I think I won't be wrong in saying that there is no single person who didn't like at least one of the numerous sitcoms we've had on TV during the last 20-30 years. Whether it was Seinfeld, Mad about You, Friends, Full House, or more recently How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory, and 2 Broke Girls, everyone liked to watch a minimum of a couple of episodes of these funny TV shows.
Even though all sitcoms are different in so many ways and tell about distinctly different characters (from physics geniuses to waitresses), they all have a couple of things in common. First off, they're typically funny (or, at least, they try very hard to be funny). And second, they have a number of cliches that go from one TV show into another, and at times it seems that every single sitcom has them.
As soon as fans notice these cliches, they get annoyed, because they make even the funniest shows predictable and less interesting. So what are these cliches, and did we notice all of them? Let's take a look, because all the most commonplace sitcom things, from flanderization to "will they-won't they" couples, to eating habits of the characters, are listed below!
I'm going to start this list with a term you might have heard a couple of times, but it's possible that you don't really understand what this term means or where it came from. Flanderization is the act of exaggerating a character's traits so progressively that after some time, it overtakes their entire personality. The term originated from the name of one of The Simpsons characters, Ned Flanders, who was simply opposed to Homer at first, being an attentive father, a polite neighbor, and a church attendant, but then turned into a religious zealot.
Most sitcoms have characters, who have been flanderized. We're talking about Joey Tribbiani's (Friends) lack of wits and inability to even tell left from right, Sheldon Cooper's (The Big Bang Theory) "knowing it all, except for popular culture" thing, and Barney Stinsons' (How I Met Your Mother) womanizing habits, as well as a number of other sitcom characters.
It's possible to understand that writers like using flanderization, because it's easy. But, paying respect to the viewers, it'd be great if they didn't use so much of it. Sitcoms would look much less boring and trivial, if characters had richer personalities and had more to offer to their fans, instead of their exaggerated annoyance and stupidity, or even kindness and intelligence.
14 Whooing Of The Audience
Every single sitcom has an audience that laughs every time something funny happens during the scene. Often it feels good to hear their laughter, because it's exactly the time you laugh yourself. But, unfortunately, it doesn't happen every time — mainly because you don't find all the jokes equally as funny. In this situation, all that it left for you to do is wait for the laughter to end and for the conversation to continue.
If it feels awkward for you, think how awkward it can feel to the actors who have to wait for some time after every joke and resume talking after it. I don't think they like it very much, unless they, of course, use this period to remember the next line they have to tell.
But it's not even the laughter that is so annoying in sitcoms; it's the whooing of the audience that starts when a guest star comes unexpectedly (like Bruce Willis in Friends or Britney Spears in How I Met Your Mother), or when a character shows up looking very differently to what they usually look. Do they really need to go "Whooo!" in these situations? I mean, is that what we do when we watch the series at home?
13 A Couple In And Out Of A Relationship
Ross and Rachel. Ted and Robin. Leonard and Penny. J.D. and Elliot. The list could go on and on. When I think about it, I wonder whether there's at least one sitcom in the world that doesn't have a "will they or won't they?" couple.
Why do they do it? I'm guessing it's because it makes some sort of sense for the show. For example, the ratings just had to prove that out of all the episodes where Ross and Rachel were getting back together or breaking up, had to have the highest ratings in the history of Friends. That's why fans of the couple watched. Most likely, the same thing happens to other sitcoms, as well. It's understandable why, though — people just want to know if their favorite characters are going to finally be together, or not.
However, this cliche has been used so often, that it doesn't seem to be so interesting anymore.
We know that when these two are getting back together, they'll probably break up because of some trivial things going on. But it's okay, soon after the argument they'll start dating again. These couples tend to not be able to live without each other; they can't see each other dating other people (which also happens in every single sitcom). Maybe it was exciting in the past, but today we need something else.
12 No Attention To Characters' Children
The characters of most sitcoms either already have children in the beginning of the show or they end up having a few of their own in the course of the show. But, for some reason, these children rarely become frequently appearing characters of the series, unless the plot revolves around them.
A bright example is Ross Geller (Friends) and his son Ben. He was born in the first season of the show, right after Ross divorced Carol, once she outed the fact that she preferred women. Ben lived with his mother and her new wife, and Ross could only see him sometimes. But from the show's prospective, it seems that he didn't see his son, like, at all. Ben appeared in the series only when the plot needed him, whether it was to show that Ross wanted children and Rachel wasn't ready or to teach about Hanukkah. Thus, Ben appeared only in 16 out of 236 episodes of the sitcom. Too few, huh?
Same thing happens when a couple gets a baby during the sitcom. We all know that when it happens in real life, everything changes for this couple, and they can't hang out with their friends so often. But in sitcoms, they can do it. They just come with a baby carrier, leave it in another room, say that the baby's sleeping, and chat with their friends.
