Situation comedy is a humorous storyline that places a recurring group of characters in comedic situations, usually based on exaggerations of day-to-day occurrences. Sitcom explores society and its mores, and therefore even more dependent on cultural context than other forms of comedy. As a result, it is appropriate to divide and categorize situation comedy by nationality, and, increasingly by intra-national ethnic subtext. Having said that, a cross-cultural appeal with universal themes which transcend cultural boundaries is a hallmark of successful situation comedy, and may explain the success of both American and British exports.
American situation comedy
Situation comedy originated in the United States in the 1920s, and grew out of the vaudevillian tradition. The first offering in what was to become a new genre was the radio program Amos ‘n’ Andy, now controversial but at the time simply a continuation of American minstrel and vaudeville traditions.
The new genre transitioned successfully to television, with such shows as 1940s Fibber McGee and Molly, and the ground-breaking and now iconic 1950s offering, I Love Lucy.
British situation comedy
- Main article: British situation comedy
Although the origins of situation comedy are indisputably American, the genre as it developed in Britain has elements which are unique and Britcom can stand alone as a comedic genre. Satire features higher in Britcom than in American sitcom, as does exploring the everyday life of the disadvantaged, and as a result British situation comedy has had a bleaker, more realistic feel that its American counterpart, which still maintains an optimistic, upbeat quality, even when dealing with serious subject matter. Rarely does American sitcom wind up a storyline on a negative note, and series enders are tidy in a way that Britcoms do not have to be. This can be seen when juxtaposing a Britcom such as Steptoe and Son, with its American derivative, Sanford and Son, where outrageous situations, slapstick and broadly comedic supporting characters helped lighten the tone.