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Modern Sitcoms: 4 TV Shows Since 1980s That Shaped the Genre

By    |   Thursday, 05 November 2015 05:40 PM

Modern television sitcoms may not be as old as the classics, but many of them have had a major cultural impact and have shaped the future for new shows.

Sitcoms, or situation comedies, have been a staple of television since its earliest days. Audiences love seeing characters deal with real-life situations and struggles that are exaggerated for comedic effect. They connect with the characters because they identify with those same situations and struggles.

Some modern sitcom TV shows have followed the genre’s basic formula with little variation. Others have found a way to push boundaries and redefine the essence of a sitcom.

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Here are four modern sitcoms that have shaped the genre:

1. "The Simpsons" (1989-present)

From humble roots as short animated segments on "The Tracy Ullman Show" nearly three decades ago, "The Simpsons" has grown into a global and cultural phenomenon. Episodes center on a middle-class family that goes through amusing and wacky adventures each week. It was the first successful animated sitcom since "The Flintstones." Metacritic noted that "The Simpsons" has had enduring success because "the show has also made name for itself in its fearless satirical take on politics, media and American life in general." An entire generation has grown up watching "The Simpsons" on television, and so far, the animated sitcom shows no signs of stopping.

2. "Seinfeld" (1989-98)
For a show about nothing, “Seinfeld” became something important. Many modern sitcoms still pattern their shows after Seinfeld’s format. The four characters of Elaine, George, Jerry, and Kramer all stand out as uniquely funny people who you wouldn’t want as friends in real life. "Seinfeld" was not afraid to be controversial and tackle formerly taboo subjects never seen before on TV.

Beyond that, the ability to find humor in the most mundane and ordinary aspects of life set "Seinfeld" episodes apart and inspired a new generation of oddball comedies such as "It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia," "Curb Your Enthusiasm," and "Louie."

3. "Friends" (1994-2004)
"Friends" was the first sitcom that didn't focus on one main star, casting six relative unknowns as its leading characters and giving writers a wealth of opportunities for interactions between them. The six friends often dealt with work and romance, and the audience's reaction to the on-and-off relationship of Ross and Rachel spurred lots of similar storylines for future sitcoms. The actors negotiated salary raises as a group, never setting up one star above another. More than 10 years after the show's finale aired, fans are still clamoring for a reunion and television networks can only dream of recreating the show's success. 

"Friends ... was the biggest echo chamber on the planet, transmitting its tropes and character templates around the world," writes New Republic. "The question 'Which one of the Friends cast are you?' was an early lo-fi Internet staple, pre-dating today’s BuzzFeed quiz frenzy by a decade and more. Could a show be any more influential?"

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4. "The Office" (2005-13)
Based on a British series of the same name, "The Office" showed that the mockumentary format could translate well to sitcoms. The series is set up as a fictional documentary that is following the lives of ordinary employees at a struggling Pennsylvania paper goods company. It features on-camera interviews interspersed with scenes inside and outside the office. NBC even created a website for the fictional paper company, Dunder-Mifflin. Audiences responded well to “The Office” — especially the budding relationship of characters Jim and Pam — and it became the inspiration for other mockumentary-style sitcoms like "Parks and Recreation" and "Modern Family."

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Modern television sitcoms may not be as old as the classics, but many of them have had a major cultural impact and have shaped the future for new shows.
modern, tv, sitcoms, shaped, genre
Thursday, 05 November 2015 05:40 PM
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