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American TV comedy often seems more 'universal' in its appeal than intensely 'local' British sit-coms, but both rely on stereotyped representations of social

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Gutemberg Dantas Araujo 24/03/2004 Journalism and Sociology/ Film studies Tutor: Dr Bruce Hanlin "American TV comedy often seems more 'universal' in its appeal than intensely 'local' British sit-coms, but both rely on stereotyped representations of social class". Discuss this proposition, illustrating your answer with appropriate examples. Sit-coms in television history have been one of the most important genres for expressing the values of the middle and lower classes in our society, not in order to make fun of them but to express the best of them in a softer way. For the general public today, the sit-com is like the pantomime was for the Victorians. British comedy still has a Victorian taste, but it is one that is only recognized and truly appreciated by the British, which makes the British sitcoms less universal, and it does also express a more localised British culture. In reality, the appeal of American sit-coms in relation to the British is clear. In the UK, the use of social class stereotypes is more intense; they rely on a more complex social background than the US. Although it is generally felt that UK culture is gradually becoming less defined by the stereotypes of social class, it is notable that in the last five years of television, many sit-coms in UK television continue to approach mainly social class issues, which have more to do with the working class than ever before. For example, in the last year there were two productions that clearly illustrate this point: Shameless and Little Britain, recent productions by Channel 4 and the BBC, used the stereotype of the English working class. ...read more.


recognisable type; a representation or embodiment of a set of ideas or a manifestation of a clich´┐Ż.2 For the American sit-com, the stereotype has to have a more universal appeal, where in Britain these stereotypes are more easily recognized in our local society, and the male and female stereotype interacts with the surroundings, making it part of the actor's character. However, audiences can notice a change in American sit-coms in the last five years. They are using a more straight-forward form in sit-coms like Will and Grace. In this show, there is a new use of gay stereotypes being very open but with a universal appeal. Will is a camp 'butch' gay guy whereas his best friend is camp and feminine, perhaps the funniest of the two of them. In Gimme, Gimme, Gimme, there is the camp gay guy who interacts with an ugly and fat flatmate. But the jokes and situations in which they are involved do not have a universal appeal because their jokes exploit additional stereotypes in English society that make the programme incomprehensible for anyone other than the British. The use of such stereotypes promotes the illusion of community which can be recognized by an audience. Making fun of any strange behaviour which is not acceptable in society, one way or another, is part of the sit-com format. Situation comedy is seen as light entertainment. According to TV producers, its function is to attract funding and to catch the audience early in the evening, offering a laugh which temporarily gives them an escape from reality. ...read more.


She only drinks natural drinks and dresses with a feminist attitude. It is the clash of both present and past which makes the comedy. The exchange of values in the way that the mother's role, which is to look after her daughter, is inverted, and the confusion with the past by Edina and Patsy which transforms Absolutely Fabulous into an international sit-com. In conclusion, there is one answer for the question 'Why is the English sit-com not that universal?' British TV productions have had some success exporting their productions. However, the answer rests with the cultural aspects of the programmes themselves. The English audience is more open to American productions due to the fact that they are more universal; the jokes, the plots, and the sceneries can be incorporated into any culture with no need of any adjustment. The British sit-coms usually explore a more local stereotype and surroundings which make the export of these productions almost impossible. The amount of cultural ideology, which makes them funny, cannot be translated in many cases. Productions like Friends and Will and Grace explore more the actors' personalities and lives than their surroundings. The cultural aspects in many cases are nonexistent. When the shoplifter from Little Britain appears, the joke is often not what she says but her accent and the way she dresses. It is a clear association with somebody who lives in the east end of London - the stereotype - which makes it funny, the association of the audience with reality. For a Londoner, this association comes automatically because each viewer probably knows someone like that, or would have seen somebody or even heard such an accent before. ...read more.

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