11 A Hard-To-Impress Girlfriend's Father
It's a usual situation in a sitcom. A man who's not very self-confident starts dating an attractive woman and then meets her father. This father doesn't think that the man deserves his daughter and starts throwing a spanner in the works or just behaves in a way to show that he doesn't appreciate his daughter's boyfriend at all. Very often, this father is given a military background or some respectable profession, just to make him more intimidating.
In Friends, Ross didn't get along well with Rachel's father, who was a doctor and a rich man. He didn't think that Ross was a good man for Rachel.
Likewise, in The Big Bang Theory, Howard had a strenuous relationship with Bernadette's father, who was a retired police officer and just a huge guy who, apparently, didn't think that Howard was even a man.
At times, this father-in-law/son-in-law relationship gets better, but then it tends to worsen again. Why? Because show runners think that it's funny to see how the man constantly gets into awkward situations in front of his girlfriend's father. Do viewers think it's funny? Well, not anymore (at least to me). Give us something new! Let's stop recycling the same plots time and time again.
10 Everyone Always Looks Perfect
We're so used to seeing sitcom characters look perfect all the time that we can fail to notice that they look perfect in the situations when no one looks this way. For example, be honest with me and tell me how you look when you are watching TV with your friends in the evening? Most likely, you have your old sweats on and a massive t-shirt, your hair is messy, and you probably don't have any makeup on. I mean, you're with the people you love, you're at home, and you're taking a rest — there's no need to be chilling in jeans in these moments. Watching TV after a long day is one of my favorite ways to relax, so there is no way I'll be done up doing this.
Obviously in sitcoms, the world is completely different than ours, and there are certain rules in this world. For example, it seems that there is a rule that you need to put on your best clothes, do you hair, and makeup — even when you're chatting with your loved ones after work. Because, hey, it's exactly the way all the characters look during the scenes where they're having snack in front of TV or just talking with their pals in the evening. Would you like to live in the world with this kind of rule? I know I wouldn't.
9 Women Sleeping With Their Makeup On
Continuing the statement from the previous point, let's also discuss how women constantly have their full makeup on in sitcoms. It seems that it's on 24/7; when they're at work, when they're chatting with their friends after work, and even when they sleep. Can you name one or two sitcoms, where you saw natural-looking women getting ready to sleep or waking up? To tell you honestly, I can't!
How realistic is it, really? I mean, can you imagine yourself sleeping with full makeup on?
And can you imagine how you would look in the morning if you woke up with your full makeup on? I mean, talk about mascara being everywhere. Also, don't these stars know how harmful it is to fall asleep with makeup on? That's probably one of the worst things a person can do for their skin. This is exactly why most of us remove our makeup when we go to sleep and put it back on only when we need it.
It's obvious sitcoms cast actors and actresses that are beautiful in every way possible, but why can't we see these stars with their natural faces? Or at least makeup that looks a little more relaxed. Let's get realistic, folks. Everyone is beautiful with makeup on, but people are also beautiful in their natural skin. Let's see more of that.
8 Large And Beautiful Apartments
All characters of sitcoms live in spacious and pretty apartments with everything they need: all the furniture, kitchen appliances, and so on. This kind of apartment is required for a beautiful picture on the screen, but when it comes to comparing it to reality, seeing it is kind of annoying.
Let's take Penny from The Big Bang Theory, for example. She wanted to become an actress and worked as a waitress at the Cheesecake Factory to make a living. At the same time, she lived in a great apartment. How could she afford it with the salary of a waitress? I mean, I know there were episodes that showed her struggling to pay the rent and asking Sheldon and Leonard to lend her some money, but still... How could she even begin renting this apartment in the first place?
The same goes to Joey Tribbiani from Friends, who also struggled most of the time and couldn't find an acting job, but kept on living in a large two-room apartment in central New York. Did Chandler pay the rent for both of them? Was his salary enough for it? I mean, he wasn't so rich either! Or was he? Give characters realistic apartments, please!
7 The Man's Trouble During A Woman's Labor
Labor is one of the most painful experiences ever — well, that's at least what I've heard. For this reason, it's not easy to come up with a way to show it as a funny occasion. I mean, the amount of blood and pain doesn't really make it hilarious, right?
Sitcoms have to bring hilarity to a painful situation somehow.
Therefore, often sitcom writers decide to write in a sudden medical problem of one of the male characters, right before the woman goes into labor. In Full House, when Becky went into labor, Jesse turned out to have appendicitis at the same time. Similarly, in Friends, Joey struggled with his kidney stones while Phoebe was giving birth to her brother's triplets.
I can't argue that it was funny to watch Jesse and Joey screaming like they were in labor, as well, but is it the reason to do the same thing in other sitcoms? I don't think that it's the kind of thing that should be done too often, to be honest. It's too 'been there, done that'.
Come on, show runners, find some new ideas, because the old ones can't keep on being funny for a long time! The audience needs surprises, right?
