A sitcom, clipping for situational comedy (situation comedy in the U.S.), is a genre of comedy centered on a fixed set of characters who carry over from episode to episode. Sitcoms can be contrasted with sketch comedy, where a troupe may use new characters in each sketch, and stand-up comedy, where a comedian tells jokes and stories to an audience. Sitcoms originated in radio, but today are found mostly on television as one of its dominant narrative forms. This form can also include mockumentaries.
A situational comedy television programme may be recorded in front of a studio audience, depending on the programme’s production format. The effect of a live studio audience can be imitated or enhanced by the use of a laugh track. During filming productions, the laugh track is usually pre-recorded.
Critics disagree over the utility of the term "sitcom" in classifying shows that have come into existence since the turn of the century. Many contemporary American sitcoms use the single-camera setup and do not feature a laugh track, thus often resembling the dramedy shows of the 1980s and 1990s rather than the traditional sitcom. Other topics of debate have included whether or not cartoons, such as The Simpsons or Family Guy, can be classified as sitcoms.
The terms "situational comedy" or "sitcom" were not commonly used until the 1950s. There were prior examples on radio, but the first television sitcom is said to be Pinwright's Progress, ten episodes being broadcast on the BBC in the United Kingdom between 1946 and 1947. In the United States, director and producer William Asher has been credited with being the "man who invented the sitcom", having directed over two dozen of the leading sitcoms, including I Love Lucy, from the 1950s through the 1970s.
There have been few long-running Australian-made sitcoms, but many US and UK sitcoms have been successful there. UK sitcoms are a staple of government broadcaster Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC); in the 1970s and 1980s many UK sitcoms also screened on the Seven Network. By 1986, UK comedies Bless This House and Are You Being Served? had been repeated by ABC Television several times, and were then acquired and screened by the Seven Network, in prime time.
In 2007, Kath & Kim's first episode of series four attracted an Australian audience of 2.521 million nationally, the highest rating ever for a first episode in the history of Australian television, until the series premiere of Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities in 2009 with 2.58 million viewers.
In 2013, Please Like Me was praised by the critics, receiving an invitation to screen at the Series Mania Television Festival in Paris. and has garnered three awards and numerous nominations. Also in 2013, At Home With Julia was criticised by several social commentators as inappropriately disrespectful to the office of Prime Minister, the show nevertheless proved very popular both with television audiences — becoming the most watched Australian scripted comedy series of 2011 — and with television critics. Nominated to the 2012 Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards for Best Television Comedy Series.
Although there have been a number of notable exceptions, Canadian television networks have generally fared poorly with their sitcom offerings, with relatively few Canadian sitcoms attaining notable success in Canada or internationally. According to television critic Bill Brioux, there are a number of structural reasons for this: the shorter seasons, typical of Canadian television production, make it harder for audiences to connect with a program before its season has concluded, and put even successful shows at risk of losing their audience between seasons because of the longer waiting time before a show returns with new episodes; the more limited marketing budgets available to Canadian television networks mean that audiences are less likely to be aware that the show exists in the first place; and the shows tend to resemble American sitcoms, in the hope of securing a lucrative sale to an American television network, even though by and large the Canadian sitcoms that have been successful have been ones, such as Corner Gas or King of Kensington, that had a more distinctively Canadian flavour. Conversely, however, Canadian television has had much greater success with sketch comedy and dramedy series.
The popular show King of Kensington aired from 1975 to 1980, drawing 1.5 to 1.8 million viewers weekly at its peak.
Corner Gas, which ran for six seasons from 2004 to 2009, became an instant hit, averaging a million viewers per episode. It has been the recipient of six Gemini Awards, and has been nominated almost 70 times for various awards.
Other noteworthy recent sitcoms have included Call Me Fitz, Schitt's Creek, Letterkenny and Kim's Convenience, all of which have been winners of the Canadian Screen Award for Best Comedy Series.
Sitcoms started appearing on Indian television in the 1980s, with serials like Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi (1984) and Wagle Ki Duniya (1988) on the state-run Doordarshan channel. Gradually, as private channels were allowed, many more sitcoms followed in the 1990s, such as Dekh Bhai Dekh (1993), Zabaan Sambhalke (1993), Shrimaan Shrimati (1995), Office Office (2001), Amrutham (Telugu serial), Khichdi (2002), Sarabhai vs Sarabhai (2005) to F.I.R. (2006–2015), Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah, (2008–present),Uppum Mulakum (2015–Present) , and the present most successful "Bhabiji Ghar Par Hain" (2015-present).SAB TV is one of the leading channels of India dedicated entirely to Sitcoms.
