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Sit-com

For the satirical film by François Ozon, see Sitcom (film).

A situation comedy, often shortened to sitcom, is a genre of comedy that features characters sharing the same common environment, such as a home or workplace, with often humorous dialogue. Such programs originated in radio, but today, sitcoms are found mostly on television as one of its dominant narrative forms.

A situation comedy television program may be recorded in front of a studio audience. The effect of a live studio audience can be imitated by the use of a laugh track.

Characteristics

As opposed to stand up comedy and sketch comedy, a situation comedy has a storyline and ongoing characters in, essentially, a comedic drama. The situation is usually that of a family, workplace, or a group of friends through comedic sequences.

Traditionally comedy sketches were presented within a variety show and mixed with musical performances, as in vaudeville. The emerging mass medium of radio allowed audiences to regularly return to programmes, so programmes could feature the same characters and situations each episode and expect audiences to be familiar with them.

Sitcom humor is often character driven and by its nature running gags evolve during a series. Often the status quo of the situation is maintained from episode to episode. An episode may feature a disruption to the usual situation and the character interactions, but this will usually be settled by the episode's end and the situation returned to how it was prior to the disruption. These episodes are then linked by the overarching storyline, driving the show forward.

History

Comedies from past civilizations, such as those of Aristophanes and Menander in ancient Greece, Terence and Plautus in ancient Rome, Śudraka in ancient India, and numerous examples including Shakespeare, Molière, the Commedia dell'arte and the Punch and Judy shows from post-Renaissance Europe, are the ancestors of the modern sitcom. Some of the characters, pratfalls, routines and situations as preserved in eyewitness accounts and in the texts of the plays themselves, are remarkably similar to those in earlier modern sitcoms such as I Love Lucy and The Honeymooners. The first television sitcom is said to be Pinwright's Progress, ten episodes being broadcast on the BBC between 1946–1947.[1][2] In the U.S., director and producer William Asher has been credited with being the "man who invented the sitcom,"[3] having directed over two dozen of the leading sitcoms, including I Love Lucy, during the 1950s through the 1970s.

By country

Australia

Australia has not had a significant number of its own long running sitcoms, but many US and UK sitcom shows have also been extremely popular there. UK sitcoms are a staple on the government broadcaster Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). Several other UK sitcoms were shown by the Seven Network. US sitcoms have been common on the three commercial networks, general entertainment cable/satellite networks like Fox8, and over-the-air digital broadcasters.

There have been many Australian sitcoms throughout the history of the country's television, but many ran for just a single season - usually 13 half-hour episodes. Many successful Australian sitcoms were somewhat similar in style to British comedies, and several closely followed the premise of earlier shows from the UK. An early successful situation comedy was My Name's McGooley, What's Yours? (1967) about a working-class Sydney family. Other popular sitcoms of this general period included The Group, and Our Man in Canberra.

In the 1970s, popular Australian soap operas Number 96 and The Box featured a lot of comedy content. In 1976 ABC produced sex-comedy sitcom Alvin Purple, based on the hit feature film Alvin Purple, again with Graeme Blundell in the title role.

By the late 1970s, Australian versions of popular UK comedies were produced using key personnel from the original series. These productions retained the title and key cast members of the original programs and operated within the same story world of the original. These comedies, Are You Being Served, Doctor in the House (as Doctor Down Under) and Father, Dear Father (as Father, Dear Father in Australia), transplanted key original cast members to Australia to situations markedly similar to those of the original series. In 1978, one of the UK producers of these shows also produced The Tea Ladies in Australia. In the late 1970s Crawford Productions, best known for their successful police drama series, also created sitcoms including The Bluestone Boys (1976) on Network Ten, and Bobby Dazzler (1977) on the Seven Network.

The late-1970s sketch comedy series The Naked Vicar Show written and produced by Gary Reilly and Tony Sattler spawned a successful sitcom spin off, Kingswood Country, in 1980. This series was immensely popular, running four years. Its situation was somewhat similar to the British comedy Till Death Us Do Part and Australian comedy series The Last of the Australians.

