Author Topic: Sitcoms predict everything  (Read 566 times)

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Online EC

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Sitcoms predict everything
« on: July 04, 2014, 01:04:23 PM »
The title I wanted to use would have gotten me banned. Go ahead and add an H in the title  :whistle:

Why would a politically oriented site even bother with looking at sitcoms, I hear you asking. Hey - voices, shut up and pay attention. Sitcoms tell the world you live in better than documentaries, being social science writ large. Each one takes the fears and expectations of the time and imprints it on your screen. I have a loose definition of sitcoms, but these all made me laugh. And think. They are presented in loose chronological order - a polite way of saying I can't be bothered to find the airing dates.

All in the Family

Dad is a bigot. Mom is a mouse. The son in law is a useless hippy. The daughter is pretty smart and together.

The odd thing about this is not the time capsule of casual racism and implied domestic violence. The Honeymooners had all that and more. It's the first totally honest look at the generation gap that was widespread on TV and played for laughs. Of course, it was stolen from the UK, since the UK had the concept of quality programming.
The 60's were a damned uncomfortable time to be a parent. The values of the late 40s and 50s were gone and being replaced by - well, what? Nothing that someone who'd gone through the war would recognize. It was also as real as it could be made. The first ever sound of a toilet flushing was on All in the Family. That has to count for something.

M.A.S.H.

War bad. Helping people good.

Though set in Korea, it was a satire on Vietnam and American triumphalism, as opposed to American exceptionalism. Superbly written (apart from the final two seasons, which got preachy) and incredibly well acted, it introduced the viewer ever so gently to the idea that "sometimes the good guys lose." That was unheard of on TV at the time.
War sitcoms there had been before - Hogans Heroes, for example - but every episode wound up in victory in those cases. MASH was the first one to admit that sometimes your best is just not good enough, and the first one to treat the military, not as legendary heroes, but as normal human beings with their own concerns, both personal and petty.

The Young Ones

4 scruffy university students sharing a run down house with a sleazy landlord.

Unless you are an Anglophile or have one heck of a Netflix subscription, you've probably never seen this. And you should remedy that omission immediately. It's a primer to the slacker generation and a perfect summary of how that generation's demographic broke down. You had the laid back hippy, the up tight socialist, the punk anarchist, and the "in it for me" guy, all in a home so filthy that the housewives in the 1950s sitcoms would scream at.

Baywatch

Slow motion jiggling boobs are awesome.

No comment. I could make some witty observation that it's a) not a sitcom, and b) is an accurate reflection of the increasing trend in personal narcissism - but why bother. You are too busy thinking about the slow motion jiggling to bother to read. It wasn't affectionately referred to as Boobwatch for no reason.
Baywatch nights, or David Hasselhoff's chest hair are never to be mentioned, lest the 7th seal be broken. And those of you who ferociously claim that it is not, in fact, a sitcom? Don't watch the story lines. Watch the acting. It's a triumph of appearance over ability. This is the point when the idea of reality TV gelled inside whatever TV producers use for brains.

Friends

20 somethings trying to make sense of the world. And setting up the trend for hipsters to sit in Starbucks for hours over one cup of coffee.

Never really saw the appeal of Friends. It was harmless enough, just six people sitting around bitching about their lives, loves and emotional states like a bunch of self obsessed, entitled and oblivious urbanites. Irritating in a mild way, but nothing that has you hissing at the screen and throwing bricks or crucifixes. Don't dismiss it. It was prescient about the way the culture has moved towards self absorption and the whole "I want it now" idea.

Sex and the City

I am woman, hear me roar, before I down several glasses of whine and complain to my friends.

I'll admit to a fondness of Sex and the City. You can say what you like, but I am incredibly attracted to Kim Caterall, even though I'd last under an hour with her in character. Yet the message it has is deeper, and sort of compliments the message of Friends.
These are liberated women. They got it all - what the feminists wanted. Independence, good jobs, shoes - was that a feminist thing or not? And none of them are happy with it. Even the only one who has a husband, who seems a decent sort, is a neurotic wreck, desperately trying to get pregnant.


Family Guy / Bobs Burgers

Males retarded. Women smart and very annoying with nasal voices. Children evil (the youngest), stupid (the boy) or outcasts (the eldest daughter).


