Sitcoms are a television medium that typically air during primetime at night. Sitcom stands for situation-based comedy. They feature a recurring cast from season to season.
The plot typically revolves around complications among the cast. There is minimal character development. The characters of the cast are static in their personalities. Instead of character development, the sitcom focuses on the crazy and funny plots that arise from these character’s static personalities in their everyday lives. These plots arise from a disruption from the status quo and an episode of a sitcom will illustrate how the characters deal with resolving this disruption. The conflict is typically resolved by the end of an episode, and the status quo is maintained.
The setting of sitcoms takes place in everyday settings such as work, school, or at home. Office based sitcoms focus on antics of the characters in the workplace and how the characters’ work and social lives intermingle (Griffin 2008). A sitcom in which the family setting is portrayed at home would be Roseanne (Grabowski 2014). Roseanne embodies stereotypes of family focused sitcoms such as pursuit of the American dream and economic stagnation (Grabowski 2014).
The length of sitcom episodes is almost always twenty-three minutes long, with commercial breaks woven in. There is no specific target audience for sitcoms. The potential audience is supposed to be as broad as the producers can possibly manage. Sitcoms have laughter overlaid on top of the video at comical points throughout the show. This laughter is prerecorded through a live audience’s laughter and a laugh track. The camera set up utilizes the three-wall system, and the viewer observes the characters of the show through the “fourth wall.” Sitcoms rarely, if ever, break this fourth wall.
Sitcoms are always signed on by a broadcasting network. Some of the most known networks that host sitcoms are NBC, ABC, Fox, CW, CBS (Broadcast Networks) FX, AMC, USA, and Comedy Central. Some of the most popular shows that have been signed by some of these networks are Modern Family by ABC, How I Met Your Mother by CBS, and Roseanne by NBC.
Other networks besides the ones which sitcoms originally aired on will obtain licenses to air reruns of sitcoms. The audience that these reruns are directed at are mainly viewers who have already seen the sitcom or new viewers who want a taste of the sitcom. A whole series of a sitcom will rarely be shown through reruns on alternate networks.
Grabowski, M. (2014). Resignation and Positive Thinking in the Working-Class Family Sitcom. Atlantic Journal of Communication, 22(2), 124-137.
Griffin, J. (2008). The Americanization of The Office: A Comparison of the Offbeat NBC Sitcom and Its British Predecessor. Journal of Popular Film & Television, 35(4), 154-163.
Image Attribution: Image 1:“Modern Family Cast.jpg” by Jenn Deering Davis CC BY 2.0; Image 2: “How I Met Your Mother.jpg” by SAndrex333 CC BY-SA 4.0
Written by Corey Pippen, 2018