In the early 1980s, there were few Australian sitcoms, with soap operas being the more common genre appearing on TV. During this period however, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation produced Mother and Son, which emerged as an enduring audience favourite. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, several new Australian sitcoms achieved significant success including Frontline, Acropolis Now, All Together Now which all had relatively long runs. This period also saw many short-lived failures such as Late for School and Bingles.

Hey Dad...!, by Gary Reilly Productions was a long running popular success. The company's other shows Hampton Court and My Two Wives were only moderate successes, lasting just one season. The Adventures of Lano and Woodley ran for two seasons, in 1997 and 1999, on the ABC. In 2002 the successful sitcom Kath and Kim began its run.

Canada

Canadian television comedy is equally divided between the sitcom, sketch comedy, and dramedy. Canadian English-language sitcoms compete directly for audiences with American-made sitcoms, which are widely available in Canada on basic cable television. Like American-made sitcoms, most Canadian sitcoms are half-hour programs in which the story is written to run a total of 22 minutes in length, leaving eight minutes for commercials. A few sitcoms are hour-long programs, with 16 minutes allowed for commercials.

Domestically, Canadian broadcasting is divided along linguistic lines. Quebec French-language sitcoms almost never reach anglophone audiences, while English-language sitcoms are carried only on Quebec English-language television channels and are never remade in French. A second cultural divide, between Canada and the United States, is commonly played up in sitcoms such as An American in Canada and Due South.

Altogether, there are usually about half a dozen Canadian sitcoms airing new episodes at any given time, although many do not make it to a second season. However, many of the Canadian sitcoms which do make it receive syndicated airplay around the world.

The most successful Canadian sitcoms include King of Kensington, The Beachcombers, Trailer Park Boys, Twitch City, Hangin' In, Made In Canada, Little Mosque on the Prairie and Corner Gas. Little Mosque on the Prairie is the most internationally syndicated series. Corner Gas may be the most popular Canadian sitcom of the modern television era. Notable francophone sitcoms include Histoires de filles, Moi et l'autre, 4 et demi, La Petite Vie, Dans une galaxie près de chez-vous, Radio Enfer, and Rumeurs.

Canadian sitcoms have also explored animation and puppetry in sitcoms such as Puppets Who Kill and Total Drama, which satirizes competitive reality television. The Emmy-winning sitcom 6teen is syndicated in two dozen countries.

Particularly popular Canadian sitcoms have been honoured with statues and other monuments. A statue of Al Waxman as the "king" of Kensington can be found in Kensington Market, Toronto. "Persephone," the tugboat used by Nick Adonidas on "The Beachcombers," is displayed in a small park near "Molly's Reach," a restaurant opened in the building that was the set for the sitcom restaurant of the same name in Gibsons, British Columbia.

China

China, mainly Beijing's television studios, has produced a strong number of comedies with high episode counts. The first multi-camera sitcom was I Love My Family, in 1993. While inspired by American sitcoms, I Love My Family used actors with theatre experience to display comedic and dramatic talents. Home with Kids is another Chinese sitcom heavily based on Growing Pains, which dealt with real-life family issues and ran for over 350 episodes. It was known for featuring child actors, who have prominent roles throughout the series.

For the teen audience, China has produced the Friends-inspired iPartment. Like Friends, the Shanghai-based iPartment follows a group of neighbors in their escapades. The series uses fast-paced editing and surreal pop culture references for comic effect. iPartment has 20 hour-long episodes and is filmed on-location and closed sets. Despite this, the series contains a laugh track, which is an uncommon practice used for single-camera programs.

Hong Kong has a strong number of sitcoms that differ from Mainland China's programs. An average sitcom does not use a studio audience nor a laugh track to fill-in more dialogue for the characters. Also, many programs used large sets and locations to film more dynamically.

