Sunday, 10 February 2013

Things I Don't Understand - Number One

There are lots of things in this world that I really don’t understand, so I thought I’d start an (occasional) series about them. Today I want to talk about sitcoms.

Now it’s not that I don’t get the ins and outs of the plots (though given the intellectual level of most of these programs, that’s not saying much). What I don’t understand is why they are considered funny. Most of them seem to revolve around people making idiots of themselves in one way or another, which, given my own socially-bumbling history, I usually find too painful to watch. I identify too much with the characters. (So much for us aspies lacking empathy, huh?) And even if I didn’t, I still don’t get why that should be considered funny.

So that’s one problem I have with them. The other is with the tendency of the characters to lie when faced with difficulties. A typical situation (eg in those endless re-runs of Friends that NZ TV seems to like, and which I’m able to watch for about two minutes tops before changing the channel) is some difficulty arises, and Character X says to Character Y, “Don’t tell Z!” And of course, right on cue, Z walks in stage left and says “Don’t tell me what?” Characters X and Y stutter “ah, ah, ah…” and then proceed to make up some elaborate story that is about as far from the truth as you can get, all to the tune of canned laughter. Then they have to think of ways to back up that story, usually more lies, the plot thickens, and various complications abound. In the end, the truth almost always comes out, or some version of it, and Z is usually more upset or angry about the lies than the truth, while I’m always left thinking, why don’t they tell the bloody truth in the first place, and there wouldn’t be all this ruckus!

And yes, before someone points it out, I KNOW that if they didn’t tell that BS, there would be no story, or a vastly different one. And that this telling of lies is not limited to sitcoms – serious drama does it too. And yes, I do also know that telling ‘white lies’ is considered socially acceptable, in order to not hurt other people’s feelings. It’s only in sitcoms however, that it seems to be the one (weak) gag they seem to hang the plot on most often. I also know that sitcoms are ‘lowest common denominator’ TV, ie not exactly mentally challenging. Pathetic plots and stupid gags are their usual fare. I know all this.

But I still don’t get why telling lies or making an idiot of yourself or someone else is supposed to be so funny.

Signing Off For Now,



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