A Comparison Of American And British Tv Comedy

2554 words - 10 pages

A Comparison of American and British TV Comedy

Sit-coms in television history have been one of the most important
genres for expressing the values of the middle and lower classes in
our society, not in order to make fun of them but to express the best
of them in a softer way. For the general public today, the sit-com is
like the pantomime was for the Victorians. British comedy still has a
Victorian taste, but it is one that is only recognized and truly
appreciated by the British, which makes the British sitcoms less
universal, and it does also express a more localised British culture.

In reality, the appeal of American sit-coms in relation to the British
is clear. In the UK, the use of social class stereotypes is more
intense; they rely on a more complex social background than the US.
Although it is generally felt that UK culture is gradually becoming
less defined by the stereotypes of social class, it is notable that in
the last five years of television, many sit-coms in UK television
continue to approach mainly social class issues, which have more to do
with the working class than ever before. For example, in the last
year there were two productions that clearly illustrate this point:
Shameless and Little Britain, recent productions by Channel 4 and the
BBC, used the stereotype of the English working class. In one way it
is not a universal appeal, the cultural facts make these productions
localised for the UK audience.

Shameless was about a family living on benefits in a council flat in
Manchester. The main theme was their struggle to survive every day
life. The central characters are seven children who where abandoned
by their mother and are now looked after largely by their older sister
because the father is an irresponsible, but arguably charming,
alcoholic living on benefits. Little Britain centred around two
actors who created a series of sketches; different situations which
portrayed many peculiar stereotypes in English society, from a
shoplifting seventeen year old girl living in east London, to a
‘disabled’ man in Birmingham on benefits who shamelessly uses his
generous best friend to help him with the basic daily tasks, despite
the fact that he is perfectly capable of doing these tasks himself.

These cultural issues make British sit-coms funny to those who
recognise the social types, but if it is to be shown to an American
audience the essential part of the funny elements are lost,
principally because it is not related to Americans in the same way it
relates to the English. In American sit-coms the appeal is more
universal; there are more general jokes and the use of class is less
than in the UK. Sit-coms like Friends and Will and Grace have a more
general approach and the dramatisation of social issues is almost
nonexistent. The jokes are directly...

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