Why Are Abbott Elementary And Night Court Such Big Hits? TV Boss Knows The Answer

Melissa Rauch and Quinta Brunson
(Image credit: NBC/ABC)

Entertainment junkies still find themselves in a prime era of TV, which has seen the medium produce a plethora of shows that have become popular with viewers. The comedy genre has especially thrived during this time, thanks to Abbott Elementary, Night Court and more. The numbers that they’ve managed to bring in are impressive, especially in the age of streaming services. On that note, one can’t help but wonder how these particular productions are still able to hook people. Well, Warner Bros. Television Group CEO Channing Dungey has the answer to that loaded question. 

Channing Dungey has been a part of the entertainment industry for over 30 years, working on productions for both the big and small screens. Scandal, Criminal Minds and Once Upon a Time are just a few of the shows she’s overseen development on. These days though, she has her hands full with plenty of comedies, including the two titles mentioned above as well as Call Me Kat, Bob Hearts Abishola and others. It’s essentially Dungey’s contention that these series have done so well because there’s currently a glut of dramedies and not as many straightforward comedies. When discussing the topic with Deadline, the exec also explained how world events play into viewership preferences:

With broadcast comedies, it’s that that group of people that you check in with every week that make you feel a little bit better about your world and make you laugh at the end of a long day. When you’re dealing with things that are tough, you check into a place like whether it’s the Friends‘ couch, or the Abbott Elementary teachers’ lounge, and suddenly you feel better you feel like you’re surrounded by people that you know, and who make you feel good.

It’s true that times are tough right now and as a result, people seek programming that’ll allow them to “escape” from the real world for 30 minutes to an hour. There are still plenty of people who enjoy a good drama, mind you. (Procedurals like Law & Order: SVU and NCIS are still wildly popular.) Still, much of the public arguably seeks comfort food when navigating TV stations – or streaming services, for that matter.

The Emmy and Golden Globe-winning Abbott Elementary is a perfect example of a feel-good title that’s stolen fans’ hearts. After its premiere in December 2021, workplace romp quickly proved itself to be one of TV’s best comedies. Some have even credited Abbott for reviving interest in network sitcoms – though creator and star Quinta Brunon has downplayed that assumption. Meanwhile, the Night Court revival – which premiered just a few weeks ago – has made a splash in a short amount of time. It notched the best comedy premiere for NBC since 2017 and earned a Season 2 renewal after airing only four episodes. 

There’s clearly a desire for lighthearted offerings, and it sounds like Channing Dungey and her colleagues are eager to deliver it. The high-powered exec went on to reveal that WB is continuing to look at ways to produce true-blue comedies. And in making another point about the continued need for laughs, she shouted out one of her brand’s other critically acclaimed productions:

People are looking to try to figure out how can we do more shows that lean into kind of that hard funny perspective because the lines of comedic drama and all of that has become a little bit blurry. As a country and as a world, we’ve been going through some really difficult, challenging times with Covid and the economy, the whole nine yards. When you look back at Ted Lasso, which really became a breakthrough success when we were all home in 2020, I think people are looking for things that make them laugh and things that are a little bit brighter, and things that make them feel a sense of community.

And those communities are very real, as you can see fans discussing and gushing about their favorite shows on social media. As a longtime fan of sitcoms, I’d agree with the idea that we need to laugh, and I’m hoping that this genre continues to crank out quality productions that resonate with folks.

To get a taste of some of these network offerings, watch new episodes of Abbott Elementary on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on ABC and stream past episodes using a Hulu subscription. Night Court airs on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC, and it can also be streamed by Peacock subscribers. While you’re at it, find other funny fare by checking out CinemaBlend’s 2023 TV schedule.

Erik Swann
Senior Content Producer

Erik Swann is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend. He began working with the publication in 2020 when he was hired as Weekend Editor. Today, he continues to write, edit and handle social media responsibilities over the weekend. On weekdays, he also writes TV and movie-related news and helps out with editing and social media as needed. He graduated from the University of Maryland, where he received a degree in Broadcast Journalism. After shifting into multi-platform journalism, he started working as a freelance writer and editor before joining CB. Covers superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. He eats more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.