What Type of Sitcom Do You Enjoy?

Earlier this evening I tried out a new sitcom called “Great News.” It’s about a cable news show. The commercials made it seem pretty funny, and there’s no laugh track, so it was worth a watch.

While it was funny, I found myself struggling with something. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until it hit me: Nearly every scene in the show featured 2 or more people arguing with each other. And I’m not talking playful banter–the characters were genuinely irate at each other.

I turned it off. Conflict is great in any medium, but when I watch a sitcom, I just want to sit back and laugh. I don’t want to watch people fight. That doesn’t make me happy.

I was curious if my other favorite sitcoms were largely argument-free, so I looked at my current season pass shows and created the following lists:

Few Arguments

  • South Park
  • Modern Family
  • Louie
  • New Girl
  • Brooklyn 99
  • Nathan for You
  • Broad City
  • Portlandia
  • Detroiters
  • Fresh Off the Boat
  • Trial & Error
  • Powerless
  • Crashing
  • The Good Place
  • Master of None
  • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Many Arguments

  • It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
  • Silicon Valley
  • Vice Principals

Have you noticed any patterns like this in your viewing habits? The other big pattern I can think of is that I generally prefer sitcoms where the main conceit isn’t someone lying to someone else and spending the episode covering it up until the big reveal at the end. I enjoyed Friends despite that core structure.

5 thoughts on “What Type of Sitcom Do You Enjoy?”

  1. Going to poke holes in a couple of your choices! I feel like most of the plots on Modern Family are about people lying to each other and/or arguing. Everyone bickers and insults each other constantly, and the main plot of any given episode is about someone trying to hide something they’ve done, only to be discovered at the end, of course (Alex’s secret boyfriend, Jay trying to secretly destroy Joe’s crib, Manny sneaking out, Hayley not knowing about Game of Thrones, Mitchell lying about the pig ashes, etc.). I find a little of this show goes a long way for me anymore, mostly because the people seem so awful to each other. However, they throw in enough feel-good moments to try and soften some of this, at least.

    **Spoilers below for The Good Place**

    The Good Place was full of arguing, plus the about 2/3 of the season centers on Eleanor trying to hide her secret. And then in the season finale, it’s revealed that these people were specifically chosen to torture and antagonize one another, which they were quite successful at until Eleanor figures that out. Regardless, by the end, the characters do form a little family of sorts and want to protect one another.

    **end spoiler**

    So maybe you like arguing more than you think, especially if it’s paired with at least a little genuine affection between the characters? I haven’t watched Great News, but is that what’s missing that these other shows have?

    • Katie: I must admit that I hesitated about several of the shows on my list, especially The Good Place. I think you’re right about Modern Family too (and you’re correct that it almost always features a big lie). I still don’t enjoy the arguing/bickering in those shows, but perhaps there’s enough other stuff going on in each.

  2. I don’t know how and/or if you classify them as sitcoms, but as for TV some of the great ones I like are things like West Wing and Newsroom, which are Aaron Sorkin shows that are looking behind the scenes of things. I’ve also enjoyed this seasons Agents of shield.

    I generally enjoy shows with good worldbuilding, some mystery, and suspense. I loved this season of Expanse, and I had read the books already. I also am enjoying the new season of Attack on Titan, I have no clue where its going to go, and it makes me want to pick up the mangas.

    As for shows that have arguing, I adore Archer, its virtually all arguing, its all built on drama.

    • Sean: I was looking at half-hour comedies, but it’s okay that you expanded to hour-long shows. I’m loving the Expanse!

  3. Mine are a pretty eclectic smorgasbord, come to think of it…

    Mongrels (Puppet lead comedy about a group of animals. Which having said that, I need to emphasize ‘for adults’ because that description really doesn’t imply that at all)
    Lead Balloon (sit com about a failing stand up comedian)
    The Thick of It (modern day political satire)
    Yes, [Prime] Minister (80s political satire)
    Miranda (Modern made throw back to cheesy 80s sitcoms, plus lots of slapstick and which doesn’t so much break the fourth wall as occasionally shatters it, with the sole exception that most of the cast are women and the love interest character is a man rather than the reverse that you used to get)
    Not Going Out (traditional style sitcom about a woman, her live-in tenant, and her brother)
    Board With Life (Youtube sitcom about a group of board gamers)

    I tend to prefer sketch comedy to sitcoms, but I’m not sure I could pick a stylistic trend for my favourite sitcoms…


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