Czech Republic

The first Czech sitcom was called Nováci, which ran in 1995. It was paused because of bad ratings and production ambitions to create a better one. In 1996 the new sitcom Nováci 2 was aired, which many considered worse than original series and was stopped after 52 episodes. The original series from 1995 had 72 episodes. In 1996 26 episodes of a new series called Hospoda (Pub)aired which became very successful, so a second series with 26 episodes was created in 1997. In 1999 a series called Policajti z předměstí (Suburb Cops)aired which was unpopular and was ended after 21 episodes, but it has lot of fans today. In 2001 aired sitcom Duch Český and in 2008 Cyranův ostrov written by famous Czech country singer Ivan Mládek. In the same year the sitcom Profesionálové (Professionals)aired which was stopped after 11 episodes but which inspired a very successful Slovakian version. In autumn 2008 began the first sitcom series Comeback which many consider the best Czech sitcom; the series had 30 episodes. In 2009 aired a new series of Cyranův ostrov called Cyranův poloostrov with a new main plot, and in 2010 began a new version of Profesionálové with some new actors, new scriptwriters, and a new director. But it wasn't very successful again. In the autumn of the same year the second series of Comeback was very successful, and had 21 episodes. This is the final series of Comeback. In 2011 Noha 22 will debut - a new project of Ivan Mládek - sitcom from hospital and probably third season of Profesionálové.

Denmark

The first respected Danish sitcom was Langt Fra Las Vegas (Far From Las Vegas), written by Casper Christensen. It aired from 2001 until 2003. The series was about a TV station and the employees, but mainly Casper, played by Casper Christensen. The first season was called "Season 0" and was very different from the other 4 seasons. Kenny, played by Frank Hvam, was changed from a smart ass, to a nerd. The kid like Wulff, played by Mikael Wulff, was written out of the story. When Langt fra Las Vegas ended, Casper made up a new sitcom called Klovn (Clown), which ran from 2005 to 2009. Casper and Frank played themselves. When the series ended, Klovn - The Movie came in the cinemas one and a half year later. The movie became quite successful. Another of the more popular sitcoms was Kristian, which were written by Christian Fuhlendorff. Christian also played Kristian. The first season ran from November 2009, and had 10 episodes. In 2011, Christian Fuhlendorff announced on his Facebook, that there would be a second season in the Autum 2011. In the start of 2011 the sitcom Lykke (Lykke is the name of the protagonist. The name Lykke is Danish, and means "Happiness") aired, and lasted 10 episodes. Not soon after its ending, DR1 announced that there would be another season.

Germany

The first German sitcoms were Ein Herz und eine Seele and Motzki, written by Wolfgang Menge. Ein Herz und eine Seele was produced by West German Radio WDR in Cologne, with Heinz Schubert. Ein Herz und eine Seele shows the coexistence of a German family in a row house in the Ruhr-region during the 1970s: They treated besides usual everyday topics, especially the coincidence of extremely small bourgeois-conservative attitude of parents with the idealistic approach of the '68 movement. Another very important contemporary sitcom is Dittsche, a German improvisation comedy television show starring Olli Dittrich and Jon Flemming Olsen.

Olli Dittrich plays the unemployed Dittsche, who frequents a local fast food diner and converses with the proprietor about current events, drawing heavily on bizarre tabloid headlines to formulate perplexingly insane theories about their background. Schildkröte (German word for "Turtle"), a bar regular (played by Franz Jarnach), looks on mostly passively in the background.

The show is unscripted and is broadcast live from a real fast food diner in Hamburg. One special feature of the show is the camera perspective, which changes in a fixed pattern and is digitally processed to mimic surveillance cameras. The show also features many celebrities from German TV and sports, who appear as customers of the diner.

