Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sitcoms in Society

(From "Friends")

         In my opinion, the most important function of a TV sitcom is to reflect society. One way in which TV does this is by having an episodic format and by objectifying issues from a culture. The lecture discussed the idea of TV being our modern campfire story. Campfire stories are part of an oral tradition in which the stories of a culture are told. Like campfire stories, TV is not always a perfectly realistic depiction of culture. However, it takes aspects of culture such as the role of family, the emphasis on popularity in high school, or relationship pressure, and interprets that into a recognizable format. 
(From "The Big Bang Theory")

The episodic format allows viewers to watch individual episodes without having to remember a lot of specific details from previous shows over a long period of time. It also allows a TV show to represent many different story lines and themes with the same characters without the constraints of trying to be consistent. The TV sitcom allows viewers to watch issues of society being dealt with by characters and to internalize reactions to these issues as well as be entertained at the same time. TV sitcoms would not be interesting or entertaining if the subject matter was not familiar. The reflection of society within television causes the audience to take interest in the character’s lives and causes audiences to feel more connected with society.

 From "Boy Meets World" 

A show that I think symbolizes the classic “sitcom” that was popular throughout the 90’s is “Boy Meets World”- a show about a middle class boy experiencing life as he grows up.  The show is typical of 90’s sitcoms because it reflects a national stereotype about middle class American life. It reflects society by placing the characters in various situations that any adolescent might have to go through. It examines issues of school, community, and family. Boy Meets World typifies the “three-act” structure discussed in the lecture. There is always a problem that is introduced in the first act, the character’s reactions to the issue, and then the solution in the third act. Boy Meets World began as a very episodic show, but then gradually turned serial because of its massive fan base. It ran for seven seasons from 1993 until 2000 and its characters went from the beginning of middle school to the time they are adults and are beginning married life. Many characters stay constant over time and are used for comedi relief. For instance, the character of Mr. Feeny, the high school principle and friend of the protagonist’s family is used in this capacity as well as for giving advice. His character stays the same throughout the show. Cory’s brother is portrayed as a non-serious character who is more interested in girls than work.  Boy Meets World portrayed many issues that were important to high school students in the 1990’s (many of which remain relevant today). These include early marriage, alcohol use, responsibility, and loyalty. Boy Meet World, like most sitcoms, uses pretty formulaic plotlines but I feel like it does this in a clever and innovative way that makes watching it entertaining. Boy Meets World is a great example of a sitcom because it has an episodic format, easily recognizable characters, and it reflects issues in modern society. 

Boy Meets World Clip 

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