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The humorous role of television: the example of sit-coms sample program.


At the beginning of the factors that cause the development of communication technologies one needs to control political, administrative and economic formations. To meet these needs, telegraph and telephone have been used primarily. At the same time, to transferring the words without being on wire and cable, radio has emerged. After the radio, inventions like photograph or film were used to solve the needs of modern society and its life style like as curiosity or entertainment.

Communication tools which are including in community life were followed by the emergence of television. Television is used to provide for transferring the voice and image to the long distance and today, it's the biggest mass communication tool that affects to people.

As the reasons of non-payment of fees for programs, provide to rich alternatives about type of program, entering to homes easily, television was increased its' audience more than more to every year.

The aim of this article is to review the role of media on social structure with the sample of sit-coms from humorous perspective. For this purpose, we will try to answer the following questions.

With its structure and functioning, situation comedies that to be a media content are in which direction and intensity? How do the situation comedies (sit-coms) as structure and function, change from the socio-cultural point of view? How to compose humorous elements and humorous structure?

1. Historical Development Process of Situation Comedies

The origin of first sample to the television comedies are based on until the radio comedy program broadcasted in United States. This is a kind of radio show program that was very common to between in the early 1930s and middle of 1950s. But, before the radio, its origin was based on vaudeville sketch. In the duration of thirty-minute The Benny Show, which was one of the most popular radio program, had a six minute sketch and this was one of the first situation comedy sample in the radio (Neale ve Krutnik: 1994, 214-215).

1.1 Situation Comedies Starting with Radio Broadcast, Transfer to Television

The successful situation comedies (like 'The Goldbergs,' 'The Life of Riley,' 'The Ardich Family') on radio in America, transferred to television. This comedy programs were the pre-examples of television situation comedies; but the real example of this genre was broadcasted in 1961, its name was 'I Love Lucy.' It was a family comedy. In that, as a result of a bona fide error made by one the characters (usually the main characters) have a disruption of the order (situation); characters want to fix to situation, but it's all mixing; eventually with change or with the help of others the situation become obsolete. This is the basic narrative structure of the comedy. During the years '50s and '60s, America has exhibited a happy family nest in its situation comedies and 'I Love Lucy' was the most popular one in others. The basic elements of humor were chaos in family. Then, 'The Beverly Hillbillies' which was published in 1962, offered a new world based on the conflict between tradition and innovation, instead of the moral and the static structure. Events began with a family of oil-rich highlander who moved the Beverly Hills and this situation caused a chaotic comedy. In this example, the main source of humor is the life style of family. With 'The Beverly Hillbillies' social change problems were coming on the agenda. With "All in The Family" and "M.A.S.H" that published between the years 1971-79, a new period began to the situation comedies.

Topics, characters and funny situations changed in the situation comedies that published in 1970s'. The 50's and 60's middle classes perfect family model (with mother, father and children) left its location to the single-parent family. Taboo subjects such as the image of woman living alone, curettage, homosexuality, impotence or menopause appears on television. The effect of the feminist movement in the 1980s', trigger this change more to more. Women in comedies represented working, well-groomed and as powerful as men. In this period family comedies, two sexes roles installed different. The myth of middle class family in sit-coms that published in 1980s' and 90s', leave its location to the lower-class working families. Longer, new narrative forms could change to the classical forms like the sit-com Rosanne. The most typical examples of the same period is 'The Cosby Family'. They keep up with social change but they didn't defense to social development. Cosby Family is the most popular comedy series between in the years 1989 and 1990. With this comedy, the roles of husband and wife as well as relations within the family changed. Cosby Family, constantly repeat the American white middle class values that highlight the most current values (Mutlu: 1991, 235-255; Cam: 2001, 79-84; Feuer: 1987, 124-130, Mintz: 1985, 108-114).

Rick Mitz (1983) said that situation comedy genre, caused some differences in culture to culture in popular culture studies, the narrative structure had some certain rules and formulas. Looking at the historical development of the genre starting to the first examples despite the change of character structure, themes and comedy act, point refers to the act didn't change. Neale ve Krutnik (1994: 233) said that the situation comedy is published between 24 or 30 minutes and it's a short story about the same characters and similar structures.

1.2 Types of Situation Comedies

Richard F. Taflinger examines the situation comedies in 3 basic kind of group: 1. action-based situation comedies, actcom; 2. character-based situation comedies, domcom; 3. thought-based situation comedies, dramedy (Gundel, 2003:26).

1.3 Action-Based Situation Comedies

Action based situation comedies are part of 87.5 percent of the all situation comedies that published in American televisions, by Taflinger. In this type of situation comedies there isn't too many mental or emotional events; there is a case based on the sequence of physical events. I Love Lucy is a typical example for this genre.

