Who can say what caused it. Maybe it was Charlie Sheen and the scandal related to his departure from Two and a Half Men. Maybe, with Jersey Shore, audiences finally tired of reality programming. Maybe it was simply that the networks stopped focusing on niche humor and started focusing on being broadly funny.
Whatever the reason, after years of irrelevancy, scripted comedy is suddenly hot again. Among the 18-49 demographic most desired by advertisers, half-hour sitcoms took eight of the top 10 spots for 2011's fall premiere week. And on every one of the big four networks comedies ranked as the highest-rated new shows.
Of course, television's No. 1 rated sitcom, Two and a Half Men, would have to break through the bottom of the barrel in order to scrape any lower with its cheap, sexual puns and degrading stereotypes. But many of the big attention getters are mining laughs through fresh characters and, imagine this, actual situations.
Modern Family, hailed by many industry insiders as the catalyst of the comedy revival, has sparked a wave of similar programming. Along with the continuing success of The Middle, it looks like ABC has another family-themed hit with Last Man Standing. Starring Tim Allen as a husband and father raising three daughters, the show drew 13 million viewers to its premiere. While Up All Night on NBC didn't draw quite as impressive numbers, its premise of a formerly fancy-free couple learning to adjust to parenthood is showing signs it will also perform well.
The downside of the comedy boom for Christian viewers is that as vile as reality programming can be, shows like American Idol also provide platforms for expressions of faith audiences wouldn't normally see on television. Unless it is to mock the character, we aren't likely encounter a country crooner boldly exhibiting his love for Christ on a network sitcom anytime soon.
Still, with five new comedies receiving full orders from the big four networks, it may not be too much to hope that at least one will offer laughs you won't feel guilty for in the morning.