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The History of Sitcoms

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The History of Sitcoms The word 'Sitcom' derives from the words Situational Comedy. Sitcoms are a series of programs shown on television that usually involve a family or a close group of characters. Sitcoms seem to have been around ever since television was introduced to the family home, and are continuing to change along with television itself. Traditionally, sitcoms were generally centred around men, usually having only one or two female characters. Examples of this are, 'Yes Prime Minister', 'Blackadder', and the still popular 'Only Fools and Horses'. They complied with the social and ethnic majorities of old day society - middle aged, middleclass, and white characters dominating sitcoms of that day. Very young or old people were not represented, along with the disabled and ethnic minorities. This may have been so as not to offend the more narrow-minded views of society. Men and women had very stereotypical traits that were incorporated into the main characters of a sitcom. Male characters were shown as independent, irrational and delusional, whereas the leading woman was usually the opposite. She was domesticated, caring and motherly towards her blundering husband. As sitcoms developed further, camp characters were introduced along with the convention of role reversal between men and women. An example of this is 'Some Mothers Do 'Ave Em', where role reversal is used to make the sitcom funnier and more unique. In modern times, some conventions of traditional sitcoms have been maintained, and as sitcoms developed some devices have been subverted. ...read more.


The Royle Family live in the North of England, which is conveyed to the audience by their strong accents. The north is recognised as an underprivileged area, ands this shows the Royles as a working class family. My Family are immediately recognised as an upper middle-class family, as they are typical of West London, the 'soft underbelly' of the South. The sofa and living room are used as the main setting in both of these 2 sitcoms, but the way that props and cameras are positioned further reinforces their different social classes. The Royles' cramped living room is shown at awkward angles and no windows or open spaces are shown. This gives the impression of a pokey terraced house. The living room of My Family is airy and spacious, a wide area of it being shown and lots of carefully placed ornaments and windows. The Simpsons is also a working class family, whose standards lie between those of the two extremes; My Family and The Royle Family. The big difference, however, is that The Simpsons is set in a fictional area of America - Springfield. As with the two English sitcoms, the living room is the main scene, but more of the outside world is explored than in My Family or The Royles, which are both quite inward. OCCUPATION: In this sense, the Simpsons and My Family are more conventional in work than the Royle Family. Ben and Homer - the men of the families, both earn money for the rest of their family with quite advanced jobs (Ben works as a white-collar dentist and Homer as a blue-collar nuclear power plant controller). ...read more.


Given this, she is less domesticated than Marge, spending more time socializing with her family or working than cooking and cleaning. It could be said that she tries harder to hold her deficient family together, as she has the burden of an idle husband and immature yet adult children, and doesn't moan about it. This is effective as Barbara is a character that the audience will sympathise with and respect. Susan, of My Family, has very little maternal or loving characteristics and therefore doesn't make a very strong bond with the audience. She is not very domesticated, as she often states she cannot cook, and also she is more the head of the household than Ben, instructing her children and husband on what and what not to do. The fact that she works also takes any maternal nature out of her character, and her sarcastic, tempestuous and sometimes-immature nature is used to get laughter from the audience rather than to make a bond with them. In fact, there is no palpable affection shown between any of the rest of the Archer family either. Every character contains an element of sarcasm, and the main entertainment from My Family comes from The Families ridicule and general intolerance of one another. One thing that most sitcoms have in common is the inclusion of one "normal voice" - a character that possesses no prominent qualities. This is effective in keeping some reality to a sitcom especially if in all other aspect its is unlikely that any of its situations would happen. ...read more.

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