India

Sitcoms started appearing on Indian television in the 1980s, with serials like Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi (1984) and Wagle Ki Duniya (1988) on the state-run Doordarshan channel. Gradually, as private channels were allowed, many more sitcoms followed in the 1990s, such as Zabaan Sambhalke (1993), Shrimaan Shrimati (1995), Office Office (2001), Khichdi (2002), Sarabhai vs Sarabhai (2005) to Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah (2008-present).[4][5] Amrutham (2001-2007) in Telugu, in particular, is a popular sitcom, its popularity resulting in a movie franchise.

Akkara Kazhchakal is a Malayalam sitcom that aired on Kairali TV from 2008 to 2010. The series consisted of fifty episodes, and chronicled the lives of a middle-class Malayali family who have settled in the United States. The show was created by Abi Varghese and Ajayan Venugopalan and starred relative newcomers as the leads.

New Zealand

New Zealand began producing television programs later than many other developed countries. Due to New Zealand's small population, the two main New Zealand networks will rarely fund more than one or two sitcoms each year. This low output means there is less chance of a successful sitcom being produced to offset the failures.

Early sitcoms included Joe & Koro and Buck House. Later there was The Billy T James Show subsequently rerun in early 2004 as part of the first year's offering on Māori Television. The team of David McPhail and Jon Gadsby produced and/or starred in sitcoms such as Letter to Blanchy with help from writer A K Grant. The most popular and successful NZ sitcom from this era was Roger Hall's Gliding On, based on his hit stage play Glide Time. Another Hall play, Conjugal Rites was also made into a sitcom but by Granada in Britain.

In 1994, Melody Rules was produced and screened. Critically and commercially unsuccessful, it has become part of the lexicon within the television industry to describe an unsuccessful sitcom, for example, that show will be the next "Melody Rules". Another sitcom to have its roots in a stage play was Serial Killers (2003), about the scriptwriters of a medical soap opera.

Most recently the duo Flight of the Conchords have created and starred in a sitcom of an eponymous name. The show stars three Kiwis (including Rhys Darby), is written primarily by the two leads, Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie (along with contributions from Kiwis Duncan Sarkies and Taika Waititi), but it is shot entirely in New York City, was co-created by an Englishman, James Bobin, and is funded by HBO, an American premium cable channel. It is the most popular sitcom ever produced featuring Kiwi comedians.

The most successful true NZ sitcom to date, which also utilizes the one-camera approach, is the Jaquie Brown Diaries. The first season (July 2008) ran for 6 episodes. The second season (Oct 2009) ran for 8 episodes.

Many British and American sitcoms are and have been popular in New Zealand.

It is commonly claimed that the primary difficulties for New Zealand comedy production are a prevailing attitude of cultural cringe wherein domestic products are viewed as automatically being inferior, and the market demand for profitability due to New Zealand having no strictly commercial-free channels. Both government-owned channels TVOne and TV2 are broadcast with commercials and cannot survive on government subsidies alone. Some suggest that Kiwi comedies which are viewed as commercially unreliable are often relegated to poor timeslots and not promoted by their networks. James Griffin, creator of TV3's Outrageous Fortune, has noted that often Kiwi comedies get neglected to death such as his show Diplomatic Immunity did.

Pakistan

The Pakistan Television Corporation began airing sitcoms soon after its launch in 1961. Its early sitcoms included Fifty Fifty, Aangan Terha, and Alif Noon, and these popular shows were considered part of a golden era for Pakistani television. In the 1990s, popular Pakistani sitcoms were Studio Dhai (2-1/2) and Studio Ponay Teen (2-3/4). Popular sitcoms in the 2000s included Banana News Network (BNN), Ham Sab Umeed Say Hain and Khabar Nak, all from the Geo Television Network, and Hasb-e-Haal from Dunya News.

Serbia

One of the first sitcoms on Belgrade TV was "Servisna stanica" (The Service Station)[6] which started in February 1959 and ran for two years (two seasons, 16 episodes each). The Serbian brand of comedy was very influential in the Balkan region. Other popular sitcoms from the '70s onwards were Kamiondzije and Pozoriste u kuci in the 1970s, Price iz radionice in the 1980s, and Otvorena vrata in the 1990s.

