Situation comedies, or ‘Sitcoms’ are something I love. They consume my free time like nothing else just because they’re that easy to watch. Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, Friends, I’ve seen ‘em all. And I’ve seen them so often that I could probably quote them all line for line.
That being said, there’s something about all of these shows that just hasn’t aged well in the 21st century. They’re sweet, culty and addictive. But at the same time, while watching them, you just can’t shake the notion that there’s something not quite right about it. That it’s all some fantasy land far away from your actual life.
I get it, it’s hard to condense so much content into a 20-minute episode and keep everyone happy at the same time. But I think we can all agree that there are more than a few things we don’t really need to see anymore to keep sitcoms fun-loving and cheery. Here’s a list of 10 things I wish sitcoms would change, pronto.
1. Co-dependent Friendship Groups
Friendship groups are a key part of any sitcom. These are the key members of the show that get introduced from episode 1 and stick with us until the final curtain call. They have to be loveable and they have to be funny. But…don’t they have lives outside their friendship group? Or maybe…other friends? No?
Sitcoms are a goldmine for promoting toxic relationships among friends and friendships that show unequal dependency on one or more members of the group. Could Joey live without Chandler? Could Howard handle it when Raj wanted to be his own person? Maybe they could in real life, but this is a sitcom.
2. Token Non-White Friend
Do you have an Indian friend that always sits on the floor in your apartment when you invite them over? Or that one ‘exotic’ guy that’s, like, your best friend, but their name is actually just an acronym for ‘Foreign Exchange Student? Or my favourite, a black ‘twin’ who is also gay (because two birds with one stone right?) Well, you might be living in a sitcom.
The token non-white friend is usually from another country and doesn’t exactly understand our ways just yet. This will inevitably lead to a hilarious situation that was most likely not the person’s fault, but they’ll end up getting all the blame anyway. Because they’re so damn foreign. Haha, right?
3. Sexism Is The Funniest Thing
Sitcoms have never been the most break-out things to hit the air, and many have proven time and time again that they’ll do almost anything for a laugh. Even if it’s cheaply earned, and more of pity laugh than a real one.
That attitude might’ve been fine in the 90s. But even now, many sitcoms have trouble building characters that branch out of their standard gender roles and not have their friends create a fanfare about it and pile on the abuse. Even if it’s something as simple as Raj wanting to eat low fat because he wants to watch his waste (Big Bang Theory), or Robin going to the gym and putting in a hard workout (How I Met Your Mother), or when Ross couldn’t get over how sensitive his male nanny was (Friends).
4. Haha Homophobia??
From sexism to homophobia. I already said that sitcoms have trouble with branching out of strict cisgender roles. That applies here too.
Ever thought it was a bit weird that characters that have bromances are always portrayed with an air of comedy? That because it is weird. Of course, you could argue that it isn’t homophobia because the characters, more often than not, aren’t gay. But does that really make it ok to poke fun at characters when they’re put in scenes that ‘challenge their heterosexuality’?
I mean, c’mon. Is it really that funny that Ross’s wife is a lesbian?
5. Problems Just Go Away At The End Of Each Episode
A lot of the appeal of watching sitcoms comes from the escapism of it all. Problems that happen in the show aren’t your problems and will hopefully never end up being your problems. I mean, can you imagine if you said the wrong name at your wedding? Nope. Never going to happen.
In real life, problems don’t end when you go to the coffee house. And plot lines that might have caused frictions don’t get swept under the rug by the time the credits role. That’s the beauty of TV, but it isn’t something we should be taking away from it, and it isn’t a healthy way to deal with social issues.
6. Everyone Looks Perfect. ALL THE TIME.
When was the last time you went to sleep with makeup on? For me, it was when I came home at 4am and was too drunk to take it off. And trust me. I didn’t look half as good in the morning as most women in sitcoms do (I didn’t look great when I went to bed either).
It doesn’t matter if characters are just sitting round watching TV or out for a fancy dinner. They always look stunning. Much like reading the latest edition of Cosmo or Heat, it’s hard not to let the feelings of self-consciousness and self-loathing creep up on you when you watch.
7. One Character Always Ends Up As The Butt Of Every Joke
Is it really smart writing to have a character whose soul purpose is to be the show’s punching bag?
Without fail, there’s always one character that everyone else can pick on. And like the good little sitcom doormat they are, they take it every time. You know the one, the character without a backbone that doesn’t try to defend themselves.
These character usually aren’t the brightest, don’t even realise they are being made a joke of, are overly submissive to the show’s main characters and are the centre of comedic relief for the series.
Unfortunately, British sitcoms in particular are terribly infamous for this trope. Frank Spencer from Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em, Holly from Red Dwarf, Neil from The Young Ones, Pike from Dad’s Army and as much as I love him, bless his soul, Baldrick from Blackadder.
8. Cringeworthy Will They/Won’t They Main Characters
Sitcoms that base their storylines and plots around romance will always have that one couple, usually the two leading main characters, who are on-again-off-again for the entire series. Some people get a kick out of it. I say it’s a tired and overused trope.
It’s frustrating to watch season after season of relationship building that gets repeatedly flushed down the toilet in a wave of angst-fuelled plot writing. Usually their pending relationship is set up from the get-go with a delightful meet cute. They’ll try it out, it’ll crash and burn, they’ll see other people before they realise that they were perfect for each other all along.
Please. Most people aren’t that fickle.
9. Break-Ups Between Main Characters Have No Effect On Friends
Take it from someone who’s taken the leap from friend to lover with someone in their immediate friendship group. Things get awkward. Not just for you, but your friends as well.
Though sitcoms like to tip-toe around the idea, when friends start dating, it’s not all cheers and glowing compassion from the ‘supporting cast’. It changes the dynamic, causes arguments, and you best believe they are not going to want to sit in the coffee shop with you while you’re cuddling and making kissy faces at each other.
10. The Male Hypersexual Character Is The Funniest Character
“Hey, how you doin’??” Not good Joey, not good. I just can’t seem to understand why your endless list of conquests are funny.
Every sitcom will have at least one male lead that gets his way with women. Even when he really, really shouldn’t. Even in the creepiest of scenarios (like mapping out the America’s Next Top Model house so you can stalk the contestants) the character’s dangerous quirks are played off as humorous and loveable, and their deviancies are rarely ever payed for.
Let’s just use this as a method for keeping the characters in check. If they have a ‘playbook’, scrapbook, or any type of book filled with their conquests. Then they’ve gone too far.
No. Just no. Not today. Not anymore.