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5 Most Common Types of Sitcoms

5 Most Common Types of Sitcoms

Situation comedies, or sitcoms, have been a staple of television since the early 1950s. They provided good, clean entertainment for the whole family to huddle around the old TV and watch together. For a long time, many sitcoms adopted the I Love Lucy formula, filming on a soundstage using a three-camera setup, with a live studio audience and episodes that ran about 30-minute or less, like a good pizza delivery boy. 

Since those days, the sitcom formula has expanded and morphed as our relationship with television has changed. When televisions first came out, people were used to seeing live shows with huge audiences to join in a roar of laughter, so laugh tracks were added to give the home viewer that affect. However, now, the laugh track has become old hat, a trick CBS staples on to their shows to remind you how "funny" they are. As the amount of TV shows grew and as children's programming became more prevalent, sitcoms started to appeal more toward an adult audience. Furthermore, many sitcoms have adopted single-camera set ups so they could film in 3-dimensional sets and use cinematography as a tool to create jokes.

Come to the 21st century, where our sitcoms have branched out spectacularly from the original formula. Before, we just had plain cheese pizza, but now, we have a whole array of wacky, meaty flavors to choose from, and these are the most common.

The Plucky Workplace Comedy

The Plucky Work Comedy is a very common formula highlighting the hi-jinx involved when working at some unique job locale. They often star a fresh faced comedian who works alongside the wackiest characters you could write.

  • Where You'll See it: NBC
  • Camera Set up: Single-camera
  • Laugh Track: No
  • Cast: Ensemble with a plucky lead
  • Setting: The Workplace
  • Plot: Zany work adventures + finding love

Examples: The Office, Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock, Scrubs, Brooklyn Nine Nine

Close, but not Quite: Dr. Ken

The Old Fashioned

The Old Fashioned still hangs on to the good old formula established by shows like Seinfeld and Friends, taking the family sitcom, and swapping out the parents and kids for lusting singles.

  • Where You'll See it: CBS
  • Camera Set up: Three-camera
  • Laugh Track: Absolutely
  • Cast: Group of single 20-somethings
  • Setting: Apartment/Bachelor pad in NYC
  • Plot: Find love + go to work

Examples: The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, 2 Broke Girls, Rules of Engagement

Close, but not Quite: New Girl

The Foul-Mouthed Animated Comedy

These originated with The Simpsons, cartoons that use animation to their advantage to show all the TV-17 rated gore and naughty talk a college student can handle. These often run for dozens of seasons, and even when they are cancelled, are brought back soon after due to fan petitions.

  • Where You'll See It: FOX, Comedy Central, Adult Swim
  • Camera Set up: N/A
  • Laugh Track: Nope
  • Cast: Foul-mouthed, crudely drawn cartoons
  • Setting: Cartoonland
  • Plot: Make pop-culture references

Examples: The Simpsons, South Park, Family Guy, Archer, The Boondocks, Rick and Morty

Close, but Not Quite: Bob's Burgers


The "Minority" Family

These are the family comedies of the modern day, often with broad enough humor to appeal to a wide crowd, while still going over race/sexuality/class politics in a comedic way.

  • Where You'll See it: ABC
  • Camera Set up: Single-camera
  • Laugh Track: No
  • Cast: Self-explanatory
  • Setting: A house
  • Plot: Teach us about their culture’s interaction with society

Examples: Modern Family, Blackish, The Middle, Fresh Off the Boat, The Goldbergs

Close, but not Quite: It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

A Louie Show

Popularized by Louie CK's eponymous show, Louie, these shows often star a comedian who plays a character based heavily off themselves, and the type of stand up comedy they do. Often these shows have a more central focus on one character than other sitcoms, and will have a rotating supporting cast.

  • Where You'll See it: One per network
  • Camera Set up: Single-Camera
  • Laugh Track: Only when they're doing stand up
  • Cast: A comedian playing a version of himself, with a few reoccurring side characters
  • Setting: LA/NY
  • Plot: Vignettes about various life topics

Examples: Louie, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Master of None, The Jim Gaffigan Show, Baskets

Close, but not Quite: Real Rob

Obviously, there are many sitcoms that do not fit into these categories that have branched out and have found their own unique style. I commend these shows willing to embrace new ideas rather than stick to what is tried and true. However, that does not mean shows that follow formulas are bad. Often, they become some the most popular show of all time.

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