If you are an ardent viewer of television today, the word sitcom probably doesn’t immediately come to mind as you preview the new season evening lineups. Prime-time television slots, formerly dominated by sitcoms, are now oversaturated by reality TV, crime, and news-commentary shows. Situation comedy used to be a staple in television, but as society and television evolves one can’t help but wonder if this genre is a rapidly dying art form.
Through the sitcom television viewers across the world were treated to well-written, quality shows performed by actors who were masters of their craft. Society became intimately acquainted with characters such as Lucy Ricardo, Mary Richards, Hawkeye, and Rob Petrie. Their conflicts captivated us and we laughed at their crazy antics as they tried to resolve their dilemmas. Situation comedy gave society an outlet for comic relief as people unwound in front of the TV each evening to enjoy a bit of fantasy and find relief from the pressures of the day.
In early years sitcoms emphasized silly and over-the-top behavior, but eventually shows began to interweave real life situations people could relate to with a comedic twist. Reflecting back to TV of yesteryear and the history of its progression, was this transformation the beginning of the end of the sitcom genre? As these shows began to focus on social issues through the 70s and 80’s, the other genres began creeping into the line-ups.
Today, the sitcom has been primarily replaced by “Reality TV”. Is reality TV a variation of what sitcoms were beginning to progress and evolve into anyway? The world changed over the course of these decades and the content the networks produced reflected some of those revolutions.
What’s interesting is reality TV started off as genuine “real life” type situations, but somehow evolved into shows which produce scripted exaggerated antics, ironically much like the first generation of sitcoms, but without the talent, comedy and high-quality scripts. As sitcoms moved towards reality, reality moved towards integrating the fantasy elements much like the early days of sitcoms possessed.
Whether or not the sitcom is a dying art remains to be seen. Perhaps as reality TV continues to border on the absurd, it could very well be TV script writers may ultimately look back to their roots and come full circle back into the hysterical and outlandish situations that sitcoms used to bring to viewers. Fads and styles typically are rejuvenated after a period of time and it’s entirely possible television show scribes may reflect back and bring back winning formulas for a solid sitcom and develop new shows.
If the situation comedy genre doesn’t survive, at least a few goodies remain thanks to DVD compilations and programming such as TV Land and Nick at Nite. The art will not be permanently sentenced to death, but just hopefully placed on hiatus until it rises again.
Either way, those who grew with the sitcom during those magical years will always reflect upon that time with fondness.