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Old 08-07-2017, 02:40 AM   #1
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Default Why US sitcoms are better than British ones

http://www.chortle.co.uk/corresponde...n_british_ones

Quote:
Ben Fogg states his case

I know everything about the art and craft of sitcom on both sides of the Atlantic. I've done my 10,000 hours and then some. I've watched the entirety of M.A.S.H. in a single sitting and none of you will ever know the kind of bravery that took because you weren't there, man.

Of course, as a result of short-sighted network execs and ignorant script-editors, I've never managed to get a sitcom on TV, but that in no way compromises my ability to tell you exactly what's what when it comes to making sitcom gold.

In fact, it strengthens my case: I don't have a horse in the race. I don't have a horse at all; I can't afford one and, even if I could, I wouldn't buy one because I can't ride a horse (or a bike).

I'm free to speak truth to power, and the truth I speak is this: Americans make better sitcoms. They're funnier, more intelligent and (particularly important in the era of binge watching) not so awkward that you can only manage one half hour at a time.

The UK has given the world many a great gift: The novel, the industrial revolution, Nice & Spicy Nik-Naks, and then in 1946 we gave the most important gift of all: the sitcom.

The first television sitcom was the BBC's Pinwright's Progress starring James Hayter as J Pinwright, 'owner of the smallest multiple store in the world.' A year later our US pals came out with a show called Mary Kay and Johnny, a series of domestic tales starring two New York newlyweds.

Those two early shows highlight a crucial difference between the two nations' approaches to situation comedy. We went with the situation, they went with the comedy. The UK offering is set in an allegedly hilarious universe (the shop is so tiny… hahaha?) whereas the US show trusted that the characters would bring the laughs. The same divide separates Friends from Fawlty Towers or Cheers from The Brittas Empire.

Apparently, British people prefer it when the location for a sitcom is part of the joke. Oh and that joke is generally that the location is horrifyingly grim. Slough (UK Office), Peckham (Only Fools and Horses) and Torquay (Fawlty Towers) are all intended to fill us with a sense of depressing grottiness.

American writers prefer to set their comedy in a regular place filled with funny people. Jerry's apartment in Seinfeld is an apartment, the café in Friends is a café. The bar in Cheers is a bar. It's not a hilarious bar, or a grotty bar or a swanky bar. It's a bar filled with funny people. It's a place you might like to be.

The conflict in US comedy is rarely between the characters and their environment. Over here, it often feels like the first question the writers ask is 'why do the characters hate where they are? How are they trapped?' Not surprising then, that the overwhelming sensation of a lot of Brit-com is claustrophobia. In the UK, we build a comedy cage and enjoy watching the characters try to escape. In the US, they build a comedy hotel and check in weekly for a fine old time.

That fundamental divide highlights the key difference between our output and theirs: They write everyday eccentrics and try to see the world through their eyes, we write comic grotesques so we can laugh at them. Essentially the US model is much nicer to its characters, whereas it feels like our writers create their characters so they can torment them. Ours is a comedy of cruelty, theirs of compassion.

Nowhere is that clearer than in the two versions of The Office. In the original David Brent is a nightmare. Granted, his awkwardness and self-important chuntering are brilliantly funny, but we're never in any doubt that he's an unpleasant man. Even in the 'off camera' moments he's painted as a sad, lonely, deluded figure. Because they stayed true to the original scripts, the first season of the US Office meant that Michael Scott was equally loathsome; slicked back hair, casually sexist and altogether grotty.

Once they were allowed to write their own material, the US showrunners immediately let us in to Scott's internal world, which turned him into a far more likeable character: a man surprisingly adept at selling, with a genuine love of paper and children's parties. Guess what? He was no less funny, just much less cringe-worthy. Tell me you don't love this guy

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uj-cotaTGVM

It's not even about the way the characters act. It's a point-of-view decision. Look at Larry in Curb; we are ALWAYS on his side, no matter how obnoxious he's being, he is our hero. We share his point of view and we want the best for him. In Eastbound And Down we root for cocaine-addled, stripper-seducing litterbug Kenny Powers. We can endure 180 episodes with the Seinfeld team despite the fact that they are emotionally-bankrupt, solipsistic nightmares.