El Chavo del Ocho, which ran from 1971 to 1980, was the most watched show in the Mexican television and had a Latin American audience of 350 million viewers per episode at its peak of popularity during the mid-1970s. The show continues to be popular in Hispanic America as well as in Brazil, Spain, United States and other countries, with syndicated episodes averaging 91 million daily viewers in all of the markets where it is distributed in the Americas. Since it ceased production in 1992, the show has earned an estimated billion in syndication fees alone for Televisa.
The first Russian sitcom series was "Strawberry" (resembled "Duty Pharmacy" in Spanish format), which was aired in 1996–1997 on the RTR channel. However, the "boom" of Russian sitcoms began only in the 2000s — when in 2004, the STS started very successful sitcom "My Fair Nanny" (an adaptation of the American sitcom "The Nanny"). Since that time sitcoms in Russia were produced by the two largest entertainment channels of the country — STS and TNT. In 2007 the STS released the first original domestic sitcom — "Daddy's Daughters" (there were only adaptation before), and in 2010 TNT released "Interns (sitcom)" — the first sitcom, filmed as a comedy (unlike dominated "conveyor" sitcoms).
Although styles of sitcom have changed over the years they tend to be based on a family, workplace or other institution, where the same group of contrasting characters is brought together in each episode. British sitcoms are typically produced in one or more series of six episodes. Most such series are conceived and developed by one or two writers. The majority of British sitcoms are 30 minutes long and are recorded on studio sets in a multiple-camera setup. A subset of British comedy consciously avoids traditional situation comedy themes and storylines to branch out into more unusual topics or narrative methods. Blackadder (1983–89) and Yes Minister/Yes Prime Minister (1980–88, 2013) moved what is often a domestic or workplace genre into the corridors of power. A later development was the mockumentary in such series as The Office (2001–03).
Some popular British shows have been successfully adapted for the US.
The sitcom format was born in January 1926 with the initial broadcast of Sam 'n' Henry on WGN radio in Chicago, Illinois. The 15-minute daily program was revamped in 1928, moved to another station, renamed Amos 'n' Andy, and became one of the most successful sitcoms of the period. It was also one of the earliest examples of radio syndication. Like many radio programs of the time, the two programs continued the American entertainment traditions of vaudeville and the minstrel show. Early sitcoms took the forms of recurring comedy sketches with running characters, which on national network shows often took the form of a broader variety show with vocal and instrumental music performances padding out a half-hour time slot.
Fibber McGee and Molly was one of radio's most popular sitcoms of the 1940s. The weekly half-hour domestic sitcom starring real-life husband and wife Jim Jordan and Marian Driscoll ran from 1935 to 1956 on NBC.
Mary Kay and Johnny, aired from 1947 to 1950, was the first sitcom broadcast on a network television in the United States and was the first program to show a couple sharing a bed, and the first series to show a woman's pregnancy on television.
I Love Lucy, which originally ran from 1951 to 1957 on CBS, was the most watched show in the United States in four of its six seasons, and was the first to end its run at the top of the Nielsen ratings (an accomplishment later matched only by The Andy Griffith Show in 1968 and Seinfeld in 1998). The show is still syndicated in dozens of languages across the world, and remains popular, with an American audience of 40 million each year. Colourised edits of episodes from the original series have aired semi-annually on the network since 2013, six decades after the series aired. It is often regarded as one of the greatest and most influential sitcoms in history. In 2012, it was voted the 'Best TV Show of All Time' in a survey conducted by ABC News and People Magazine.
