A Tale of Two Sitcoms

An inside look at the challenges of two new TV comedies. First task: rescue the funny business

The Cosby question--he's heard it before. Chris Rock knows his history well enough to know the parallel: in 1984 a black comic turned his stand-up act into a fresh-voiced family comedy that revived the sitcom genre when, like now, pundits were reading it the last rites. But suggest that UPN's Everybody Hates Chris, which Rock created and narrates, could be today's Great Black Hope, and the comic waxes unphilosophical. "If it's good, it'll work. If not, it won't work." Shrug. Silence. Move on.

The writers of NBC's My Name Is Earl likewise claim to feel little pressure to save a multibillion-dollar...

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