That compassion translates into additional runtime, which in turns means the characters get space to turn from one dimensional satirical instruments to fully rounded people. All with 'no hugging and no learning.' The internal monologue device in Peep Show mean's that it stands as a rare example of a UK sitcom that is always on the side of its flawed heroes. The result? A giant 54-episode run and, most importantly, a big-up in this article.

In an era when you can smash an entire box-set on a weekend, six painfully awkward episodes aren't going to cut it. The idea that if something is rare it becomes automatically better is ridiculous.

Granted, in the hunt for that sweet syndication dollar, some US sitcoms do plod on for a few too many series. However, if the worst thing you can say about a show is that 'Season 9 wasn't up to much,' then just shut your filthy mouth. No show in the UK ever gets close to jumping the shark. We barely even get the skis on before we head home congratulating ourselves at how brilliantly niche our work is. Screw that noise.

The time has come for us to start writing more compassionate comedy, and luckily, we are. 20 years of US sitcom imports have meant that we're commissioning more and more shows that the audience want to be a part of. People Just Do Nothing, Car Share and Catastrophe are all warm, interesting worlds populated by flawed, idiotic characters. Now when are the commissioners going to call me to talk about my golf club idea?

Oh, essentially the whole article could just have been these two links. Compare and contrast these two and tell me I'm not 140 per cent right:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHuOOHpCm9o

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0naRHxOf9go
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Old 08-07-2017, 10:31 AM   #2
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Hasn't most comedy died a death anyway due to political correctness? Many Britcoms have jumped the shark anyway.
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Old 08-07-2017, 08:18 PM   #3
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sounds like this guy is a sore loser still trying to rationalize his lack of success at writing sitcoms.

American sitcoms are more dumbed-down to appeal to a wider audience and the sheer number of them means they are a lot less original and a lot more repetitive - that does not make them better. Every season there tends to be a bunch of terrible sitcoms with a couple of decent ones that stand out - the networks will basically put anything on hoping they will eventually get a hit if they greenlight enough shows.

British sitcoms tend to be wittier; with more thought put into the dialog and word-play, more elaborately developed plots and scenarios, with fewer episodes and higher percentage of better quality shows. They aren't everyone's cup of tea, so its hard to say they are "better", but it seems like they have less "duds" compared to the number of "hits" that make it to series.

...or maybe this guy is just trying to convince the BBC that they need to be making more terribly written Britcoms and he just happens to have some scripts available.
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Old 08-08-2017, 11:14 AM   #4
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Quote:
]Jerry's apartment in Seinfeld is an apartment

And Daisy and Tim's apartment in Spaced is an apartment.
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Old 08-08-2017, 05:38 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve_uk
Hasn't most comedy died a death anyway due to political correctness?


Most entertainment has.

Bashing straight white males 24 hours a day.
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Old 08-09-2017, 03:45 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robyrob
sounds like this guy is a sore loser still trying to rationalize his lack of success at writing sitcoms.

American sitcoms are more dumbed-down to appeal to a wider audience and the sheer number of them means they are a lot less original and a lot more repetitive - that does not make them better. Every season there tends to be a bunch of terrible sitcoms with a couple of decent ones that stand out - the networks will basically put anything on hoping they will eventually get a hit if they greenlight enough shows.

British sitcoms tend to be wittier; with more thought put into the dialog and word-play, more elaborately developed plots and scenarios, with fewer episodes and higher percentage of better quality shows. They aren't everyone's cup of tea, so its hard to say they are "better", but it seems like they have less "duds" compared to the number of "hits" that make it to series.

...or maybe this guy is just trying to convince the BBC that they need to be making more terribly written Britcoms and he just happens to have some scripts available.

Not only that, but many US sitcoms tend to go for the outlandish and bizarre forms of story lines if ratings suddenly dip, whereas British sitcoms tend to remain firmly grounded in reality.
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Old 08-09-2017, 05:11 PM   #7
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I think I saw Man of the House which inspired Three's Company. It was funnier.
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Old 08-09-2017, 07:55 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by king of comedy
I think I saw Man of the House which inspired Three's Company. It was funnier.
Yes it was actually Man about the House, which aired during the golden decade for comedy of the 1970s. I don't know who Ben Fogg is but he does make some good points. I would say to glickmam that sometimes British comedy is all too grounded in reality, when all you want of an evening is a little escapism.
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Old 08-12-2017, 08:26 AM   #9
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American sitcoms might feature more episodes, but aren't Britsh sitcoms more repeatable?
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Old 08-12-2017, 11:20 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robyrob
sounds like this guy is a sore loser still trying to rationalize his lack of success at writing sitcoms.

