Where Have All The Good Sitcoms Gone?
We are 62 years ahead of the airing of the first ever sitcom, and yet they are still highly popular. Sitcoms or situational comedies include a central constant troupe of characters that carry hilarity in a broad narrative sense, much unlike sketch and stage comedies. The library of American sitcoms goes very very deep, there are countless of them on the block. Every era has had its own socio-political jokes, and in every era, sitcoms have addressed them. In every era they have made us burst into laughter, and contemplate over the realities. As TV grew the number the sitcoms increased too, but what about their quality? Are the sitcoms today any better than the shows that made us laugh back in the 70s, 80s, 90s, or even the 2000s?
When Cheers first premiered on the NBC, we all cheered. Taking place inside a bar it was a one of a kind concept, a sophisticated timeless adult comedy with a lot of genius up its roster. Even after losing its central comic soul Nicholas Colasanto, the tricky and sly Coach, the show did not only survive but continued to flourish. Perhaps, it was the new characters that were introduced to compensate for him that retained the magic. In a similar scenario when Charlie Sheen walked out of Two and a Half Men, the devastating consequences that followed are quite in public knowledge. When shows run for an era, they need reinvention between their seasonal breaks. However, a complete upturn of Meta plots can greatly damage the show.
We earlier saw troupes of characters situated in a single cast in a single setting. Some in the workplace (30 Rock, The Office) while some at home in or in an apartment (Friends, I love Lucy, Seinfeld). There were themes and rhythms that did vastly vary but had one thing in common: A great central joke. Darkness was an element not alien to any show, yet it was there in the right amounts. When producers ventured out to ‘experiment’ they no doubt created a pool of great dark comedies which really worked. Sadly, they entailed long-lasting changes in taste. Now people accept gore and carnage to be funny but harbor reservations to everyday situations say family time.
Modern prestige comedies or ‘dramedies’ are no good for Galore. When we tune into comedy/ sitcom we desire something light and entertaining. We may marvel at the absolute genius of ‘Orange is the new Black’ but we miss the fun we used to have when watching shows like saying ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’. Save the smartness for Game of Thrones, give us realistic rib-tickling stuff when we ask for comedy.
Joke centric comedies somehow seem uncool. Makers wanted to test their boundaries. There were too many restrictions in the half-hour multi-camera set up shows with background laughs. As showrunners explored, they transgressed the limits of a sitcom and wandered out into genres that they simply thought were more creative.
The Cosby Show was really funny and it has no dirty stuff in it. Gilligan’s Island is also really funny, even though the situations are not always realistic. Most modern sitcoms seem to require sex or profanity because that’s what producers think people like today. I mean, they are not, of course, taboo subjects today. But, we tend to discuss them in such excess unnecessarily that they simply look ugly.
Things must be progressive, but comedy should always be fun. Unless there is any fun, there is hardly ever any laughter. We may giggle at the sight of witty modern day comedies, but we will always long for the true essence of the original farces.