Turkey

The first Turkish sitcom was Kaynanalar ("Mothers in Law") that started in 1974 and ran for 30 years. Telling the story of a typical Turkish family, Kaynanalar was very popular. Among the most loved modern sitcoms, Avrupa Yakasi, Çocuklar Duymasin and Yahşi Cazibe have also been very popular in Middle Eastern countries. Yalan Dünya which has the same scriptwriter with Avrupa Yakası has started beginning of the 2012.

United Kingdom

Main article: British sitcom

The United Kingdom has produced a wealth of sitcoms, many of which have been exported to other countries or even adapted to better fit local audiences. British sitcoms often exhibit a tendency towards black humour. A frequent theme in British sitcoms is that of people trapped in an unpleasant situation (Porridge, 'Allo 'Allo!) or a dysfunctional relationship (Only Fools and Horses, Rising Damp and Steptoe and Son).

British sitcoms have also tended to shy away from the folksy homespun nature of the American sitcom and into more adult or intellectual territory - Yes Minister being an example of the latter.[neutrality is disputed]

Other examples of popular British comedy shows that have also enjoyed international success include Black Books and The IT Crowd.

United States

Most American sitcoms generally include episodes of 20 to 30 minutes in length, where the story is written to run a total of 22 minutes in length, leaving eight minutes for commercials.[7]

Sitcoms made outside the U.S. may run somewhat longer or shorter. U.S. commercial broadcasters have traditionally been very reluctant to greenlight shows that run too short or too long. Thus, very few British or Commonwealth sitcoms can be found on U.S. commercial television. Some popular British shows have been successfully adapted for the U.S.[8]

U.S. sitcoms (like other American television series) typically have long season runs of 20 or more episodes due to the way they are produced. Canadian sitcoms typically only have season runs of 14 on average. British sitcoms have much shorter seasons in comparison where there are usually six episodes.

American sitcoms are often written by large teams of U.S. resident script writers during round-table sessions, but some U.S. sitcoms often do have episodes written by a guest writer. Most British sitcoms are written by one or two people, with four writers sometimes being the norm for some series in the recent past.

Usually sitcoms from the U.S. have satire and slapstick comedy in their status. America has made numerous sitcoms since 1947, including sitcoms aimed specifically at children and teenagers. A sub-genre of U.S. sitcoms, seen as early as the 1950s but more prominent since the 1970s, is the black sitcom, a sitcom featuring a predominantly African American cast.

Sitcoms on U.S. radio

The sitcom format was born on January 1926 with the initial broadcast of Sam 'n' Henry on WGN in Chicago. [9] The 15-minute daily program was revamped in 1928, moved to another station, renamed Amos 'n' Andy, and became one of the most successful sitcoms from this period. It was also one of the earliest examples of radio syndication. Like many radio programs of the time, the two programs continued the American entertainment traditions of vaudeville and the minstrel show.

The Jack Benny Program was another important and formative sitcom (which also functioned as a variety show, depending on the week's script and guest stars involved). The radio version began in 1932 and lasted until 1955 A televised version of the show ran from 1950 to 1965. In total, the show was broadcast for a third of a century.

Blondie was a situation comedy adapted from the Blondie comic strip by Chic Young. The radio program had a long run on several networks from 1939 to 1950.

Fibber McGee and Molly was one of the most successful sitcoms of all time, airing on radio from 1935 to 1959. The show starred vaudevillians James "Jim" and Marian Driscoll Jordan and also had its roots in Chicago.

In 1947, Beulah became the first radio sitcom featuring an African American actor in the lead role.

