought some answers in an e-mail interview that would confirm at least one man in television still prizes a sense of humor.
The Hollywood Reporter: How does “House” get an Emmy nomination for drama series last year while you personally do not? To my mind, it was a bit like honoring the meal while ignoring the chef who cooked it.
Hugh Laurie: I’m greatly flattered by your analogy, but I’m not sure it’s quite right. (Executive producer) David Shore is really the chef, (exec producer) Katie Jacobs is the Maitre D’, and I am merely the waiter. Fifteen percent is considered normal.
THR: Where do you keep your Golden Globe trophy? Does it make an effective bookend?
Laurie: Forgive me for being pedantic here, but I actually now have two — so your bookend idea works even better. Particularly since they weigh more than any earthly substance could in that volume. They are now installed in my son’s bedroom, which I have converted into a Hall of Fame. He sleeps in the garden.
THR: Has your work schedule lessened at all or is it as unfathomably insane as ever? How much longer can you conceivably keep up this exhaustive pace?
Laurie: It’s as unfathomably insane as ever, made more so by the fatigue. I have seen camera operators fall asleep against the viewfinder during a take. If we were pilots, we wouldn’t be allowed to fly. I do worry about how long we can go on like this.
THR: Will Dr. Gregory House ever be happy?
Laurie: I think it’s unlikely. Perhaps that will be the last scene we ever do. House on the doorstep of a rose-covered cottage, his arm around Donna Reed, two moppets scampering at his feet, maybe a Labrador. The camera will pull back and back, a helicopter shot, House and Donna waving, getting smaller and smaller. Then House will pull out a shoulder-launched missile … there’ll be a flash of light, getting bigger and bigger, filling the frame, then blackness. … That’s my pitch.”
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