I’ve heard a lot of criticism for Fox’s New Girl. It’s too unbelievable. Zooey D’s too pretty to play anyone even remotely undesirable. How can three men live in such a clean, well-decorated apartment? How do they afford such a place? Why would they put up with her annoying, intrusive behavior?
Of course all of these are valid questions, but they’re entirely beside the point. We’re living in Sitcom World now; your rules don’t apply here.
The fact that an attractive woman lives with three attractive men who can barely hide their contempt for her isn’t really that outlandish, all sitcoms considered. I mean, television also asked us to believe that Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari could successfully pass as women just to live in a cheap apartment.
(Be careful Google image searching Bosom Buddies, she said from a place of experience.)
Sitcoms exist in their own world with their own rules. “Forget it, internet. It’s Sitcom-Town.”- me, being really clever. New Girl isn’t realistic or “deep” or complicated, but it’s the best at what it does because it follows all the rules.
Necessities For A Successful Sitcom:
- Roommates who begrudgingly move in together, but eventually learn to love one another.
-One character accidentally sees another character naked:
-A great theme song.
-A scene at the end where everyone comes together and shares what they’ve learned. This happens in EVERY EPISODE of Perfect Strangers. Usually Cousin Larry actually says something like, “Well, Balki, we’ve learned a lot today.” I love it.
-Everything must be wrapped up in 30 (okay, 22) minutes. Sometimes there can be a two-parter, but if there are stories that routinely stretch throughout a season, it’s not sitcommy enough. I LOVE Parks and Rec, and I like the Office and Community, but I feel it’s dishonest to refer to them as sitcoms. They’re half an hour, and they’re comedies, but they’re no Perfect Strangers, you know?
-Characters with very clearly defined characteristics.
I forget which book/piece this was in, but Chuck Klosterman once wrote about how, by the end of Friends, the humor came not from actual dialogue or jokes, but from our knowledge of the characters. It’s like how the audience laughs just seeing Kramer enter Jerry’s apartment on Seinfeld. New Girl already has this down. Jess is a weirdo! Schmidt has sex a lot! Nick is pathetic! Winston plays basketball! This sounds like a bad thing, but it isn’t. Not in a sitcom.
Listen, if I wanted to deal with complex characters, I’d watch a drama. Should I watch The Wire finally? I don’t know. But a sitcom’s not the place for that. A sitcom is escapism. A sitcom is a clearly defined character who does the right thing after 23 minutes of fumbling around and running into things. A sitcom is a guarantee that, no matter how confusing or shitty or stressful your own problems might be, for a half an hour, you’re going to watch a character stumble into a problem, clumsily mess it up, and then solve it. Every. Damn. Time.
And maybe if you’re lucky, everyone will hug at the end.