Yes, they are both animated, and that is one of the points. Cartoons for adults are not exactly a new idea - think Fantasia - But they have exploded in recent years.
This is such an oddly specific trope that it has to have come from somewhere, but God knows what misbegotten male impregnated the cast of Sex and the City with this. (It was Joey, wasn't it. It must have been Joey. He's the only one who could cope with Whiny Stressed Out One and Horseface without performance anxiety.)
It's the infantile that appeals. Pop culture references, adult themes, presented in primary colors. Hey, Obamacare declares you are a child until you are 26, so why bother growing up?

Game of Thrones

Not watched it. Apparently pretty much everyone screws each other and dies.

So yeah, yet another day inside the Beltway. I hear it is funny though.

Anyone who tells you you can't buy happiness has never been in a book store or an animal shelter.

You are the result of 3 billion years of evolutionary success. Act like it.

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Online andy58-in-nh

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Re: Sitcoms predict everything
« Reply #1 on: July 04, 2014, 01:34:53 PM »
Not a bad summary. And there are naturally, many more opportunities for critical observation within such a target-rich environment.

Situation comedies have long served as an observation deck looking down upon the popular culture, or sometimes it seems, a the pane of glass separating viewers from the zoo animals roaming about their prepared habitats.

Either way, I haven't really cared for many of them.

A few exceptions: Bob Newhart's shows (genuinely funny and well-written), The Simpsons (in their prime seasons 3-4-5-6-7), Seinfeld (wherein people who would annoy the living snot out of you in real life manage to make you guffaw and whose characters invent rather than repeat cultural catchphrases (not that there's anything wrong with that... yada yada yada...), and finally, The Big Bang Theory, which I have found to be an intelligent, funny and perceptive show.
Liberalism isn't really about making the world a better place. It's about reassuring the elites that they are good people for wanting to rule over it.

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Re: Sitcoms predict everything
« Reply #2 on: July 04, 2014, 01:42:20 PM »
Thank you!

I left out the Simpsons because they have covered everything. I mean, absolutely everything by now!

I remember Bob Newhart - he was funny as hell and there is no dispute it was written superbly, but didn't quite fit the premise. His show was more reactive than predictive.

There was a section on Bewitched/I dream of Genie which I thought about and actually wrote. Those seem to be the rise of the incompetent male, put in a none threatening way.
"Hey, your wife sorts out every one of your screw ups?"
"Yeah, she has magic powers."
"Cool."

Yet it didn't seem compelling enough to include and sort of overlapped with the All in the Family idea.
Anyone who tells you you can't buy happiness has never been in a book store or an animal shelter.

You are the result of 3 billion years of evolutionary success. Act like it.

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Re: Sitcoms predict everything
« Reply #3 on: July 04, 2014, 03:09:27 PM »
I would absolutely concur that one of the most consistently and thoroughly annoying television "memes" has been that of the bumbling, oafish male and his wise, long-suffering wife.

This endlessly-repeated leitmotif - which infects both sitcoms and television commercials - happens to drive my own (heh, long-suffering) wife to distraction and also to occasional profanity.

"Why do they always portray the guy as a @#%$ing idiot?!", she often cries.  I frequently remind her that most TV screenwriters and especially advertising copywriters and account executives tend to be young, high-strung, urban women in their thirties.

Which is why one so often sees a woman on TV crossing her arms, rolling her eyes and giving her husband/boyfriend/neighbor that same knowing, disapproving look.

You know the one I mean. The one that in a saner time would have made Ralph Kramden's eyes bulge and his fists compress..."One o' these days, Alice......bang!!!... zooom!!!!"
Liberalism isn't really about making the world a better place. It's about reassuring the elites that they are good people for wanting to rule over it.

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Re: Sitcoms predict everything
« Reply #4 on: July 04, 2014, 03:26:44 PM »
I have been looking into that. It seems the adverts came first.

Makes sense in a way - women consumed more day time TV for a couple decades. Something that makes them feel good and an equal partner would be noticed. "Sure, I'm stuck at home with the kids, but my husband is a buffoon who would forget to breath if I didn't put a note in his briefcase ...."

Mad did a nice spoof of those ads. It'll see if I can find it - it's in one of the collections I have.
« Last Edit: July 04, 2014, 03:30:06 PM by EC »
Anyone who tells you you can't buy happiness has never been in a book store or an animal shelter.

You are the result of 3 billion years of evolutionary success. Act like it.

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