There’s no around it. We lived through a couple of decades of gathering around the fake wood grain Zenith TV on shag carpet to watch what we knew as the American sitcom.
Laugh tracks. Freeze frames to conclude the episode. Inspirational advice during the 23rd minute of the episode accompanied with soft and cheesy keyboard music (made famous by Danny Tanner and Uncle Jesse). Annoying catch phrases like “Did I do that?” And most importantly and best of all, their wonderful theme songs that are so just you just want to cry, which featured a few seconds of footage from each main character for that season as the show came on.
That was 1977 through 1997. Two solid decades of pure delight.
Now the theme songs don’t have words. And we have to figure out on our own when to laugh. And typically there’s no moral lesson to learn. Just ironic humor. By the 28th minute of the episode, the characters are not necessarily any better off than they were when the plot was introduced at minute 3.
But those good feelin’ sitcoms of the 1970’s, ‘80’s, and ‘90’s can never be revived. Because we as an American audience have outgrown them. We couldn’t take The Office seriously if there were laugh tracks and if at the end of every episode Michael Scott gave Jim a heart-to-heart talk about what it takes to be a good leader.
Our preference of comedy has evolved from lighthearted insults and sight gags to dry humor stolen from the British.
Speaking of irony though, we live a double standard. What we will not accept in modern comedy, we still accept in reruns that come on in the evenings right before our new shows. Shows like Friends and Seinfeld which followed much of the old-school traits of sitcoms, though they weren’t family sitcoms.
We differientiate: It’s 6pm and laugh-track infused Friends is on. Something in our subconcious says, “It’s okay, that was the ’90’s.” Then a few hours later 30 Rock is on and we hold it to a different standard. We’re more sophisticated than we were at dinner. Because we have to be clever enough to get the jokes of our dead-pan humor queen Tina Fey.
What caused us to change what we accept as humor? The dynamics of the modern family.
Something that has a lot to do with explaining why classic family sitcoms have disappeared from cable TV is The Disney Channel, which is now included with basic cable. But when we were younger, it cost extra every month. So back then ABC, NBC, and CBS had to make sure the majority of their comedies were family sitcoms.
Now, kids can watch their corny shows like iCarly in their own bedrooms while their parents watch something cooler in the living room. Man, I miss Tony Danza.