Sitcoms have remained remarkably popular since the early days of television. Sitcoms are episodic comedies usually between twenty-five and thirty minutes long. Some famous sitcoms include: Seinfeld, Friends, Black Adder, Fawlty Towers, The Simpsons, Family Guy, The Flintstones, My Name is Earl, Malcolm in the MIddle, Leave it to Beaver and The Brady Bunch.

Sitcom narratives have three stages. In the first stage, the characters encounter some sort of problem that disrupts their daily lives. The problem escalates, providing heaps of opportunities for humour before being resolved in the last few scenes of the episode. There are examples of episodes which aren’t resolved in thirty minutes but carry over into the next episode but most sitcom episodes fit this very basic narrative structure.

The family is often used as a ‘situation’ in sitcoms.

Laugh tracks are often used in sitcoms. In recent years, there have been a number of notable exceptions, including Malcolm in the MIddle, Scrubs, Freaks and Geeks and My Name is Earl.

Sitcoms usually utilise interior locations – such as a the family home or workplace – which enables the entire show to be shot on a sound stage where lighting can be carefully controlled. Malcolm in the Middle, once again, is a notable exception. Most of this program was shot on location.

Sitcoms often use stereotypical characters because the audience recognises them immediately. In thirty minutes, there is not much time for detailed character development.

Sitcom presentation

In class, you will complete a three minute presentation about a sitcom of your choice. In this presentation, you will show an understanding of sitcom characterisation and narrative structure.

  1. Write a brief history of your sitcom, noting any awards or critical praise it may have received.
  2. What is meant by ‘situation comedy’? Describe the ‘situation of your selected sitcom.
  3. Describe each of the main characters, noting which character archetype best suits them. Describe the extent that your selected sitcom relies on stereotypical characterisation.
  4. Briefly describe your favourite episode of this sitcom and explain why you like it.

Watch an episode of your favourite sitcom and describe it under the following headings: Beginning, Development, Resolution. Most episodes of sitcoms will fit nicely into this formula. There are very few episodes that don’t introduce a problem that isn’t resolved or worked out by the end of the episode.

Tips for public speaking

Here is some advice to help you prepare for your presentation.

  • Preparation. The secret to successful presentations is being prepared. There are very few people who can speak well off the cuff. Those who can usually have extensive knowledge of their subject matter. When you’re preparing a presentation, it’s a good idea to write a script. This gives you a chance to structure your ideas and think about your choice of language. When your script is complete, transfer the script to cue cards, underlining or lighting key words. Rehearse your speech several times until you’re comfortable with the content and only need to occasionally refer to the cue cards throughout your presentation.
  • Content. When you’re writing your script, ensure that your ideas are well organised. Try to write in a way that allows you to speak expressively. Think about what is going to engage and interest your audience. If something is a bit boring think about how you can make it more interesting. If boring details aren’t absolutely essential to your presentation, dump the idea all together! It’s better to have a short presentation than a boring one! If appropriate, it can be a good idea to engage your audience with questions ro activities. Presentations in which the audience becomes involved can be a lot of fun.
  • Delivery. When it’s time to present remember to relax. This is when all of your preparation and rehearsal pays off. Even if it might be a bit nerve wracking, remember that the only way to become more comfortable with public speaking is by public speaking. Try to vary your expression, speaking in a monotone is never a good idea. Try to avoid hesitating and saying ‘um’. Pay attention to the speed of your delivery. One mistake many public speakers make is speaking too quickly. Monitor the volume of your delivery. Can you be heard at the back of the room?
  • Body language. When you’re presenting, make sure that you make eye contact with your audience. Don’t speak into your cue cards the whole time. Move about the room and appear interested in what you’re presenting. Avoid digeting and shuffling nervously on the spot.
  • Visuals. When appropriate, presentations, props, costumes, pictures and videos are all great ways to engage your audience…think about how can use these things to keep your audience engaged.
  • Presentations. If you’re using Microsoft PowerPoint or Apple Keynote to create a presentation, keep the text on every slide to a minimum. Just a few sentences highlighting the most important idea will do. Instead, think about how you can use images to complement what you’re saying.

Sitcom test

Answer the questions on this short sitcom quiz!