Sitcoms on U.S. television

1940s–1950s

In the late 1940s, the sitcom was among the first formats adapted for the new medium of television. Most sitcoms were a half-hour in length and aired weekly. Many of the earliest sitcoms were direct adaptations of existing radio shows, such as or The Jack Benny Program, or vehicles for existing radio stars such as Burns and Allen (The Burns and Allen Show) and film stars such as Abbott and Costello (The Abbott and Costello Show). Early sitcoms were broadcast live, recorded on kinescopes, or not recorded at all.

Mary Kay and Johnny was followed by The Goldbergs which first aired on January 17, 1949. The television adaptation of Beulah in 1950 became the first TV sitcom with an African American in the lead. Both The Goldbergs and Beulah were early examples of sitcoms without a laugh-track or studio audience.

Early sitcoms done on film, though without the multiple-camera setup, included The Life of Riley with William Bendix, and Stu Erwin's The Trouble with Father. Eventually, sitcoms began to divide themselves into domestic comedies and workplace comedies. The earliest domestic comedies include The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, The Honeymooners, and Make Room for Daddy. The earliest workplace comedies include Our Miss Brooks and Mr. Peepers, both set in high schools, and The Phil Silvers Show, set on a U.S. Army post.

I Love Lucy

I Love Lucy brought a new way of filming sitcoms, with Desi Arnaz, the early innovator in the history of sitcoms, who is credited with the first successful use of the multiple-camera setup, where three cameras shoot the action on stage simultaneously and the best shots from each of the cameras are later edited together. The show starred Lucille Ball (Lucy Ricardo) with her husband Desi Arnaz (Ricky Ricardo). They created it together with actors Vivian Vance (Ethel Mertz) and William Frawley (Fred Mertz), and a creative writing team. I Love Lucy was also among the first to record all multiple-camera episodes on film. With their Desilu Productions studio company, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz are credited with foreseeing the viability and prosperity of the rerun television program series.

1960s

A trend beginning in the 1960s was the expansion of the domestic comedy beyond the nuclear family or married couple. The Andy Griffith Show and My Three Sons featured widowers and their children. The Dick Van Dyke Show was notable for combining elements of the domestic comedy with the workplace, as stories followed Rob Petrie at home and at the office. Incidentally, this was one of the few sitcoms of the era shot with multiple cameras in front of a live audience.

By the mid-1960s, sitcom creators began adding more fantastical elements to live action sitcoms in the so-called "high concept" style. The regular characters of The Munsters were modelled on the Universal Monsters and the eccentric The Addams Family sprang from a series of cartoon comics. Genies and witches featured in I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched, respectively. Sherwood Schwartz created Gilligan's Island about seven stranded castaways including a movie star, a millionaire, and a professor. The Monkees was about a fictional pop group. Get Smart was a spy genre parody series, Batman a camp series based on a comic book, and Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. was an Andy Griffith Show spinoff about a man from a small town in North Carolina who joins the United States Marine Corps, named Gomer Pyle. Paul Henning and Jay Sommers worked together on three sister series: The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction and Green Acres. These three shows often crossed-over into one another and shared characters. Green Acres and Petticoat Junction characters both lived in the same farming village of Hooterville so they shared the characters of Uncle Joe Carson (Edgar Buchanan), Fred Ziffel (Hank Patterson) and Lisa Douglas (Eva Gabor). In fact, Sam Drucker (Frank Cady) was a main character on both shows. The reason Petticoat Junction and The Beverly Hillbillies crossed-over was because Kate Bradley (Bea Benaderet), the main character on Petticoat Junction until her death was related to Jed Clampett (Buddy Ebsen), the star of The Beverly Hillbillies.

Sitcom production of the 1960s mainly used the single camera filming style, which was more practical given the visual effects used in these shows. This allowed for the careful creation of special effects and sharp editing, features which were not possible with the same finesse in a multi-camera production. Many of these programs were not filmed before live audiences, and featured a laugh track.

The science fiction sitcom was born during this period with My Favorite Martian, which began airing in 1963.