American sitcoms are more dumbed-down to appeal to a wider audience and the sheer number of them means they are a lot less original and a lot more repetitive - that does not make them better. Every season there tends to be a bunch of terrible sitcoms with a couple of decent ones that stand out - the networks will basically put anything on hoping they will eventually get a hit if they greenlight enough shows.

British sitcoms tend to be wittier; with more thought put into the dialog and word-play, more elaborately developed plots and scenarios, with fewer episodes and higher percentage of better quality shows. They aren't everyone's cup of tea, so its hard to say they are "better", but it seems like they have less "duds" compared to the number of "hits" that make it to series.

...or maybe this guy is just trying to convince the BBC that they need to be making more terribly written Britcoms and he just happens to have some scripts available.
- and I am not just trashing American Sitcoms; I am simply saying that they are different.

There are plenty of well-written US sitcoms - they tend to be the ones that have niche audiences and low ratings and get cancelled very quickly for the most part. There have been many well written classic US sitcoms, but after so many years of "raising the bar" the genre is running on fumes.

I still think that Britcoms focus much more on witty dialog and wordplay - that does not often translate very well to general American audiences; again it doesn't mean that it is bad, just different.

Most American networks are going to follow the ratings and will dump a show even if it receives critical praise and awards if it does not pull in the numbers they want (although they might be persuaded to see if awards and recognition draws in more viewers).

I have been watching the previews for the new fall line-ups, and for the most part they look absolutely terrible. As in, some of them are so painful it hurts to even watch a 30 second promo without wanting to change the channel. But, hey - what do I know, maybe one of them will be the next big "hit".
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Old 08-12-2017, 12:13 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robyrob
- and I am not just trashing American Sitcoms; I am simply saying that they are different.

There are plenty of well-written US sitcoms - they tend to be the ones that have niche audiences and low ratings and get cancelled very quickly for the most part. There have been many well written classic US sitcoms, but after so many years of "raising the bar" the genre is running on fumes.

I still think that Britcoms focus much more on witty dialog and wordplay - that does not often translate very well to general American audiences; again it doesn't mean that it is bad, just different.

Most American networks are going to follow the ratings and will dump a show even if it receives critical praise and awards if it does not pull in the numbers they want (although they might be persuaded to see if awards and recognition draws in more viewers).

I have been watching the previews for the new fall line-ups, and for the most part they look absolutely terrible. As in, some of them are so painful it hurts to even watch a 30 second promo without wanting to change the channel. But, hey - what do I know, maybe one of them will be the next big "hit".
We have a publicly funded channel here, the BBC, for which we pay £147 per annum whether we watch it or not. I suppose the plus side in theory is that it gives them an independence to stick with shows which initially have done poorly in the ratings but which may have hidden potential over the longer term. I agree about the language barrier between the two countries and there's also a class barrier, which you Americans don't have and therefore some of the comedy lines might go over your heads.
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Old 08-16-2017, 01:46 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve_uk
We have a publicly funded channel here, the BBC, for which we pay £147 per annum whether we watch it or not. I suppose the plus side in theory is that it gives them an independence to stick with shows which initially have done poorly in the ratings but which may have hidden potential over the longer term. I agree about the language barrier between the two countries and there's also a class barrier, which you Americans don't have and therefore some of the comedy lines might go over your heads.

Ah, good old Auntie Beeb pay us for your propaganda or else. In the US we pay for those channels we don't watch as "bundles". Given the agenda pushing I am about done with Cable also.
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Old 08-16-2017, 01:57 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by loaferman
Ah, good old Auntie Beeb pay us for your propaganda or else. In the US we pay for those channels we don't watch as "bundles". Given the agenda pushing I am about done with Cable also.
So that's what bundles are. I suppose we pay for commercial stations indirectly through higher product prices, and the licence fee saves us from advertising. Apparently 35 million Americans watch the BBC in some form weekly anyway. http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/lat...lobal-audience
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