Sitcoms’ humor falls short

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After a brutal day of studies and athletic practices, I, like most people, kick back and enjoy a routine TV dinner then turn on the TV and flip to channels such as NBC or ABC to watch a sitcom. My life is torture, not because of the stress of school, basketball practices or poor quality food, but because these sitcoms are ruining TV for me.

Sitcoms or situational-comedies are perceived to be to typical American families what Jenny was to Forest Gump. However, unlike the undeniable bond between Jenny and Forest, sitcoms and the average American family are not as intertwined as they once were.

When sitcoms first came onto the scene in the 1950s, the formula was targeted toward middle class American families, with the working father and the stay-at-home mom which tended to be the norm in that era. However times have changed, and it is not uncommon to see a working class mother and a stay-at-home father. Despite all of this, sitcoms often tend to portray an outdated family system and this stereotype is what people base their perception of Americans on. It’s similar to thinking that all British people drink tea, or everyone in Africa owns a machete. It’s unfair to them and it’s false.

The issue with sitcoms is not just that they stereotype, but that they make humor as coordinated as a synchronized swimming competition. This is due to the laugh track which immediately plays recorded laughter following a joke. Laugh tracks basically tell people when to laugh and true humor shouldn’t require that; humor should as natural as a good inside joke. It is difficult to experience that with laugh tracks because everything sounds like the same laugh; it’s fake and unrealistic.

While the most watched sitcom from 2008 to 2009, Two and a Half Men, featured a laugh track, the show was not good enough to receive respectable recognition. In the past decade, no show with a laugh track was at least nominated for best musical or comedy program at the Golden Globes. That means that of the 24 shows nominated in the past decade, none have had a laugh track. It seems that dumbing down entertainment comes at the cost of quality. Sitcoms are the sappiest form of entertainment; their unoriginality is why they hardly last more than seven years and why TV is increasingly becoming harder to enjoy.

That being said, however, there are a few exceptions to this. They include Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Office, 30 Rock and Seinfeld which manage to maintain high quality entertainment while still following the sitcom format. The laughs are original; they aren’t stereotypical and produce humor that even Holden Caulfield wouldn’t call phony. To the surprise of many, one of the most enjoyable sitcoms hands-down is Sex and the City. It might be targeted towards middle aged women, but it’s a quality watch at night when nothing else is on. If older men can have a secret crush on Miley Cyrus, then boys should be allowed to watch Sex and the City.

TV is over-rated. Sitcoms are generally poorly done and produce poor satires of our society. Forest Gump was blessed to have Jenny, but Americans are disadvantaged to have sitcoms. Associating Americans with the traditional sitcom format is like associating that kid who’s caught picking his nose in class or the kid who peed in his pants in first grade. It may have been funny at the time but it shouldn’t be the first thing you think of each time you see them; it’s unfair to them and it’s an inaccurate portrayal of who they really are.