1970s

In the early 1970s sitcoms continued to focus on family life with The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family as prime examples, and largely returned to the three-camera shoot before live audiences. Many programs of this era were recorded on videotape as opposed to film. About half of the sitcoms on broadcast television airing between the mid-1970s and the late 1990s were shot on video.

In the US Norman Lear often used the sitcom format to address social issues through his series All in the Family (based on Johnny Speight's Till Death Us Do Part) and its spin-offs Maude, The Jeffersons, and Good Times, all in the US. Also in Britain was Ray Galton and Alan Simpson's Steptoe and Son, which also had a US remake in Sanford and Son. In a major departure from earlier American sitcoms, these programs also had racially diverse casts.

Women's liberation was the backdrop in a series of female-led sitcoms produced by Grant Tinker: The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and its spin-offs Rhoda and Phyllis.

The topic of war was addressed in the sitcom M*A*S*H. The producers of M*A*S*H did not want a laugh track on the show, arguing that the show did not need one, and moreover that there was no laugh track on the actual Korean War, but CBS disagreed. CBS compromised by permitting the producers of the show to omit recorded laughter from scenes that took place in the operating room, if they wished. When it was shown in the UK and Germany, episodes were broadcast without the laugh track. Ross Bagdasarian also refused to use a laugh track in his production of The Alvin Show, as did Jay Ward on Rocky and Bullwinkle.

Also during this time, Bob Newhart adapted his deadpan club act for television in sitcom format with The Bob Newhart Show, which was at once a throwback to the early vaudevillian origins of sitcoms and a harbinger of the 1980s - 1990s stand-up comedian sitcom trend.

In the mid-1970s, Garry Marshall had several huge hits in the US with his sitcoms such as The Odd Couple, Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, and Mork and Mindy. Nostalgia for the 50s was a major theme in both Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley.

Sex and titillation became a theme in late 1970s with the UK sitcom Man About the House and its US remake Three's Company. Two soap opera parodies, Soap and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, are also notable shows from this period which pushed the envelope of what was acceptable in television sitcoms.

1980s

In the 1980s, stand-up comic Bill Cosby starred in the sitcom The Cosby Show, which was the earliest of the current trend of successful sitcoms built around a stand-up comic's stage persona. Comedienne Roseanne Barr continued the trend in the late 1980s with her eponymous sitcom, as did Garry Shandling (It's Garry Shandling's Show and The Larry Sanders Show). More recently, Jerry Seinfeld (Seinfeld) and Ray Romano (Everybody Loves Raymond) have also made the transition from stand up to the small screen with self-starring sitcoms.

To some extent, many American sitcoms of the 1980s such as Full House, Family Ties, Who's the Boss? and Growing Pains returned to themes of family life and parent-child relationships, and centered less on the social issues that defined many 1970s sitcoms. Cheers, a show about the local customers in a bar, focused on the evolving relationship between Sam and Diane. Long-running sitcoms, such as the Jeffersons and Alice contrast sharply between topical episodes of the 1970s and the less controversial subject matter that prevailed later in the series. By the end of the decade, a backlash emerged against the dominance of family-oriented sitcoms, with both more acerbic takes on working-class family life in Roseanne, Married with Children, and The Simpsons as well as programming such as Seinfeld that focused largely on relationships between single adults. The Golden Girls, a show about four older women sharing a home in Miami, which starred actresses who all starred in other shows before this. Bea Arthur, who starred in her own sitcom Maude, Rue McClanahan, who co-starred with Arthur in Maude, Betty White, who co-starred with Mary Tyler Moore in The Mary Tyler Moore Show and with McClanahan in Mama's Family, and Estelle Getty who did not star in any other shows, except guest appearances in shows.

By the mid-1980s, the growth of cable television, additional broadcast networks, and the success of first-run syndication meant that television audiences were fracturing. Programming could now be targeted at specific audiences rather than at a "general" or "adult" audience, and this included sitcoms too. Children were one of these audiences, and among the sitcoms made specifically for children were Saved by the Bell and Clarissa Explains It All.