1.4 Character-Based Situation Comedies

Character based situation comedies are part of 11.5 percent of the all situation comedies that published in American televisions. As we can see the example of The Cosby Show, in a character based situation comedies, events becomes with family problems and character orientation. Characters are more complicated than action based situation comedies. Sequences of events usually develop in the family or around the main character. Other family members are also directed by the main character.

1.5 Thought-Based Situation Comedies

Thought based situation comedies or with a short definition "dramedy" is the unique and most difficult genre in all other type of situation comedies. Dramedy emphasizes ideas rather than characters or events. For introducing a topic with a good way, characters are created very well as human beings. These characters have ability of thinking and examining the complex ideas in different environments.

The difference between other situation comedies and dramedy is the fact that dramedy is not devoted itself to instant ridiculous events. Generally dramedies are very funny but this isn't a kind of comedy that built by an effort to determine the absolute humor. Dramedies are not so emotional for to cry but dramedies are tackled to topics with a very serious way. Dramedies are making also serious discussions and as well as humors for to query a topic at length. Dramedies are thought-based situation comedies (Gundel, 2003: 26).

2. General Narrative Structures and Properties of Situation Comedies

Jane Feuer (1987) said that all kinds of television genres are like an industry and they are defined as a kind of historical genre that mediates between the TV Guide and audience. So, situation comedies are defined as a kind of historical genre, too (119-120). Feuer said that because of the different methods of scientific approaches related to the definitions of television types; both the types of television and the sub-type of situation comedies indicate the emergence of different views. Approaches of the genres belonging to television and film are generally classified as aesthetic, ritual and ideological. The aesthetic approach defines the genre in the context of individual artistic expression. The ritual approach sees the genre as the negation between audience and industry. Horace Newcomb and Paul Hirsch defined television as a discussing area and like a cultural form that triggers the change of social structure. Ideological approaches see genre as a control tool. Genres are designed to reinforce the capitalist system, so advertisements and messages are meant to convince the audience. The criticism of ideology said that the best way to find areas to produce the ideology again and again is to look at those that are dominant. The new approaches to genres work to merge ideology and ritual. Rick Altman argues that a successful ritual-ideological harmony hides the potential of manipulation (through the example of Hollywood cinema) and puts forward the entertaining function.

Like the other sub-types of television, situation comedies are reviewed from independent to historical genres. Situation comedies are defined in this context by David Grote. Grote (1983) had the most negative approaches to situation comedies. Grote states television does not completely refuse the traditional humor that comes from ancient Greek and Rome, unlike television which has developed a new comedy format according to Northrop Frye. In this new comedy format, plot and characters are getting involved in a simple order with a dominant form. Usually, the plot is about a damaged relationship between a man and a woman. According to Grote's so-called literary approach, societal nature of an event is natural because of the power that represents the social authority always separates lovers. The resistance of young lovers is presented as the balance between a figure, the power and authority. In this type of comedies, the father is not presented as a good man. Grote says that the basic conditions have not changed in these new comedies so this type of comedies has a static structure. The aim of these new situation comedies is to talk about the invariance of the family as an institution. According to Grote, genre of situation comedy has not developed in any way and essentially it represents the status quo (Feuer: 1987, 121-122).

Feuer (1987:122-123) criticizes Grote's ideas in some aspects. Feuer highlights that some negative things about Grote's exaggerated argument--the reactionary meaning of the comedy.

Like Grote, Horace Newcomb finds that the situation comedy is limited to the capacity of creating uncertainty, development and values in terms of dislocation. Newcomb's approach called 'ritual' is focused on the species that ensure it in connection to the viewer. The plot which is not the development of situation comedies and the structure that does not allow the new ideas actually strengthens the process of making this guarantee. Newcomb says that situation comedies have a simple problem that is formulated on the ongoing concerns over the solution to this problem. The concern of the audience does not change, too. Our values are becoming stronger in this stillness. We can also find our different situation in this enhancement. In this genre which was described as 'domestic comedy' by Newcomb, one can feel the presence of a deep sense of personal affection among family members, so personal belief is reinforced on the basis of the group of supportive family. Newcomb says that in this concept, situation comedies always have a 'real world' and a representative problem. David Marc's approach to situation comedies considers them important because of their potential of social criticism. This way, the structure of the species can undermine the values of the dominant cultural. Marc says that some writers convert the genre into a social grinding (Feuer: 1987, 122-125).

Situation comedies are very common among television genres, as they emerge as a new type. They are influenced by vaudeville and music hall, sketch, etc. Situation comedies are a remanufactured form. It is composed by the reunion of the some parts of old forms (Neale ve Krutnik: 1994, 227).

