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On the Evolution of Sitcom


Sitcoms have been around for ages. I doubt there’s anyone with a TV that hasn’t been a fan of one or another. In a way, sitcoms have been the backbone of television ever since they made the jump from radio to that little black box we call TV. With its root firmly placed in plays of Aristophanes, Plautus, Shakespeare, Moliere or shows from post-Renaissance Europe, such as Punch and Judy, sitcoms have borrowed a lot from their earlier cousins, comedies, and started their own genre of amusement. With the TV not yet in the making, sitcoms were born in the 1920′s and 1930′s. Some of these moved to television once the popular invention became a household item, and, for a while the TV shows were still a vehicle for radio shows or stars. And with the creation of new sitcoms (one of which, I Love Lucy, was the first one to use multiple cameras), two of the most used subjects in the world of sitcoms became genres: the workplace comedy and the domestic comedy. Soon to follow were animated sitcoms, creating some of the most popular cartoon characters ever. Around this time, it became clear that the writers started using catchphrases as trademarks (“Yabba-Dabba-Doo!”, “Bang, zoom, straight to the moon!”, “Oh, my God! They killed Kenny”, “D’oh”), a trend that would continue through to the ’70s and ’80s. As we reached the ’70s sitcoms creators began using gimmicks, such as genies, witches, monsters and ghouls (The Addams Family). These were still the domestic comedy we had already seen, yet with a twist. The 1980′s saw the creation of sitcoms centered around a stand-up comic’s persona with The Cosby Show. This would later lead to such shows as Roseanne Barr, and Everybody Loves Raymond. One such show, spawned by stand-up comic Jerry Seinfeld, became the benchmark of modern sitcoms. Following multiple plot lines, the show addressed topics ranging from politics and sex to non-fat dairy, yet in such a superficial way as to fulfill the program’s description as “show about nothing”. The ’90s also saw the rebirth of animated sitcoms with shows such as The Simpsons, Futurama, Daria, Family Guy, American Dad or King of the Hill. Also, one of the most popular sitcoms of all time, Friends, was born. Sporting a soap-like arc story and featuring easy to like characters, the show was an instant hit, catapulting the stars to a new level of paychecks. Today’s sitcom, though it may seem like a new breed, be it boasting social satire(The Office), the all singing, all dancing(Scrubs), the self-conscious(30 Rock),or the inexplicably raunchy(Two and a Half men), owes a lot to the early sitcom, and it has yet to break out of guidelines set nearly a century ago. What is certain is that sitcom, as a genre, will continue to challenge new territories, using humor as a tool of entertainment. ____________________________ 1. Associate each photo with a decade and a type of sitcom. Find the sitcom's title (they are all in the article). 2. List all the different ingredients that compose a sitcom. 3. Use the information given in the article to draw a timeline of the evolution of sitcom. Pair-work: with all the above ingredients in mind, imagine the storyline for a sitcom (time, place, cast of characters). Present it to the group.

Photo A.

Photo B.

Photo C.

Photo D.

Photo E.

Photo F.