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February 1997, Week 4


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Jason Mittell <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 26 Feb 1997 08:07:29 -0600
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
text/plain (38 lines)
>>(i) English sitcoms are more likely to opt for a slapstick-influenced laugh
>>(eg: the comic violence in "Fawlty Towers", or the tooth-extraction scene of
>>"Men Behaving Badly (GB)", whereas American shows like "Friends" and "Cheers"
>>have much less of this; their humour is in the main verbal or visual, and
>>almost exclusively non-violent.
>The important question might be whether slapstick humor is currently out
>of vogue in America.
If so, what about Kramer on Seinfeld?
>>(ii) American sitcoms have more emotional resolution at the end - in the
>>style of "I guess I never realised how much I hurt you, Frasier"  - whereas
>>the English situation comedies are much less concerned with the emotional
>>well-being of their characters (imagine Blackadder apologising for belittling
>>Baldrick's feelings, for example). This might be due to US sitcoms being more
>>"real-life", and hence their makers having a greater responsibility towards
>>the audience; or perhaps British humour is less politically correct, and can
>>be more offensive and irresponsible. Any opinions?
Again, what about Seinfeld?  You might say that this is the exception that
proves the rule, but if so, this exception is the most popular and highly
regarded exception in the history of television!  Is Seinfeld a British
sitcom set in New York?
I also wonder whether the instances of British sitcoms we get in the US are
representative of the genre as a whole in Britain - is your research basing
its assessment of British sitcoms on what is predominantly shown in Britain
or what gets imported in the U.S.  If it's the latter, you may want to
consider why PBS sees certain programs as particularly "British" and
appropriate while others may be left overseas.
-Jason Mittell
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