Year 12 Media situation comedy exam preparation

Week 1

For your chosen series’ and the two chosen episodes make sure you know:

  • What their titles were
  • When they were first broadcast
  • What channel they were broadcast on
  • What time
  • Who the stars are and their previous credits
  • Any background knowledge which could be useful


  • Generally what kinds of gender representations are there in the programmes e.g. are all women motherly, caring, nurturing or flirtatious, feather-brained, or always right? Are all men incompetent, know-it-alls who end up being wrong; arrogant, boastful, lager-loving, football hooligans or grown up little-boys?


Week 2
As above
Now make sure you have evidence for the gender representations from the dialogue of the programmes; this means making a list of comments, one liners, typical kinds of things said by the main characters that you can use to illustrate comments you might make about the way gender is represented in your sit-coms e.g. Gary: ‘Debs you’re a girl…‘ ‘No I’m a woman…‘ ‘How does that work then?We see here epitomised the essential lack of understanding of men about women, because they don’t grow up and change (mature) they just get bigger and older and as a result they can’t understand the process that causes women to become wiser and less fun!!


Week 3
As above
Now make sure you make detailed notes on the mise en scene of the locations mainly used in your sit-coms. This might include: the décor (colours on walls, art work, style of, choice or and variety of furnishings, even the layout of the rooms); who sits where, who does what in each room; whose influence is seen; who is excluded; what function foes each location have, how is it used within the narrative or to say particular things about certain characters. (Think about how feminine or masculine the place is. Think Martin Crane and the Coffee Shop – Café Nervosa!!! Ben Harper and his garage! Monica and her kitchen or Ross and Joey’s recliner chairs and big screen TV in its cabinet or Will’s step-up kitchen in the centre of the room, with big stainless steel fridge and he’s usually cooking! Etc)


Week 4
As above
Now in your episodes what kinds of themes run through?

  • Battles of the sexes?
  • Conflicts of other sorts?
  • Sexual tension? Conflict? Success or failure or insecurity?
  • Generation differences?
  • Loss of status? Insecurity? Lack of respect?
  • Growing up? Relationships? Work? Status? Unemployment?
  • The nature of friendship?
  • Parent child relationships?
  • Social acceptability? ……………. etc.

How do these themes show up the gender differences or make subtle comments about gender or identity?

What kinds of narratives are the characters given? This means what kinds of storylines are they given e.g. are they always given weak female roles? Stories in which the men are set up to fail and to be laughed at? Or stories in which the stereotypical expectations are allowed to be challenged? (Will and Jack are both gay!!) Most narratives privilege or marginalise specific characters, i.e. some characters always have more time devoted to them and others less; some always seem to play the same role, others are allowed to be more flexible; Karen in Will and Grace had a more marginal role in the first episodes of ‘Will and Grace’, and I’ve always felt that Phoebe was more the outsider in ‘Friends’.

  • You need to know exactly what story lines and themes are in your episodes. E.g. in this episode the theme is parenthood and as we learn Rachel is pregnant we get to see Ross’ reaction to it…it reveals the essential differences between males and females that men seem unable to take the idea seriously; they shy away from it as being too personal, while women are shown as being instinctively maternal… we see Gary and Dorothy making jokes about crocheted vaginas and his inability to be supportive of her, as he makes fun of the breathing exercises, all to prevent the compromising of his masculinity.

General notes about sit-com

Popular with producers and audiences:

  • Cheap / repeatable
  • Reusable resources
  • Controllable sets
  • Self-contained so flexible in that episodes can be shown out of sequence with usually no obvious problems
  • Length of program optimised for 3 advert breaks (US)
  • Structured and predictable (HARTLEY)
  • Easily exportable – transparent formula

Comedy zones now dominate BBC2 and C4’s schedule Mon and Fridays whereas BBC1 and ITV have had problems because of the domination of soaps. UK Gold, UK play and Paramount are able to capitalise on the persisting popularity of sit-com.


HARTLEY’S two categories:

  • Family sit-coms thrive on the conflict caused by quirkiness of a central, eccentric character or through the dysfunction or fractured family relationships.
    All present a set of representations which seem to be slightly different from our expectations of how a family should be (the dominant ideological view.)
  • Work place sit-coms thrive on the sexual tension, ‘sexual chemistry’ (HARTLEY), flirtation etc. which mean that the job takes second place.
    Taxi and M*A*S*H were targeted at a more affluent demographic than usual (SCHATZ).


TAFLINGER’S three categories:

  • Act-com
    character’s actions are abnormal against dominant views (Nick in My Family)(I Love Lucy)
  • Dom-com
    moral or emotional dilemma needing an older person’s help to resolve (Roseanne) (The Cosby Show) (Fresh Prince of Bel Air)
  • Dramedy
    deals with social issues; the beliefs and values of the characters are tested (M*A*S*H) (Scrubs)