The Honeymooners debuted as a half-hour series on 1955 and was originally aired on the DuMont network's Cavalcade of Stars and subsequently on the CBS network's The Jackie Gleason Show, which was filmed in front of a live audience. Although initially a ratings success—becoming the #2 show in the United States during its first season—it faced stiff competition from The Perry Como Show, and eventually dropped to #19, ending its production after only 39 episodes (now referred to as the "Classic 39"). The final episode of The Honeymooners aired on September 22, 1956. Creator/producer Jackie Gleason revived The Honeymooners sporadically until 1978. The Honeymooners was one of the first U.S. television shows to portray working-class married couples in a gritty, non-idyllic manner (the show is set mostly in the Kramdens' kitchen, in a neglected Brooklyn apartment building). Steven Sheehan explains the popularity of The Honeymooners as the embodiment of working-class masculinity in the character of Ralph Kramden, and postwar ideals in American society regarding work, housing, consumerism, and consumer satisfaction. The series demonstrated visually the burdens of material obligations and participation in consumer culture, as well as the common use of threats of domestic violence in working class households. Art Carney won five Emmy Awards for his portrayal of Ed Norton — two for the original Jackie Gleason Show, one for The Honeymooners, and two for the final version of The Jackie Gleason Show. He was nominated for another two (1957, 1966) but lost. Gleason and Audrey Meadows were both nominated in 1956 for their work on The Honeymooners. Meadows was also nominated for Emmys for her portrayal of Alice Kramden in 1954 and 1957. In 1997, the episodes "The $99,000 Answer" and "TV or Not TV" were respectively ranked #6 and #26 on "TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time" and in 1999, TV Guide published a list titled "TV's 100 Greatest Characters Ever!" Ed Norton was #20, and Ralph Kramden was #2. In 2002, The Honeymooners was listed at #3 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time and #13 on their list of the "60 Greatest Shows of All Time" in 2013.
The Andy Griffith Show, first televised on CBS between 1960 and 1968, was consistently placed in the top ten during its run. The show is one of only three shows to have its final season be the number one ranked show on television, the other two being I Love Lucy and Seinfeld. In 1998, more than 5 million people a day watched the show's re-runs on 120 stations.
The Dick Van Dyke Show, initially aired on CBS from 1961 to 1966, won 15 Emmy Awards. In 1997, the episodes "Coast-to-Coast Big Mouth" and "It May Look Like a Walnut" were ranked at 8 and 15 respectively on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time. In 2002, it was ranked at 13 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time and in 2013, it was ranked at 20 on their list of the 60 Best Series.
The series MASH, aired in the U.S. from 1972 to 1983, and was honoured with a Peabody Award in 1976 and was ranked number 25 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time in 2002. In 2013, the Writers Guild of America ranked it as the fifth-best written TV series ever and TV Guide ranked it as the eighth-greatest show of all time. The episodes "Abyssinia, Henry" and "The Interview" were ranked number 20 and number 80, respectively, on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time in 1997. And the finale, "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen", became the most-watched and highest-rated single television episode in the U.S. television history at the time, with a record-breaking of 125 million viewers (60.2 rating and 77 share), according to The New York Times.
All in the Family, premiered on January 1971, is often regarded in the United States as one of the greatest television series of all time. Following a lackluster first season, the show became the most watched show in the United States during summer re-runs and afterwards ranked number one in the yearly Nielsen ratings from 1971 to 1976. It became the first television series to reach the milestone of having topped the Nielsen ratings for five consecutive years. The episode "Sammy's Visit" was ranked number 13 on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time. TV Guide's50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time ranked All in the Family as number four. Bravo also named the show's protagonist, Archie Bunker, TV's greatest character of all time. In 2013, the Writers Guild of America ranked All in the Family the fourth-best written TV series ever, and TV Guide ranked it as the fourth-greatest show of all time.
One Day at a Time is a situation comedy developed by Norman Lear. The show aired on CBS and ran from December, 1975 until May, 1984. It followed a recently divorced mother and her two daughters as they dealt with the problems and situations that come with growing up, and raising kids in a single parent household. It is the first show to feature Valerie Bertinelli, and emphasised her character as the show progressed.
Cheers, which ran for eleven seasons, was one of the most successful sitcoms in the 80s, airing from 1982 to 1993. It was followed by a spin-off sitcom in the 90s, Frasier. During its run, Cheers became one of the most popular series of all time and has received critical acclaim. In 1997, the episodes "Thanksgiving Orphans" and "Home Is the Sailor", aired originally in 1987, were respectively ranked No. 7 and No. 45 on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All-Time. In 2002, Cheers was ranked No. 18 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time. In 2013, the Writers Guild of America ranked it as the eighth best written TV series and TV Guide ranked it #11 on their list of the 60 Greatest Shows of All Time.
