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A funny thing happened to television this season: The sitcom made a comeback.

A strong batch of new shows join a smattering of offerings in the past few seasons to finally breathe some life into a genre many in the industry had grave concerns about.

ABC scored with a trio of sitcoms on Wednesday -- "The Middle," about a family living in middle America; "Modern Family," a mockumentary about three disparate but related families; and "Cougar Town," about a divorced woman in her 40s with a teenaged son trying to date successfully in a culture that values younger women.

NBC, which already had a very successful comedy franchise on Thursday nights, including the multi-Emmy-winning "30 Rock," added to the line-up this season with "Community," about a ragtag band of people at a community college. What significantly boosts NBC's fortunes is that "Parks and Recreation," a sitcom introduced late last season, has completely turned itself around creatively (most of the six episodes last season were bad).

HBO, already in the win column with "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Entourage" and "Eastbound & Down," found success with two new comedies, "Hung" and "Bored to Death," each quickly earning second-season renewals.

Though Showtime's "Weeds" can't really be called a comedy anymore, the sex-and-cynicism of "Californication" started strong this season and the show was renewed again. Showtime viewers also embraced newbies "Nurse Jackie" and "United States of Tara."

On ad-supported cable, FX continues to find success with "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" and will premiere "The League," about fantasy football, later this month. FX also created an animated series, "Archer," that aired once as a sneak peek in September and got critical raves.

Back on the network end, even though CBS's freshman offering, "Accidentally on Purpose" was a poorly-reviewed entry to its powerful Monday line-up, everything else on that night works and may raise the Jenna Elfman vehicle in the process. Even better for CBS, "How I Met Your Mother" and "The Big Bang Theory" are being talked about as must-see comedies.

And last season, ABC, which had been unable to generate much buzz on any sitcom it created for years, delivered broadcast television's funniest new comedy in "Better Off Ted" (which means, coupled with "Modern Family," ABC has had the two best entries in the genre two seasons running).

The glaring omission here is Fox. It's stunning how poorly Fox has fared in making a comedy that's not animated. This season, the network offered up "The Cleveland Show," an animated spin-off from "Family Guy" with a built-in audience. But otherwise it went with "Brothers," a predictable and boring comedy with former NFL player Michael Strahan, and paired it on Friday nights with "Til Death," a terrible sitcom that has inexplicably survived the ax. One good reason why: The network has nothing else to offer.

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