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. ‘My Family’ is still centred around a typical middle class family, the leading man possessing the same characteristics as traditional male characters, and role reversal being used between come characters.
However, as times and views have changed, other sitcoms have become more controversial, now featuring homosexuality (‘Will and Grace’, and ‘Ellen’), different religions (‘The Vicar of Dibley’) and ethnic minorities, with women as main characters, as in ‘Sex and the City’. However, older sitcoms appear to still be held in such affection by the older generation, who watched the sitcoms with their families and keep watching as a tradition. My Family Analysis My Family is an in-house production for BBC1, and was first shown in 2000.
Robert Lindsay and Zoi?? Wanamaker (the producers) designed My Family to appeal to a wide audience and included many conventions of older sitcoms. Set in the south of England, It stars a middle class family who are shown going about daily life in the kitchen, on the sofa and around the house in general. Ben is the ‘head-of-the-house’ male, typical of many sitcoms as being arrogant, cynical and delusional, and he seems to resent his family. In my opinion he sometimes behaves like a teenager. Role reversal is used with his wife’s character, Susan.
She adopts some traits of a housewife, as she is middle aged and house based, but her characteristics are mainly those of a man. With her husband Ben she is stubborn and with her manipulative nature, seems more in charge. This is effective as it plays on some situations of real life. Michael and Nick, their two sons, are strong opposites. Michael is the ‘voice of reason’ in the family, sometimes even taking over his parents’ role, whereas Nick is clumsy and is the source of slapstick humour. Abi, the family’s cousin, acts as the centre point for easy jokes.
She is slow and a bit kooky. In the title sequence, the family is introduced as shots of their faces appear, complemented by cheerful happy music. The mise-en-scene, their house, is set almost like a theatrical stage, so that the audience can fully see the very staged drama. The house is decorated in a middle class suburban way, with characters entering/exiting from the real world as if in a play. Lines are ‘delivered’ as if performing in a theatre, and this is accompanied by a laughter track.
Well-known actors are used to increase audience, and midshots and medium close-ups are used in the sitcom. The general opinion (or voice) of the production team is conveyed to the audience; that it is a hard life for men, and women add to it. My Family is shown pre-watershed time, so it can be viewed by the whole family at home. Slapstick comedy combined with sarcastic humour is used to related to children and adults alike. It is technically well made, but some critics say it is too bland and conventional to be a main sitcom of the BBC. The Simpsons Analysis
The Simpsons is a cartoon sitcom starring a typical suburban working class family. Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and baby Maggie are animated in their house and around their fictional town of Springfield. The sitcom opens with the family members going about daily chores, introducing the characters to an up-beat, bouncy theme tune. They are seen on the sofa, (the main setting) watching TV. To add originality, a different humorous sofa scene is shown every time. The Simpsons is realistic in the sense that the family is dysfunctional, yet tried to be perfect.
Homer, the leading head-of-the-house male, is blundering and delusional. Bart, the ‘rebellious teen’ is constantly arguing with sister Lisa, who acts as the moral centre of the family. There is also Maggie, the humorous baby, and Marge, who tries to hold the family together. However, in many ways, this sitcom is also very unrealistic, for example the inclusion of aliens, the exaggerated biased politics and the fact that the sitcom itself is a cartoon. Viewers are entertained by slapstick comedy from Homer and Bart.
Their typical traits are used to create humour, e. g. Homer’s generic delusional views and lovable stupidity, and Bart’s immoral ways and ‘evil’ sense of humour. Another convention that the creator, Matt Groening, uses is the idea of including two contrasting personalities. This is done with Bart and Lisa. Bart is an under-achieving troublemaker, whereas Lisa is moralistic and ‘the school swat’. The Simpsons started out as a series of 48 shorts in a different program before its popularity increased.
It is now a sitcom of its own. It is made by a team of US animators and supported by a wide, loyal audience for its slapstick and sarcastic humour. Matt Groening vents his thoughts on politics, race and family life in the Simpsons, for example all the characters have yellow skin – not black or white – to show racial equality. Sitcom Comparison – The Simpsons, My Family and The Royle Family WHO/SETTING: Each of these three sitcoms features five main characters, all members of conventional families.
Each family consists of a married couple and 2/3 children (the national average). The 3 sitcoms being compared all share these basic similarities, but their backgrounds and lifestyles are different. My Family and The Royle family are both set in England, but the different areas of the country depict their social status. 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.