The Cosby Show, airing from 1984 until 1992, spent five consecutive seasons as the number one rated show on television. The Cosby Show and All in the Family are the only sitcoms in the history of the Nielsen ratings, to be the number one show for five seasons. It spent all eight of its seasons in the Top 20. According to TV Guide, the show "was TV's biggest hit in the 1980s, and almost single handedly revived the sitcom genre and NBC's ratings fortunes." TV Guide also ranked it 28th on their list of 50 Greatest Shows. In addition, Cliff Huxtable was named as the "Greatest Television Dad". In May 1992, Entertainment Weekly stated that The Cosby Show helped to make possible a larger variety of shows with a predominantly African-American cast, from In Living Color to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Seinfeld, which originally ran for nine seasons on NBC from 1989 to 1998, led the Nielsen ratings in seasons six and nine, and finished among the top two (with NBC's ER) every year from 1994 to 1998. In 2002, TV Guide named Seinfeld the greatest television program of all time. In 1997, the episodes "The Boyfriend" and "The Parking Garage" were respectively ranked numbers 4 and 33 on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time, and in 2009, "The Contest" was ranked #1 on the same magazine's list of TV's Top 100 Episodes of All Time. E! named it the "number 1 reason the '90s ruled." In 2013, the Writers Guild of America named Seinfeld the No. 2 Best Written TV Series of All Time (second to The Sopranos). That same year, Entertainment Weekly named it the No. 3 best TV series of all time and TV Guide ranked it at No. 2. Another popular sitcom from this decade was Roseanne, which ran from 1988 to 1997.
The Nanny, aired on CBS from 1993 to 1999, earned a Rose d'Or and one Emmy Award, out of a total of twelve nominations. The sitcom was the first new show delivered to CBS for the 1993 season and the highest-tested pilot at the network in years. The series was also hugely successful internationally, especially in Australia.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was a sitcom which ran from 1990 to 1996. The series stars Will Smith as a fictionalised version of himself, a street-smart teenager from West Philadelphia who is sent to move in with his wealthy aunt and uncle in their Bel Air mansion after getting into a fight on a local basketball court. It became one of the popular sitcoms during the 1990s, despite only one Emmy nomination and moderately positive critical reception.
Friends, which originally aired on NBC from 1994 to 2004, received acclaim throughout its run, becoming one of the most popular television shows of all time. The series was nominated for 62 Primetime Emmy Awards, winning the Outstanding Comedy Series award in 2002 for its eighth season. The show ranked no. 21 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time and no. 5 on Empire magazine's The 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time. In 1997, the episode "The One with the Prom Video" was ranked no. 100 on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All-Time. In 2013, Friends ranked no. 24 on the Writers Guild of America's 101 Best Written TV Series of All Time and no. 28 on TV Guide's 60 Best TV Series of All Time. In 2014, the series was ranked by Mundo Estranho the Best TV Series of All Time.
Frasier, with five wins in its first five seasons, set the record for most consecutive Emmy awards for Outstanding Comedy Series, a record that has since been matched by Modern Family. The series holds the record for most total Emmy wins, 37, shattering the record of 29 which had been set by The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Frasier is considered the most successful spin-off series in television history, beginning its run one season after Cheers went off the air, where the character of Frasier Crane had been appearing for nine years. Frasier ran from 1993 to 2004.
In early 2000s, Curb Your Enthusiasm premiered on HBO. The series was created by Larry David, who stars as a semi-fictionalized version of himself following his life after the end of his work in Seinfeld. Curb Your Enthusiasm has received high critical acclaim and has grown in popularity since its debut. It has been nominated for 38 Primetime Emmy Awards, and Robert B. Weide received an Emmy for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series for the episode "Krazee Eyez Killa". The show won the 2002 Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy.
Two and a Half Men is a sitcom that originally aired on CBS for twelve series from 22 September 2003 to 19 February 2015. The success of the series led to it being the fourth-highest revenue-generating program for 2012, earning $3.24 million an episode.
Arrested Development is a sitcom created by Mitchell Hurwitz, which originally aired on Fox for three seasons from 2 November 2003 to 10 February 2006. A fourth season of 15 episodes was released on Netflix on 26 May 2013. After its debut in 2003, Arrested Development gained a cult following and received widespread critical acclaim, six Primetime Emmy Awards, and one Golden Globe Award. In 2007, Time listed the show among its "All-TIME 100 TV Shows"; in 2008, it was ranked 16th on Entertainment Weekly's "New TV Classics" list. In 2011, IGN named Arrested Development the "funniest show of all time". Its humour has been cited as a key influence on later single-camera sitcoms such as 30 Rock and Community.
