If the late English actor Edmund Kean had worked as a 21st Century programming executive, his last words may well have been, "Dying is easy... Developing comedies for young women is hard."
Oh, it's easy enough to do comedies for teen and tween female viewers. Disney Channel has been doing it with wild amounts of success for years, launching the careers of starlets like Hilary Duff, Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez.
But what happens when those viewers get a little older? Do they stop wanting to laugh?
That might be a logical supposition if you look at the comedy slates of the two networks that target women 18-34.
The CW has surrendered entirely on comedy. When The WB (which also had comedy issues) merged with UPN, a slew of sitcoms stuck around as part of the latter network's commitment to African-American viewers. As soon as The CW's demographic focus shifted, those comedies were pushed out the door. You think The CW might want those 7-ish million viewers who watch "The Game" now on BET? Sure, but that was never going to happen on The CW. It's been years since The CW last aired a half-hour comedy series.
ABC Family, in contrast, keeps trying and trying and trying to do comedy, without any real success. "Melissa & Joey" does reasonably well allegedly, but calling it "generic" would be almost unsustainable hyperbole. "10 Things I Hate About You" was on-brand and well-received by some critics, but it was cancelled after a season. "State of Georgia" had a solid pedigree with Jennifer Weiner creating and Raven-Symone starring, but it also barely rose to the level of mediocre and was cancelled after a season.
It's notable that ABC Family can't do comedy, because the network does drama reasonably well by several standards. It has populist successes like "Secret Life of the American Teenager," young-skewing social media "buzz" hits like "Pretty Little Liars" and with "Switched at Birth" and "Bunheads," it even has a few shows that critics say nice things about.
ABC Family's latest comedic whimper is "Baby Daddy," which premieres at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday (June 20) night and will be forgotten by 9:15. And maybe ABC Family views that as progress, because the pilot for "State of Georgia" was bad enough that it took well over 15 minutes to forget.
"Baby Daddy" has no real point of view, no real comedic voice and one very cute infant. Somebody at ABC Family probably, in fact, views that as a net gain.
A few more thoughts, somewhat more specific than "Meh-minus," after the break...