The narrative structure of situation comedies can be divided into the following sections: Description, problem, confusion, crisis, climax point and conclusion.

* Description: Situation comedies usually start with a description. The main topics covered in that week are introduced in this description section. Today's viewers are very sophisticated people who spend long hours with television. While watching a program, they do not need long referrals. For this reason, the opening sections are kept as short as possible, usually written as one or two pages. Opening chapters usually start with a discussion between two characters and finish before the end of discussion. This is enough for the audience to understand what is going on. Otherwise, a long description can become boring and could lead to losing the serial viewers.

* Problem: The problem is created every time by the deterioration of the current situation in situation comedies. Misunderstandings, errors, attempt to influence the others' behavior or unusual behavior are some of the problems that distort the current situation. These problems are often the simple problems of life.

* Confusion: Confusions are formed to solve problem as a natural result of problems, because new developments are required to the make events move. These developments are provided by the confusions. Confusions are usually very simple in situation comedies. There are no big mental challenges or events to lead to moral decisions. While heroes try to solve a problem, they can cause new troubles.

* Crisis: Crises are important because of the decisions made to solve the problems that arise. Decisions are included being neither the result of large mysterious and philosophical ideas nor of the current problem solutions.

The ways to overcome the existing problems are usually related to the intensity of thoughts.

* Climax Point: The climax is the final point of the event serial. At this point, the verbal or physical movements are at the highest level. Errors, misunderstandings are frequently repeated. Thus, we can reach the result.

* Conclusion: The result develops very rapidly and this indicates the reestablishment to the current situation (Gundel, 2003:30).

3. Chain of Events

Ozdemir Nutku defines the chain of events as the sequence of events that have identified beginning and ending, including a chain initiative, and events development with measures of possibility and necessity. Based on this definition, we can explain the event sequence that forms the part of a story in a game. Event sequence is a combination of action and characters. In other words, event sequence is a combination of characters, idea and storyline. These three elements are combined and integrated as appropriate to the theme of the event sequence. Action is everything that is realized physically, emotionally or mentally by the characters (Gundel, 2003:34).

According to Bill Idelson, situation comedies have a simple structure. All the stories includ the following elements: a hero, aim of the hero, an obstacle for the hero stopping him to achieve this aim. Somebody wants something but there are some other things that stop him.

Judy Carter thinks that Idelson is right and the basic narrative structure of old stories does not different from today's modern situation comedies. In addition, the story of situation comedies is separated in six sections:

1. Status: there is a problem in paradise.

2. Disturbances and provocations: the problem will grow more and more.

3. Unexpected changes (break to move): events do not go in the direction expected by the characters.

4. Characters make plans for what to do in the face of changing events.

5. Characters implements to the plan and conflict grows even more: this is the great physical and emotional scene of the comedy.

6. State reaches to the settlement: all the loose ends of the story are tied up (Gundel, 2003: 34).


Conflict is the basis of dramatic narratives. The contrast of the opposing powers stirs the viewer's interest in the story. Audience will wonder whether the conflict end up in agreement. Situation comedies focus on a conflict or problem that is subtlety and deftly connected to the solution.

This conflict-resolution model implies that all problems can be solved within the existing layout (Gundel, 2003: 36).


The importance of the characters is very crucial in terms of situation comedies. The characters carry distinctive features in the situation comedies. All of these characters cannot be easily erased from the viewer's mind.

The characters of the situation comedies are usually sympathetic and approachable. One of the essential features of situation comedies (in fact the general formula of television) is the friendly proximity of the characters. Human beings may hate the main character in a movie and can also enjoy having this feeling. But, he or she does not want to see that character again. Whereas television needs characters that everyone enjoys and wants to see them every week for years. In addition, the success of a situation comedy does not only depend on the capacity of the main character, but on the cooperation of all the characters as a team.

The storyline in the situation comedies is developed with the attitudes and connections between of the characters. Therefore, characters are created to be more than recurring characters, as they complement each other in diversity. In situation comedies, the behavior of the characters in the face of action is more important than the action itself. Characters approach each other with their different vision and this creates the tension that turns into humor (Gundel, 2003: 40).


Humor is the most important feature that separates the situation comedies from other television programs. This is the reason why the situation comedies exist. Situation comedies have to make their audience laugh with a different story every week. Every situation comedy develops different basis points that create their own humor. However, situation comedies form their own type of comedy. While creating situation comedies, we search for answers to some questions in order to determine the type of humor.

In situation comedies, comedy is usually dependable on funny situations or characters. So, it automatically generates the ridiculous event sequence. The key to entertaining the audience with comedy is to present a case that appears reasonable, strange and even extraordinary. These conditions can be created on the series of unexpected events (Gundel, 2003: 45).

