Sunday, November 23, 2008

Are Sitcoms Going Postmodern?

A New York Times Magazine article comparing such stalwart televisual programs as The Simpsons, 30 Rock, and Arrested Development with the metafiction techniques of Postmodern literature of the 1960's and 1970's?

Yes, please.

Shows like “Arrested Development,” “Scrubs,” “Family Guy” and “30 Rock” have taken the experiment a step further, reconfiguring the methods with which comedy tells stories. Instead of using the typical sitcom narrative (six characters in the same four rooms enduring a humdrum, linear story line), these shows explore their situations through collage and a restless stream of consciousness.


Metafiction emerged from a group of self-aware writers who analyzed their own work like critics; and in the same way, today’s digressive sitcoms come from a generation of comedy writers (and viewers) who understand the ins and outs of the most popular format of 30-minute storytelling. Avant-garde literature gave America its first tradition of subverting narrative, but what was once a wild experiment in language has become an accepted counterpart to our Internet culture, where digressive Googling and link-clicking are a way of life. The dusty sitcom has caught up to the modern mind.


Ara 13 said...

I certainly appreciate the metafictional spins in comedies, but I have one gripe. Humor does not give writers a free pass to say anything without it being challanged. Ara 13, Author of Drawers & Booths, an IPPY "Outstanding Book of the Year."

Avi said...

@Ara 13

Can you expand upon that? Do you have any examples of comedy writers getting free passes?