I spent nearly an hour talking to them in the most recent Talking TV podcast partly because Royce and Biegel been involved in making quality programs -- mostly comedies -- for quite some time ("Everybody Loves Raymond," "Scrubs," "Men of a Certain Age" and "Cougar Town" are among the shows on their collective resume). Both had well-reasoned perspectives to offer on the tough state of comedy on the broadcast networks and the future of half-hours in a world in which Netflix, Amazon and Hulu are increasingly important players. As Royce and Biegel discuss in the podcast, even a big star isn't necessarily a guarantee of success -- "Sean Saves the World," "The Michael J. Fox Show" and "The Crazy Ones" with Robin Williams all perished after one season.
As Biegel said at one point, "The crazy thing about TV comedy now is that it seems like no one knows what works."
That's certainly true. It's been a difficult couple of years for fans of half-hour comedy on the broadcast networks, especially if your tastes lean toward the warm-hearted or the cultish. Sure, "Community" may come back, but does that really prove that shows with engaged fan bases and critical acclaim have a better shot at surviving? It's hard to say.
Of course, every show's history and fan base is different, but there have been a distressing number of fatalities in the realm of quality broadcast-network comedy in the last year or two. In addition to "Enlisted," "Trophy Wife" and "Suburgatory" were both canceled, and some of us are still mourning the loss of the sharp yet sweet "Happy Endings" and "Go On" last year.
"The fact that we got to make that show is pretty amazing," said Biegel, and he praised Fox for not wanting to change the DNA of "Enlisted." "But any show now needs a chance to get known and to grow, and maybe that's just not realistic in the modern TV landscape. So many comedy writers I know [are saying], 'I want to go to cable.'"
But hope lives on for "Enlisted" -- there are three more episodes airing at 7 p.m. ET Sundays on Fox, and they are terrific, especially the Season 1 finale, "Alive Day." "Enlisted" is currently being shopped to other outlets, including streaming services, and fans are doing their best to keep the show alive through Twitter and other social-media campaigns.
"I feel like it's a perfect streaming show," Royce said of the Army comedy. "It's very fast-paced and there are a lot of jokes" that you can go back and watch again. And though he recognizes that many networks and streaming services want to develop their own content in-house, he noted that "the guy who picked up 'JAG' from CBS is a genius."