Do you remember when the almost all the shows that people watched on television were sitcoms?
When I was growing and learning about the world around me, most of the shows on television were situation comedies like Friends and Seinfeld. Before that it was Full House and Perfect Strangers. Before that it was Family Ties and Growing Pains. The names of the shows changed but the theme of the shows did not. The shows were all about ordinary people getting into situations that were both strange and familiar, and that was where the humor resided. In every one of these sitcoms there was always at least one episode where:
- a character overextended himself or herself with commitments
- best friends fight over something and then make up
- one character tries to lend expertise to another character’s problem, but the character with the problem just wishes the helping character would butt out, but does not want to hurt the helping character’s feelings
- a character’s professional success makes things weird
- one character learns an embarrassing secret about another character and spends the whole episode dancing around the secret in various conversations
Et cetera, et cetera. These sitcoms were surreal. The characters and situations resembled real life, but we all knew, deep down, that real life never worked out that way.
Sitcoms still exist today. I just don’t know anyone who watches them. Everyone I know watches shows where they demonstrate how to prepare food, or how to put up drywall, or how to kick your addiction to hoarding. The shows are all so…practical. I can learn things from them. In the nanosecond between the end of one show and the beginning of the next (a neat trick that keeps one “glued to the set” as they say) I think to myself, “Gee, I wonder if I should do something like that in my own life?”
It was easier when I could just say, “That would never happen in real life.”