The Sit Com Legacy

So far as I see it, there are certain 'families' within the world of sit coms. Many of these are very directly linked by the people behind the production, but some just follow a certain chronology of legacy, whether by chance or intention.

We can look at certain LA comedy communities. The one I focus most on is that one that somehow surrounds podcast host and talkshow host Scott Aukerman and regularly appears on his podcast and eponymous TV show Comedy Bang Bang! . This group includes a wide range of people, including a lot of actors and writers from Parks and Rec like Adam Scott, Ben Schwartz, Chelsea Peretti, and the late Harris Wittels; as well as a bunch of actors from shows on NBC's comedy service SeeSo (specifically Bajillion Dollar Properties, on which Aukerman is an executive producer) like Paul F. Tompkins, Tim Baltz, and Tawny Newsome.

But regardless of the personnel, there are trends in sit coms. And I'll approach a few of these, categorizing by both style and distribution studio.

The first, classically a favorite of mine, is the series of "NBC Comedies." It's pretty straightforward. There's a whole tradition and genre of sit com that has made its mark on the world, and it centers around NBC shows, with one exception. The list: Seinfeld, Arrested Development (yeah, I know, Fox), The Office, 30 Rock, Parks and Rec, and, to a lesser extent, Community. These are all character- and joke-driven comedies. Although there are plenty of heartwarming stories and whatnot, these don't have the same family-driven plots and appeals that a lot of shows on other channels do.

Secondly, I make the distinction between family-driven plots and family-friendly. Family-friendly involves mostly heart-warming and positive-minded plots and characters at the expense of joke-telling and characters who promote bad values (best example of that: Seinfeld; they're depraved). These are, like, the Friends and How I Met Your Mother-s of the world. Quality, but not, like, rooted in the jokes of an NBC-comedy.

And then that third, aforementioned category: the family-driven comedy, aka "ABC comedy." I don't really watch these. But they're on. And they get ratings. What's on TV these days? Modern Family, The Middle, Black-ish, Fresh off the Boat? Those things. They fit the bill. I might say that they stem from stuff in the vein of Malcom in the Middle (Fox, right?) and older stuff like Home Improvement, Cosby Show, whatever.

Fourth. This is a good one. An oft-discussed, and jealously-loved one. The Seinfeld tree. Most commonly-recognized are Seinfeld itself and Always Sunny (it's not my place to debate Always Sunny here). Curb Your Enthusiasm is taken for granted. And my proposed contribution to the list is The League. It fits the category of TV-Ma Seinfeld, but not as bad or progressive. It fits the mold very snugly. Mark Duplass = Jerry (new girlfriend every episode, top billing, easily upset or obsessed by small quirk of girlfriend). Kevin + Taco (Jon Lajoie)--the MacArthur brothers = Kramer, each embodying bits and pieces; wacky ideas, no sense of the social norm, and over-the-top acting. Nick Kroll = George; short, stout, loud, crude, bad luck, occasional great luck with women, etc. And Jenny MacArthur is kind of the Elaine; like, sexually liberal ("vaginal hubris") and those other important characterizations of Elaine. (maybe this little analysis is really why I wanted to write this whole blog post to begin w/  ;)  ).

CBS also makes comedies. High-ratings comedies, too. They include The Big Bang Theory and The Great Outdoors, currently, at least. I'm sure they make other sit coms (do they?). But these shows have things like laugh tracks (studio audience?) and appeal to old people. Like non-millenial old (gasp!), and they focus a lot on perceptions of millenial-/ young-people-culture and how parents view it. There are some jokes sometimes, but the characters can be shallow and the laughs offputting.

What was that? 5 categories. There are more legacies, especially looking at certain groups like SNL (30 Rock, Parks&Rec, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, whatever Bill Hader's show is called, Portlandia, Kimmy Schmidt, etc). There's a 6th. A nice even 6.

I intentionally ignore the analysis into continuity behind writers, producers, etc. As well as other styles of franchises, like on Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon. And the whole Matt Groening-Seth Macfarlane set of series. That's not within the scope of this blog post.

Anyways, go watch a sit com and be disappointed. Or laugh. Whatever you like to spend your Sunday evenings doing. Let me know in the comments if you think I'm missing any core sit com legacies from the last 20-or-so years.