The Soul of a Sitcom

Recently caught up on some podcasts and I HIGHLY recommend that every entrepreneur listen to Bill Simmons’ BS Report podcast with Louis CK (especially web entrepreneurs).  It’s a two-parter, probably about 1.5 hrs in total but TOTALLY worth it.  You can grab them here.

There are a ton of great little nuggets in this conversation, but I really liked when Bill & Louis started talking about network sitcoms…what makes them work, etc. (about the 21 minute mark in Part  1) 

At one point, Bill observes (I’m paraphrasing): 

"If you look at what works for television, it’s always like one guy or two guys that put things together that work."  

And Louis agrees:

"It’s the single voice, yeah."

They go on to discuss how sitcoms created by a bunch of meddling network (NBC, CBS, ABC) execs always turn out to be crap and the ones driven by a small group of “crazy dudes” working under the radar on small budgets are the ones that become game changers (and not coincidently, incredibly profitable).  SEINFELD, SOPRANOS, THE OFFICE (the original), CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM, etc.  There are a ton of examples.

Loved this conversation and it speaks to something I’ve talked about before.  The idea that real Soul cannot be created by committee.  It just can’t.  It seems to me that Soul is something that is highly sensitive to dilution.  Even the smallest assault from an outside force can render something…well, soulless.  In sitcoms or business — it’s the same thing. 

In this same conversation, Bill & Louis wonder why network execs haven’t realized this obvious trend in “single-voice” success and changed their sitcom development processes.  There are probably a lot of reasons, but it’s mostly because, historically, the networks were the only game in town.  They owned tv viewership.  They could put out crap and people would watch.  This control of distribution created a lot of delusional execs who actually thought they were talented.  Cable came and changed the game for the networks, but really the networks were still dominant.  And now the web is changing things again - in even bigger ways.  At some point, the network execs will learn, start investing in people with Soul and get out of their way…

…or they won’t.  But who cares.  The network execs will fade away and we’ll all find the good stuff online.  No skin off my nose.

Seriously, listen to that podcast.