Model Serial "The Europe Side or with Turkish name Avrupa Yakasi"

"The Europe Side," although some features push the limits of species in terms of both time and structure, can be defined as a situation comedy. Events, status and themes show proper qualification of situation comedies to a large extent. The basic features of personification and use of space and humor line are the major reasons that create the evolution to a serial of a type of situation comedies. The Europe Side is defined with these expressions in various newspapers and on internet sites; it is a family comedy. The balanced position of family and house in the serial is very familiar as it became a subspecies of Horace Newcomb's 'domestic comedy' (Celenk, 2007: 51).

"East-West" and "traditional-modern" binaries are the axis conflicts of the serial. The traditional relationships at family level, for example parent-child or male or female child conflicts are the other features of The Europe Side that are similar to the local family comedy serial. We can not see the neighborhood and district relations; the kinship relations are very limited, too. These are the difference between this serial and the others. Also, the emphasis on 'urban' and 'citizenship' is evident in the serial. The use of space depends largely on the rules of sit-com in the series: The number of special species is very limited and the places are usually scarce except for a few decorative changes. The frequency of the sections does not contain a balanced distribution, so the series is different to a certain extent from its situation comedy nature; it thus approaches soap operas (Celenk, 2007:51).


Communications technology is developing rapidly in today's world and now there is a complex structure of communication network. Nowadays, communication technology influence life and so today's world is called the age of communication and media. These media can affect millions of people within the same time frame. Economic, scientific and technological developments have an effect on the world and on Turkey as well. We have witnessed lots of innovations and developments. Every moment of our lives, new technological tools are developed or invented, but there is also living social or cultural disintegration. Starting from the year 2000 until today, the number of comedy programs has increased, especially the situation comedies, and we can see at least one on almost every channel. This quantitative increase does not involve a change of character, theme and humorous elements, which do not change so much, and on the contrarily are quite similar to each other. Sit-coms have been the most favorite programs on Turkish televisions in last years, and still continue to be.


Cam, Serife (1987), "TV Komedilerinde Toplumsal Farkliligin Kurulusu," Bir Demet Tiyatro Jane Feuer, 119-120.

Celenk, Sevilay (1998), Turkiye'de Televizyon Program Endustrisi: Bagimstz Produksiyon Sirketleri Uzerine Bir inceleme. Yayinlanmamis Yuksek Lisans Tezi, Ankara.

Celenk, Zehra (2007), "Yerli Durum Komedilerinde Surdurulebilirlik Problemi Avrupa Yakasi Ornegi." Ankara Universitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitusu Radyo Televizyon ve Sinema Ana Bilim Dali Yayinlanmamis Yuksek Lisans Tezi

Curuk, Mustafa (2000), "Televizyonda Yayinlanan Durum Komedilerinin Kulturel ve Toplumsal Degisime Etkileri," Selcuk Universitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitusu Yayinlanmamts Yuksek Lisans Tezi.

Feuer, Jane (1987), "Genre Study and Television," in Icinde Channels of Discourse, (der.) R. C. Allen, NC: The Univesity of North Carolina Press, 113-133.

Gundel, Nergiz (2003), "Televizyon Program Turu Olarak Durum Komedileri ve Cocuklar Duymasin Dizisi Uzerine Icerik Analizi" Selcuk Universitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitusu Yayinlanmamis Yuksek Lisans Tezi.

Mutlu, Erol (1991), Televizyonu Anlamak. Ankara: Gundogan Yayincilik

--(1999) Televizyon ve Toplum. Ankara: TRT Yayinlari.

Neal, S., F. Krutnik (1994), Popular Film and Television Comedy. London: Routledge Henri Bergson.


Selcuk University


Anadolu University

Aytekin Can, Associate Professor, Ph.D., graduated from the Marmara University, the Faculty of Communication, Department of Radio-Television and Cinema. He obtained his Master and doctoral degrees from the Anadolu University, the Faculty of Communication Sciences. He has worked as construction-management consultant for many award-winning documentaries. For ten years, he has been the director of the International Student Film Festival.

Faruk Ugurlu graduated from Anadolu University, Faculty of Communication, Department of Journalism and Public Relations; he completed his master degree and doctoral training in Istanbul University, the Faculty of Communications Department of Radio Television. He is currently Assistant Professor Ph.D. with the Faculty of Education, Fine Arts Department in Anadolu University, Eskisehir. He has published papers on digital photographing and gender studies.
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Author:Can, Aytekin; Ugurlu, Faruk
Publication:Journal of Research in Gender Studies
Article Type:Report
Date:Jan 1, 2014
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