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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Sitcoms: My Least Favorite Television Genre

Okay, let's not mince words: I hate sitcoms.

At this declaration, some of you may ask, "Gee whiz Levi, why the hate? Haven't you seen Seinfeld?" I suppose it's a little strong to say that I "hate" sitcoms, but let me tell you, it's not at all inaccurate to say that I have a strong dislike for them.

But still, why the hate? To answer that question, we'll have to go back to the beginning. Back in the day, I used to watch tons of sitcoms with my family. We're talking old stuff that we got on DVD, before Netflix was around, stuff like The Andy Griffith Show, Gilligan's Island, Leave it to Beaver, and Get Smart. The long and short of it is that we used to watch this stuff so much that I grew weary and thoroughly sick of them after a while. Granted, I used to love Get Smart when it was actually funny, and not busy parodying movie titles, but by the end of the final season I was just begging for it to finish. This tire of sitcoms was there even before I recognized it, manifesting in my loathing of Drake and Josh when it came on TV, wherein I was forced to watch it because there was nothing else to watch. I later came to view iCarly in the same manner, though it took me until "iStart a Fan War" before I realized just how devastatingly unfunny and stupid it was.

But aside from suffering from sitcom overload, I have other legitimate reasons for hating sitcoms, based on the way that they are structurally designed. Firstly, nearly all sitcoms rely on the fact that the cast members are complete idiots. The simplest solutions are easily overlooked, and the most illogical courses of action are taken by the characters. It all adds up to manufactured drama, stale plots, and the most eye-rolling characters imaginable. The most common plot device in such shows is when the characters find themselves in a situation which could easily be fixed if the characters in question would just state the obvious and compare notes. It is made all the more infuriating when this stupid conflict plays out with predictable results which are at the same time wholly absurd and blandly humorless. It doesn't help that the characters are more often than not mere caricatures, being entirely superficial and vacuous.

Of course, it can't be said that this immediately condemns all sitcoms as ridiculous and unfunny, far from it. I once caught an episode of Friends (it was part of the inflight entertainment on a plane ride) and I found it hilarious. Likewise, I sometimes catch snippets of old radio sitcoms on KIXI Radio Theater, and what do you know, their jokes are actually funny! It also stands in stark contrast to contemporary sitcoms which rely so heavily on sex and profanity-related gags, further illustrating just how far Hollywood had fallen over the last several decades. And when they're not unwholesome, to say the least, they're stupid. Need I regale you all with the live-action garbage put out by Disney and Nickelodeon? At worst, they're both, and that's one too many scoops for me.

In the end, my distaste for sitcoms mainly stems from the fact that they're predictable, stupid, and crude. Other factors such as my preference for other forms of humor and my weariness of sitcoms as entertainment have contributed to my disillusionment, but my stance remains. Show me a sitcom which makes me laugh without making me wince, and I'll show you a TV show which went off the air twenty-plus years ago.

Image courtesy yrvshoots.com