Sitcoms making a comeback

Less than a decade ago, the situation comedy (sitcom) form of TV show was in decline at the networks and some critics even declared TV comedy dead.

But these days, funny is making a comeback.

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"Two and a Half Men" kicked off its Ashton Kutcher era this season with a record-breaking 29 million viewers. Though ratings have dropped since then, the show's ninth season is up 44 percent, CBS News contributor Mo Rocca reported.

Emmy-winning best comedy "Modern Family" is up 25 percent. And in its seventh season, "How I Met your Mother" has risen 19 percent, while "The Big Bang Theory" is up 10 percent.

Even more promising is the out-of-the-box success of this year's new comedies, ABC's "Last Man Standing," Fox's "New Girl," and CBS' breakout hit "2 Broke Girls."

Why is the sitcom so successful now?

Rocca said, "The idea that the bad economy is driving us to sitcoms is an interesting idea. I wish it were true. I just don't think it is. I think people are a little bit sick of procedural dramas and, hopefully, a lot sick of reality TV. It's cadavers and Kardashians. We've had enough of them. "

"Early Show" co-anchor Chris Wragge noted that a lot of sitcoms went by the wayside because of the interest in reality TV.

Dalton Ross, assistant managing editor of Entertainment Weekly magazine, said, "That was definitely part of it. 'Survivor' and 'American Idol' jumped on the scene, and people were fascinated by that, but (there were) a lot of other reasons. I'll give you a few of them: (shows like) 'Baby Bob,' 'Daddy O,' 'Cavemen,' 'The Mullets.' It was sort of a golden age of cruddy comedy for a while there."

The resurgence, Ross said, can be attributed to better writing - not a secret formula.

"You have Chuck Lorrie and he has three-camera live studio audience and very traditional and then 'Modern Family' and then you have 'The Office' and '30 Rock' and they're single-camera, no studio audience, quick cut editing, and very different shows. Eventually, it's going to come down to writing."

Mo Rocca added, "The single-camera comedies are probably half of the new hits, and that style has only been around a decade. I think 'Modern Family' probably really pushed it into mass appeal at this point."

Mo Rocca said gender has a role in TV success.

"I think movie comedies are still largely about schlumpy guys with impossibly hot girlfriends without any discernible personality," he said. "So the sitcoms, a lot of these sitcoms, have really funny women like like Tina Fey and Melissa McCarthy and now, Zooey Deschanel."

So what are the critics' favorite picks for this year's breakout comedies?

Ross said "New Girl," starring Deschanel is his because, as he put it, "Zooey ... is great. It's a great ensemble. She's great, but the guys on the show are funny, as well."

Mo Rocca chose "2 Broke Girls," but said he's holding out for a Charlie Sheen reincarnation on "Two and a Half Men."

"They've got to figure out how to bring him back," he said. "I know he's dead, but they need to figure out how to get him to return!"