The way network TV is going, there will be ample room on the schedule. Next year, two networks will turn the 10 p.m. hour -- sacrosanct for dramas -- into comedy blocks. That means each will have a night with three hours of comedy.
That's apparently only been tried once before, briefly by ABC in the late 1990s. One reason: as audiences fall at 10, a drama with rising action in the last half-hour might keep viewers more than a new show cranking up.
Yet comedy is having a revival as a genre. Is it the new reality TV?
It's not clear why it faded. A creative wasteland, Americans buttoning up or CBS proving such high demand for crime dramas? A decade ago, NBC had some 14 comedies on the air. Then, at one point, that dropped to three.
ABC's "Modern Family" and CBS' "Big Bang Theory" are leading the comeback. Even Fox's soaring musical drama "Glee" is basically a dramedy.
The success of "Modern Family" emboldened ABC to go with its three-hour sitcom block, starting in April, with the show as the anchor. Besides new episodes at 9, re-runs will finish the night at 10:30.
NBC previously said it would move "30 Rock" and "Outsourced" to 10 p.m., giving it a Thursday comedy clean sweep. "30 Rock" ratings are down this year, but competition in the time slot is lighter with significant declines with CBS' "The Mentalist" and ABC's "Private Practice." (Along with "Outsourced," the two NBC sitcoms will still likely finish third.)
Unlike their cable brethren and after a nice ABC-CBS run, networks are struggling to produce breakout dramas again. So why not take a gamble.
Of course, the last time a network tried to upend the traditional prime-time model -- Jay Leno at 10 -- it turned into a comedy. But network pundits such as Steve Sternberg, formerly of Magna, and MPG's Don Seaman continue to press for innovation. Seaman even suggested recently moving "American Idol" to Saturday.
Programmers are always looking to thread that zeitgeist needle. More comedies could prove to be an interesting litmus test if Americans want to laugh more during the Great Recession.
Of course, that's probably getting way too Ivory Tower. Television has always been pretty simple: Great shows, whatever the genre, work anywhere, anytime.