Everyone old is new again

The easiest way to build a sitcom is to populate it with sitcom people. These are people who are vain, jealous, and paranoid, reacting to any situation with desperate lies and schemes. They build their relationships on the broadest stereotypes – hard lust for the person they’re not with, loving but lying to the people their with in order to avoid looking weak, and being on hostile terms with their former lovers. They’re smart enough to wisecrack, but never wise enough to avoid trouble or to handle things with honesty. You probably don’t act like these folks in reality, and you’d hate spending time with them, but their nature drives sitcom plots.

It’s the easiest way to build a sitcom, and it’s even possible to build a good sitcom with these characters. Friends is populated with sitcom people. I Love Lucy basically defined the sitcom person. But the ones that don’t use that system – The Mary Tyler Moore Show, for example, speak more truth about humanity.

At the beginning of the first episode of The New Adventures of Old Christine, there are some glimmers of hope. We see Christine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) being a good single mom, and we learn that she’s still on very good terms with her ex-husband. But before long, we see her falling back on the habits of homo sitcomus; she’s lying to make herself look good to her kid’s new teacher, she’s getting jealous that her ex is now dating a younger woman (also named Christine, hence the series title.) It’s an awkward fit, more so that this is a person-flailing-through-life sitcom, but we don’t know what she’s flailing toward. Lucy wanted to get into showbiz, Laverne and Shirley wanted good boyfriends, Old Christine wants, well, basically the life she has only to be more comfortable in it, which she would achieve if she just stopped being a homo sitcomus.

It’s not unwatchable. It’s just frustrating.

Published in: on March 14, 2006 at 9:46 pm  Comments (3)  

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  1. The local TV reviewer for the Philadelphia Inquirer previewed Old Christine and said that it made two sitcom premieres in a row (Sons & Daughters being the other one) that are funny and worth watching.

    I haven’t checked out S&D, but I watched both episodes of Old Christine and I doubt I’ll bother with it again, whatever time slot it lands in. I’d just as soon have Out Of Practice back. I also much prefer Stacked.

    Speaking of Stacked what’s up with that one? Anyone know if it’s coming back this season? It seems more like a Brit-com (a la Fawlty Towers or Coupling) where there are only six to nine episodes made per season.

    I don’t particularly mind that as I see it as better than diluting the product by stretching it too thin over twenty episodes, but I’d also like to know if that is indeed the way it’s gonna be. I’d just like to know Fox’s reasoning.

  2. The Fox website says that Stacked will return this summer, which is likely to mean that they gave up on the show and are dumping the rest of the episodes they ordered. Pamela’s site lists the episode air dates, and after Jan 11 says the next one was to air March 9, but I don’t think that happened.

    Stacked may be at heart a bad sitcom, but it’s a good bad sitcom, whereas Old Christine seems to be a bad good sitcom. I’m with you – I’d rather have the latter.

    The goal in the US is rarely to have short seasons on an ongoing basis, but sometimes the first couple seasons are short while the network hopes that the show will catch on without risking full-season commitments.

  3. Thanks for the info. That’s one of those annoying little things that occasionally nag at me, but not annoying enough to actually make me think to go in search of an official answer as to the fate of the show. I just figure I’ll somehow become aware of it if/when it pops up again.

    And another thing… Are you telling me that Pamela Anderson has a website?!?!?!?! Well, I’ll be… Huh, who’d’a thunk it? 🙂

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