Monday, March 30, 2015

Sitcoms: More Than Just Mindless Entertainment. -Opinions formed from close attention to themes

I don’t know about you, but when I watch TV shows, I don’t just sit there vegging out not looking to be taught something new, or be challenged to think. I look for what message the writer’s are attempting to send us, and what lessons they want us to learn from the stories they are creating. That being said, I do enjoy a good situation comedy, and there has been a plethora of choices for those that enjoy half hour stories that focus on making us laugh.  Therefore I thought it would be fun to examine five sitcoms that are popular among people in my age demographic (18-40). Three of them are more current programs and two of them are 90’s classics of which at least one of the two are still very popular depending on who you ask.


The show that famously was ‘about nothing’ redefined the situational comedy back when it debuted in 1989. Here was a program that simply had no real running plot or story and simply took Jerry Seinfeld’s stand-up comedy routines in which he used a large amount of observational humor and channeled it into a television show. However, if one pays closer attention, it is easy to realize that deep down, this show teaches us to find humor in the small and often annoying things that happen to us on a daily basis. I can honestly say that since I began watching this series back in college, I have learned to laugh a little more at things that frustrate me, and not get as stressed as I used to whenever things don’t quite go my way. I still have a long way to go in this area, but I first realized how valuable laughter at small daily frustrations could be, from Jerry, George, Kramer and Elaine.


The other 90’s sitcom that is still greatly popular among my age groups is this show that like “Seinfeld” also took place in the Big Apple. The show lasted an incredible 10 seasons between 1994-2004, and it followed the lives of six friends, three guys and three gals as they navigated relationships, job challenges and many other obstacles all over New York City. The subtle thesis message of this program though, is a rather question that they gave a resoundingly affirmative answer to by series end. That question is: “can men and women truly be close friends with each other and remain friends even if awkward scenarios arise like one person desiring to be more than friends while the other does not?” Over their ten years of being on the air, the writers showed us that their answer to this question was that they most certainly can, if, both people are willing to work through and weather those challenges. Sometimes as they showed us between a couple of the main characters, a friendship can develop into a beautiful romance, other times, not so much, but no matter what, if friends are committed to staying friends no matter what happens, the reward is great.

“The Office”

Here is a program that attempts to give a snarky look into what it is like to work in a white-collar office of a paper supply company. The beauty of this program is that it creates a hodgepodge of characters that personify the different personality types we all have run across in life, be it at work, at a party, and yes even at Church. We have bosses who lack strong leadership skills but deep down love their employees to death. We have salesmen who are driven to do their very best everyday, no matter the cost. We have pranksters, an HR man that no one likes, and some fun spirited receptionists. The basic running theme to this program if you pay close attention is that for some people, the office is truly a community where all must work together to do a job that appears ordinary, but can become extraordinary because of the different people who give that community its identity.  Speaking as Christian of course, I garner my sense of community and belonging from my church family, but a show like this is a reminder to me that non-Christians desire community just as much, and sometimes there place of work becomes that. Whether or not it is healthy or not is another topic. For this “Office” though, in the end, I think we can say it was a healthy place.

“Parks And Recreation”

Similar to “The Office” In both filming style and storyline plot, “Parks And Rec” took us on a seven-season journey into the lives of Pawnee, Indiana’s Parks and Recreation department. In some ways this show is also about the importance of community, but I feel ‘Parks And Rec” focused a bit more on individual character development, and because of that, teaches us more about, to apply a Christian message, how we all have gifts given to us by God to help us work with other people with different gifts to accomplish a united goal. Throughout the series, the main characters often had to work together to help get things done in the Pawnee community. They also would rally together to support each other for individual character’s projects, both work related and personal. In the Church, God often gives people gifts that are very diverse, but complement each other very well, and it “Parks And Rec” we saw how this can play out in not only work, but marriage and family as well.

“The Big Bang Theory”

This show has a great premise as it is. Follow a group of four nerds who work at a Southern California College in the Science and research department and spend all of their free time hanging out together playing strategy games, eating take out, and trying to understand girls. Then throw in a couple of girls into the mix and watch what happens. All a recipe for great comedy, with plenty of intelligent nuances thrown in for good measure, yet I see even more to the story of Sheldon, Raj, Leonard and Howard. This is a story about how a person can be brilliant from an academic standpoint, and clueless on how normal people function standpoint. It is about a main character in Sheldon who deep down desires to understand matters of the heart and struggles mightily to understand things we all have understood for years, or at least been good enough at understanding to fake like we do. It is a show that can conversely bring out all of our inner nerd, and pick our curiosity to learn more about what is going on in the world of physics and biology. It also requires you to pay close attention for just how funny it truly is, and at the same time how serious it actually may be. “The Big Bang Theory” is currently in its eight season, and has been renewed to last at least a full decade, which will probably make it one of the defining comedies of my generation for years to come.

Have you seen some of these things as well? If not, have I inspired you to pay closer attention to sitcoms in the future? I hope so, as I find that I have enjoyed these five programs a lot more because I paid attention, and hope to see more series that teach us great life lessons in the future!

No comments:

Post a Comment