The 1980s also saw a few comedy drama "Dramedy" programs. Examples include United States and The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd. These were largely unsuccessful.

1990s

The early 1990s saw the rebirth of the animated sitcom, a trend which continues to this day. Most notable is The Simpsons, the longest-running sitcom in US history. Other successful sitcoms in this subgenre include South Park, Futurama, Beavis and Butt-head, American Dad!, Family Guy and King of the Hill.

This era also saw a significant return to film origination. The main reason for this was that it was seen as "future proofing" productions against any new developments such as HDTV. Programs shot on standard definition videotape in general do not convert well to HDTV, while images on 35 mm film can easily be re-scanned to any future format. In addition, recent developments in film camera and post-processing technologies had eroded the advantages of using videotape.

In the mid-1990s several sitcoms have featured ongoing story lines. Seinfeld, one of the most popular U.S. sitcoms of the 1990s, featured story arcs. Friends used soap opera elements such as the end-of-season cliffhanger and gradually developing the relationships of the characters over the course of the series. Home Improvement, Mad About You, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Frasier, Will & Grace, Roseanne, Everybody Loves Raymond, Family Matters, The Nanny, That '70s Show, Harry and the Hendersons, Becker, Unhappily Ever After, Sabrina the Teenage Witch and The King of Queens are also noted for their long-term story arcs.

2000 and after

The early 2000s and later saw a rebirth of the single camera shooting style for half-hour sitcoms, with shows such as Curb Your Enthusiasm, Arrested Development, Scrubs, Malcolm in the Middle, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Louie, 30 Rock and Community. Recently, a pastiche from the UK has been utilized in American sitcoms, as many are being shot as a pseudo-documentary (aka mockumentary), such as The Office, Modern Family and Parks and Recreation.

Newer sitcoms that still used a multiple camera setup (before live audiences) include How I Met Your Mother, Gary Unmarried, Mike & Molly, Rules of Engagement, $h*! My Dad Says, Life with Bonnie, According to Jim, The New Adventures of Old Christine, Two and a Half Men, Yes, Dear, The Big Bang Theory, 2 Broke Girls, Anger Management, Melissa & Joey, and The Neighbors.

Modern critics have disagreed over the utility of the term "sitcom" in classifying shows that have come into existence since the turn of the century.[10] Certain individuals have raised the point that the shows in existence when the terminology "situational comedy" arose were highly invariant and aptly categorized as such. As a result, describing some modern shows (e.g., Louie, Curb Your Enthusiasm) as "sitcoms" can generate some false expectations. It has been proposed that one-camera setup shows would be better served to be removed from the sitcom classification and described in a taxonomy at the same level of sitcom as another type of comedy instead.

See also


References

Further reading

  • Lewisohn, Mark (2003) Radio Times' Guide to TV Comedy. 2nd Ed. Revised - BBC Consumer Publishing. ISBN 0-563-48755-0, Provides details of every comedy show ever seen on British television, including imports.
  • Padva, Gilad (2005) Desired Bodies and Queer Masculinities in Three Popular TV Sitcoms. In Lorek-Jezinska, Edyta and Wieckowska, Katarzyna (Eds.), Corporeal Inscriptions: Representations of the Body in Cultural and Literary Texts and Practices (pp. 127–138). Torun, Poland: Nicholas Copernicus University Press. ISBN 83-231-1812-4
  • Asplin, Richard (2004) Gagged - A Thriller With Jokes - Arrow books. ISBN 0-09-941685-9 is a contemporary comic thriller set in London and Los Angeles that covers the financing, production, creation, ratings and marketing of a modern American network half-hour situation comedy

External links

  • Situation Comedy Bibliography (via UC Berkeley) — mostly USA programs.
  • Sitcoms Online
  • British Comedy Guide

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