Ray Richmond contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.
It’s still a single-camera comedy world in broadcast network primetime. Only two new four-camera comedies are premiering this fall. But the exec producer of one of them, Kevin Abbott, is determined to keep the fire burning for the form, as he maintained during a TCA panel this afternoon for ABC‘s new Friday night comedy Malibu Country. The show stars Reba (just Reba these days) as a country star who moves to Malibu from Nashville, with Lily Tomlin costarring. When it was suggested that Malibu Country should be given greater cache on the network schedule as an old-fashioned throwback comedy, Abbott deadpanned, “Let’s see how this Modern Family thing plays out, maybe we get Wednesday night at 9.” Actually, Abbott said he was pretty happy being paired on Friday nights at 8:30 with fellow four-camera comedy Last Man Standing, which he called “a really good decision.” But he also emphasized how four-camera has gotten a bad knock. “I think that it’s never about how many cameras you have shooting it, it’s about the people doing it, it’s about the writers, it’s about the actors, it’s about the director,” he said. And if you do a good show people will watch it… I love four-camera because I get to go out there on show night and watch the audience react, I can maybe change a few lines to make it better. And I think that has great value.”
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Abbott reiterated his panel comments afterward, complaining about the sentiment that four-camera is dead at worst and, at best, unsophisticated. “I think that four-camera’s going to cable kind of exacerbated that feeling, But look, you could shoot Modern Family as a four-camera show quite honestly and you wouldn’t lose any of the humor. I think it’s really more about the creative teams behind all of this stuff. But to my mind, four-camera is still completely viable.” Abbott added that he believes putting a little bit more creativity into the multi-camera mix could alter the industry’s lukewarm view of it. Yet at the same time, he resents ABCs attempts to rebrand the Friday night comedy block with a famed old moniker. “They’re branding it as T.G.I.F., they keep throwing that out there, which I think is a misnomer. I don’t like that term. We aren’t doing Full House. We shouldn’t (have to) feel like it’s the 1970s or ’80s again.”
Earlier in the panel, Reba expressed her wish that she be asked to do a cameo on the new ABC ensemble soap Nashville. And Tomlin made a prediction: “This will probably be my last project before I go to the Motion Picture Home.” She was kidding.