The Office is a sitcom that aired on NBC from 24 March 2005 to 16 May 2013. It is an adaptation of the BBC series of the same name. The first season of The Office was met with mixed reviews, but the following four seasons received widespread acclaim from television critics. These seasons were included on several critics' year-end top TV series lists, winning several awards including four Primetime Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Comedy Series in 2006. While later seasons were criticized for a decline in quality, earlier writers oversaw the final season and ended the show's run with a positive reception.
How I Met Your Mother was a sitcom which aired from 2005 to 2014 on CBS, lasting 9 series. The show won 9 Emmy awards and 18 awards in general, whilst being nominated for 72 awards. It became successful in many places across the world.
The Big Bang Theory was a sitcom named after the scientific theory. It began airing in 2007 on CBS and completed season 12, its final season, in 2019. The show was set in Pasadena, California and focused on five main characters (later on others get promoted to starring roles), Leonard Hofstadter (experimental physicist) and Sheldon Cooper (theoretical physicist) who live across the hall from aspiring actress Penny. Leonard and Sheldon are friends with Howard Wolowitz (aerospace engineer) and Rajesh "Raj" Koothrappali (astrophysicist). Later additions include Bernadette Rostenkowski (microbiologist), Amy Farrah Fowler (neurobiologist), Stuart Bloom (comic-book store owner) and Emily Sweeney (dermatologist). Season 7 had 19.96 million viewers, the highest rated and watched series to date.
30 Rock is a satirical sitcom created by Tina Fey that ran on NBC from 11 October 2006, to 31 January 2013. 30 Rock received critical acclaim throughout its run, winning several major awards (including Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Comedy Series in 2007, 2008, and 2009 and nominations for every other year it ran), and appearing on many critics' year-end "best of" 2006–2013 lists. On 14 July 2009, the series was nominated for 22 Primetime Emmy Awards, the most in a single year for a comedy series..
Modern Family is a mockumentary sitcom that premiered on ABC on 23 September 2009. The series is presented in mockumentary style, with the fictional characters frequently talking directly into the camera. The show won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series in each of its first five years and the Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series four times, twice for Eric Stonestreet and twice for Ty Burrell, as well as the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedmy Series twice for Julie Bowen. It has so far won a total of 22 Emmy awards from 75 nominations. It also won the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy in 2011.
Parks and Recreation, originally running from 2009 until 2015, was part of NBC's "Comedy Night Done Right" programming during its Thursday night prime-time block. The series received mixed reviews during its first season, but after re-working its tone and format, the second and subsequent seasons were widely acclaimed. Throughout its run, Parks and Recreation received several awards and nominations, including two Primetime Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Comedy Series, six Emmy nominations, a Golden Globe win for Poehler's performance, and a nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy. In TIME's 2012 year-end lists issue, Parks and Recreation was named the number one television series of that year. In 2013, after receiving four consecutive nominations in the category, Parks and Recreation won the Television Critics Association Award for Outstanding Achievement in Comedy. It is widely considered one of the best sitcoms of all time.
New Girl is a single-camera sitcom centered around a group of guy roommates adjusting to a new addition to their Los Angeles loft in the form of Jess, portrayed by Zooey Deschanel which premiered in 2010 on Fox. New Girl has received favorable responses from critics and was named one of the best new comedies of the 2011 fall season. The pilot episode drew 10.28 million U.S. viewers and a 4.8 adults 18–49 demo rating, making it the highest-rated fall debut for a Fox scripted show since 2001. The show has been nominated for several awards, including five Golden Globe Awards and five Primetime Emmy Awards.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a police sitcom set in the fictional 99th precinct in Brooklyn which premiered in 2013 on Fox. It has won two Creative Arts Emmy Awards, and two Golden Globe Awards: one for Best Television Series — Musical or Comedy and one for Andy Samberg for Best Actor — Television Series Musical or Comedy. Andre Braugher has also been nominated for three consecutive Primetime Emmy Awards for his performance.
One Day at a Time is a Netflix Original Series that aired on 6 January 2017. The series follows the same basic plot as an earlier sitcom of the same name, a recently separated woman raises her two children with the help of her mother and their building's governor. The first season has 13 episodes. One Day at a Time was renewed for second and third seasons, but then cancelled by Netflix. In June 2019, the series was revived by Pop TV, making it the first cancelled Netflix/streaming TV series to be revived for a cable network, rather than the other way around as usual.