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Modern Sitcoms

BySidsel Norgaard

Nov 18, 2014

We all know it, – one of the most beloved sitcoms ever, Friends. The series about six friends and their everyday lives went on for 10 years, and it didn’t lose viewers, but rather earned a massive audience. The series presented the idea that all you need is good friends, rather than raising a family in conventional domestic lives. This is a sitcom which has had a great impact on many lives, but where’s the sitcom-genre today? Do sitcoms still have an impact on lives all over the world, or is it rather superficial entertainment with dumb canned laughter?

How I Met Your Mother is one of the newer sitcoms, which actually in some ways look like Friends. The setting is New York as well, some of them are living together as roommates, and instead of sitting in the coffee house, Central Perk, they’re sitting in Maclaren’s Pub. However, the structure of the show is very different. The episodes are always told in flashbacks from the older Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor), who’s telling his children about how he met their mother. The relations between the five friends changes during the series, as well as the lives of the characters from Friends, but the viewer can always manage to jump in and out as long as they know a bit about the characters. This makes it a rather relaxing form of entertainment – there’s no need for paying close attention. The series has had an impact on the act of dating, with Barney Stinson’s (Neil Patrick Harris) “Playbook” and “Bro Code”, as well as Joey’s (Matt Le Blanc) catch phrase “How you doin?” being assimilated into the dating world. However, the final season of the series gained a lot of criticism, and a lot of fans all over the world raged against the final episode because of its controversial ending.

A recent sitcom, which has ditched the canned laughter that rolls through every episode of Friends and HIMYM, is New Girl. Jess Day (Zooey Deschanel) moves into three guys’ loft apartment in Los Angeles. Yes, it does seem to ring a bell to the two other sitcoms, according to the roommate relations, but New Girl provides more complex characters and focuses on the characters’ emotional lives and relations, instead of constantly delivering cheesy punch-lines.

Jess is a very charismatic person, who looks very girly on the outside, but will definitely change the viewer’s first impression, when she starts to open her mouth. She’s strange and funny at the same time, and this is something that gives the series its element of black humour. The series has opened to critical acclaim, but unfortunately instead of gaining viewers it’s losing them. However, since New Girl hasn’t ended yet, a lot could happen, and hopefully it will keep its viewers in its fascinating bubble of complex relations and black humour. Another sitcom that has a lot of complex relations, is the award-winning Modern Family. And a modern family it is – Jay Pritchett (Ed O’Neill) is the father of Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Claire (Julie Bowen), who each have their own families: Claire has a husband and three kids, and Mitchell is in a homosexual relationship, where they’ve adopted a daughter. Jay is married to his Colombian second wife, who has a child from a previous marriage, and together they have a baby. The laughter is canned, and it breaks the fourth wall in a mockumentary format, with the characters speaking directly to the camera. Modern Family has attracted critical acclaim, and managed to maintain viewer numbers. However, critics have pointed out that it isn’t very modern, presenting unemployed women in the series, and the relationship between Cam and Mitchell lacks affection. Where do all of these sitcoms leave us? Everybody has a favourite, but with the canned laughter leaving and with more complex characters and relations seeping in, it’s up for debate if they can be mentioned as just dumb entertainment, or if they genuinely say something about the lives that we all live.

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