Read of the Day: “On Taking Sitcoms Too Seriously”
5:30 pm, September 23rd | by Colette McIntyre
In today’s Read of the Day, Jezebel’s Katie Dries takes on Alyssa Rosenberg’s recent Women and Hollywood essay about the progression (or, as she argues, the lack thereof) of female comedy characters. In her piece, Dries wonders if we’re giving sitcoms “too much credit.”
I’ve long been a fan of Rosenberg’s writing, about television and otherwise, but I’m not sure that we can say that Jess, Winston or any of the other characters on New Girl aren’t fully-flushed out because the show has running gags. That’s the purpose of a sitcom. That’s essentially what kept New Girl‘s predecessor, Friends, on for ten seasons: the weird character quirks its six leads possessed, like Ross’s ongoing obsession with his monkey Marcel or Phoebe’s tendency to randomly drop secret tidbits about her strange experiences living on the street. Yes, there were the deeper things like friendship and love triangles but the jokes are the real point of the sitcom: we want to sit down for half an hour each week and laugh. If they weren’t, they’d be dramas.
Rosenberg’s argument about Mindy holds up more to me, maybe because I just like that show less. Even after a season, Mindy’s jerkiness really doesn’t seem to have a point, probably because nothing on the show ever seems to have a direction. The weird character quirks of the other characters on that show work less well too, as the overarching “purpose” of the show is unclear. New Girl has a purpose: it is essentially about the often dysfunctional love shared by this group of friends who are each so strange in such different ways that it seems sometimes impossible that they could all be friends. Jess’s tendency to sing to herself could seem entirely at odds with Schmidt’s obsession with hair care products, except that they are each so random as to almost fit together. Mindy is probably supposed to be about the same thing but instead is about…I dunno, Mindy Kaling getting her own show and doing whatever she wants because its 2013 and she’s a free bitch baby?
To read ”On Taking Sitcoms Too Seriously” in its entirety, click here.