Have you noticed more romantic plots creeping onto your TV screen? And perhaps on shows that are comedic, rather than dramatic? Don't look now, but the rom com is perhaps pulling a Lazarus. It's just that everyone is very, very shy of the term "romantic comedy" after years of stinkers anchored by Matthew McConaughey.
NBC News looks at the uptick in TV shows combining comedy and romance. There's Married and You're the Worst on FX, Satisfaction on USA, Marry Me on NBC, and Manhattan Love Story on ABC. Several don't fit perfectly in the Katherine-Heigl-meets-cute mold, but they're all humorously concerned with the creation and maintenance of relationships.
But here's how FX president of originally programming Nick Grad talks about the shows on his network:
"It was just a matter of time before people were going to hit on the romantic comedy... All of these shows have their antecedents and are related to certain comedies from the past. But I will say neither one of our shows is romantic or comedic sometimes, but they're always about a relationship."
[Whips head around frantically] "What rom com? I don't see any rom coms here!!!"
Ben Queen, the creator of A to Z (another of the umpteen zillion rom coms debuting on TV this fall), isn't so tetchy about the term itself. But he's pretty sure the problem is that rom coms have been too tailored to the ladies:
"Over the last few years, there's been an unfortunate trend where a lot of those movies were written only for women—and not for men—and I think it hurt the box office overall," Queen said. "Just by calling it a 'romantic comedy,' people assume it's for women and men stay away from them. We're trying to think of our show more as a relationship comedy and make it interesting for men and women equally."
To give Queen some credit, he openly admits to loving romantic comedies and believes his age group is ripe for more of these stories. But I'm pretty sure what actually put the rom com into a coma is that studios were churning out half-assed crap based on their cliched notions of what women want. They figured they could cram any old thing down our throats while they put all their money and energy into 'splode-y franchise-makers and paid no attention to any number of ongoing social shifts. (Want a good laugh? Re-watch 27 Dresses and pay attention to just how dated it feels.) Plus there just weren't enough women in positions of power in Hollywood to tell them otherwise.
It's not simply that men were driven away—everybody was. Make a couple of actually good romantic comedies, and suddenly the term won't seem so much like box-office poison.
Photo via Getty.