Cover Story

The Funny Business

Are sitcoms dead? TV writers from your favorite shows talk about what network demands, reality TV, and the end of ''Friends'' mean for the genre

Courteney Cox, David Schwimmer, ... | 'FRIENDS' TO THE END With the Central Perk gang going off the air, can the nets come up with a new hit?
Image credit: Friends: Warner Bros.
'FRIENDS' TO THE END With the Central Perk gang going off the air, can the nets come up with a new hit?

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Three award-winning comedies are ending this season, and as of today we don't know the future of ''Everybody Loves Raymond.'' What does it say about the state of the genre?
Phil Rosenthal (''Everybody Loves Raymond'') It says nothing. There are still good shows. People always think because a few go away, it's over. But it's not. There'll be another show that comes along that everybody enjoys.

Is the theory true that viewers want something new, or does mediocrity succeed for a reason?
Cindy Chupack (''Sex and the City'') Nobody sets out to make a mediocre show. You're trying to make the best of what the show is.
Rosenthal But mediocrity is insidious. It gets in even if you think you're doing something good, and you can lose your focus and suddenly you're on one of those shows that you didn't want to be on.
Chuck Lorre (''Dharma & Greg,'' ''Two and a Half Men'') It's the nature of turning out that many shows in a short amount of time. You're constantly battling against the burnout.
Diane English (''Murphy Brown'') But there are executives who do value mediocrity because it feels safe, middle-of-the-road... They value that sort of broad sweep of ''We're not going to offend too much.'' They eliminate the highs, the lows. The risk takers suffer and have to fight to keep their unique voice. I found it very interesting that [''Significant Others'']...premiered on Bravo rather than on NBC. It's almost like the network was testing it on the smaller venue... because it's different.

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