Hello and welcome to In Too Deep, where I over-analyse a certain section of pop culture.
While I was tempted to do a ‘top six favourite sitcoms’ list I decided that it was a bit too predictable. Instead I thought I might go for something a bit outside of the box and look at something that’s not often explore: The top six sitcom premises. Now bear in mind I don’t have to watch these shows in order to like the set-up for them. With that out of the way, lets begin.
Honourable Mention 1: The IT Crowd/The Big Bang Theory. Okay to be fair they’re not the exact same show, they just happen to have a lot of the same humour. Most of it being nerdy pop culture jokes that work great with their target audience… and not many other people. I do think The IT Crowd is the stronger of the two shows, mostly because it changes and evolves the characters while having some of the funniest episodes in TV comedy of all time. And while I do bemoan how The Big Bang Theory has devolved a bit (though it has gotten better from what I’ve seen) I do miss the nerdy jokes that went over most general audiences head. Still the fact that such an obscure premise could be popular gives me hope about the future (although at this point ‘geek’ is a lot more mainstream then it use to be).
Honourable Mention 2: Old Harry’s Game. It’s essentially a sitcom set in Hell. It’s a standard British sitcom dealing with this premise, mocking religion, politics, pretty much everything really. Any series that has Jane Austin as a foul-mouth psychopath is an A-plus in my books. It may not be the most original idea, but making Satan a put-upon demon tired of his job and frustrated at his lack of career opportunities and you have a great show. However it’s an honourable mention because it’s radio only (although a rather good claymation short exists online for a TV show that never got picked up by the looks of it) but it’s still fun to listen too nonetheless. I recommend checking it out if you want to hear good radio drama.
Anyway onto the list.
6)The Flintstones/The Jetsons: It’d be a crime to leave off the list what many consider to be some of the very first animated sitcoms of all time, but the premise of both of these shows is both simple and brilliant. A clear parody of the standard 50s sitcom, but where the joke in The Flintstones is that all the modern furnishings are based on caveman-like equipment. Likewise in The Jetsons the joke is that the problems of today’s world will still exist in the future regardless of the fancy technology. It’s a shame no one has ever really explored these premises again (at least nothing that’s springing to mind, there are probably shameless copies out there). Still for creative imagery it makes my number six position.
5)The Addams Family: See much of what I said in the last section. Again this is a clever parody of the standard sitcom of the time. However there are a few things that sets this one apart from the entries in number six. One is the downright macabre nature of the show. Honestly it’s a bit surprising that it was even allowed to air. Secondly is the good nature the show had. These characters aren’t weird or freaky, they just choose to live a bit differently. They’re actually really nice people at the end of the day. And lastly, Gomez and Morticia… man they are perhaps the best on-screen couple I’ve ever seen. They truly, passionately love each other in way I don’t think I’ve seen on television before or since. Now if a lot of this sounds familiar to the Nostalgia Chick review of the series… that’s because it is. So go watch that instead.
4)Red Dwarf: Now some could argue that there are better science-fiction sitcoms out there, but this always stuck out to me as being the most interesting premise-wise. I’ll let the opening narration explain it: This is an S.O.S. distress call from the mining ship Red Dwarf. The crew are dead, killed by a radiation leak. The only survivors are Dave Lister, who was in suspended animation during the disaster, and his pregnant cat, who was safely sealed in the hold. Revived three million years later, Lister’s only companions are a life-form who evolved from his cat, and Arnold Rimmer, a hologram simulation of one of the dead crew. It should be noted that in season three a robot joined their crew and in season seven Dave’s female girlfriend from another dimension joins as well. But still, look at that premise: You have four (if you include the computer) going onto five characters stuck on a ship together. The last man in existence is a most terrible slob. His room-mate is neurotic to the point of insanity. The Cat is so narcissistic that it defies belief. Honestly it’s such an original premise it’s pretty clear why it survived for so long.
3)How I Met Your Mother: Yes I know I’ve been going on about it all week, but part of its charm was such a unique hook. Now we’d done the ‘group of friends living in New York’ shtick. Seinfeld did it, Friends pretty much perfected it… But How I Met Your Mother took an interesting spin on it. By making it essentially one really, really, really long flashback we get a new way of looking at the story. It becomes a nine-season guessing game. So for something that had been done to death to be interesting again takes a lot of skill. So it gets points for doing quite a clever story at the end of the day.
2)Outnumbered: The gimmick of this show is a very simple one: The kids’ dialogue is totally unscripted. The kids just get to say whatever they want to say while the adults try to keep it on track and deal with the story in other scenes. It’s actually a really refreshing look at how kids actually speak and act, rather then being little adults that exist to have one-liners. Parents will love this show since it does demonstrate just how kids act. Although I’ve seen very little of it I still admire the show for doing something new.
1)Mrs Brown Boys: Now this is a pretty standard British sitcom. You have a family headed by a foul-mouthed mother and the trials and tribulations the characters go through. Now the grandmother is played by a man, but that’s hardly worthy of the top spot on this list, is it. So why is it on here? Well for one very good reason: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbmLv-Iv0bw
For those that can’t watch the clip, the lead actor playing Mrs Brown goes entirely off-script… and the actor opposite him just can’t control his laughter. He loses it at the ad-lib.. and they keep it in the show. For that’s the real success of Mrs Brown Boys. Whenever the lead actor goes off-script to say something funny, or the production crew sods up, or a joke can be made at the expense of the fourth wall, the show goes for it. More often than not it’s the funniest part of the show. Seeing a sitcom not only acknowledge it’s a sitcom but actively run with it is great. While there are probably other versions that use this concept, this is the first one I’ve seen to acknowledge that this is indeed being filmed in front of a live studio audience and sometimes things just go wrong. And it’s hilarious when they do.
So there you have it. My look at original sitcom premises. If you disagree with anything, or have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment. Till next time.