6 Siblings Are Only There To Cause Conflict
It's not just the kids in sitcoms that appear only when it's required for the plot, but also their siblings. And, for some reason, it often happens to create some kind of conflict.
For example in Friends, every time Rachel's sisters showed up, something weird would start happening. When Jill came, she soon began seducing Ross, thus making Rachel desperate. When Amy came for the first time, she and Rachel had a fight right during the Thanksgiving dinner (and the most terrible thing happened — one of Monica's favorite plates was broken). When Amy showed up for the third time, she was allowed to babysit Rachel's daughter and pierced her ears without asking her or Ross' permission. And, interestingly enough, neither of the sisters was ever mentioned in between these episodes. It was like they didn't even exist. WHAT was the point of them!?
I mean, is this all siblings can do? Do they show up just to make you mad in real life? Of course, they don't! When we don't see our brothers and sisters very often, we miss them, and we appreciate the time we spend with them. If we argued with our siblings every time we met, well, it would be sad.
5 Episodes About The Past
All sitcoms have episodes where they say what was going on with the characters when they were in high school or college.
It's fun to learn more about the characters through these episodes, so viewers tend to love them. However, there is a thing that is extremely annoying about these parts of the show...
In the first place, it's the way the characters look. It's okay that they wear dated clothes that used to be fashionable during the time in the past, but what about their hairdos? I mean, why do they always have weird hair (or, in case of men, facial hair)? It always turns out that these characters had extremely curly hair, hair of different colors, long beards, weird mustaches, and so on. And, in some cases, they also have different figures (like Monica from Friends who was obese in high school) and different facial features (like Rachel who had a longer nose).
It's all done to make the audience laugh, and at times, it's actually funny. But some sitcoms go out of their way to give a different appearance to the characters and do something so weird to them, that it turns from funny to annoying in a moment.
4 Unqualified People Getting Jobs
In real life, to get a good, well-payed job, one has to work hard for years and gradually come to the realization of their dream. But, as we've already noticed in sitcoms, life is different. So anyone can get a well-payed job at any moment as soon as they decide to do so.
For instance, Rachel from Friends got a job at Bloomingdale's and then at Ralph Lauren's without even having any education or experience in the fashion industry. Seriously, her knowledge on fashion was limited by the fashion journals she had been reading all the time. Was it enough? For her it was, but not for us real people.
A similar thing happened to Penny from The Big Bang Theory. She struggled as a waitress and an unaccomplished actress for years, but then she suddenly got a job as a pharmaceutical sales rep. Not only did she have zero experience in the area, but she also knew nothing about it (unlike Rachel, who at least liked reading about fashion). For her to get a job, it was enough to learn that both she and the guy who interviewed her were scared of Bernadette... I know how silly that sounds, but that's sitcoms for ya.
3 They Always Sit At The Same Table
How often do you happen to sit at the same table of your favorite cafe of coffee house? I mean, some people are specific, but most of us probably sit in different places most of the time we visit. You just see a vacant spot and go there, even though your favorite spot can be somewhere else.
For sitcom characters, it's different. They always get to sit at the same spot — no matter the time of day.
In Friends, they always sat at this cozy couch in Central Perk (for 10 seasons, only a couple of times there was someone else sitting there). In How I Met Your Mother, they always took a table near the bar, even though McLaren's was constantly full and there was no way this spot was always vacant. The same goes for The Big Bang Theory, Full House, Seinfeld, and a number of other TV shows!
How do they do it? Do they reserve it for like, an eternity? I don't think it's possible in real life, and for this reason it can be annoying at times to see the characters hanging out at the same spot all the time. It's something that is typically hard to do.
2 They Hardly Eat Anything
Even if the sitcom characters manage to get different spots at their favorite cafe or if they hang out at different places all the time, there's another thing that will annoy you as soon as you notice it. They never, ever, touch their food. They just stick their forks or chopsticks into it, stir it, keep on talking, and do everything else, but they don't eat it. And sometimes, if the conversation goes into a wrong direction, someone may throw their food on the table and walk away, and everyone else's like, "Okay, we're too sad to eat now..." I mean, what?!
Does it mean that the actors aren't allowed to eat on the set? Or do they have fake food on their plates and in those Chinese food containers?
I mean, how do they keep on talking while eating? If they're really starving (as they often say they are), they should be falling into the food the minute they see it (like all normal people do). Only when the meal is over, they should resume their conversation. In real life, though, we typically shove our faces into our food mid-conversation. Sometimes eating is way more important than asking how someone's day was.
1 Spin-Offs That Are Always Worse Than Originals
Everything comes to an end, and even the funniest and the most successful sitcoms also have to show their last episode at some point, however sad it can be for the fans. Since fans always want to see more of their favorite characters (and sitcom creators want to get more money), many TV shows get their spin-offs sooner or later. Friends received its continuation with Joey. How I Met Your Mother got a spin-off called How I Met Your Dad. The Big Bang Theory recently got extended with Young Sheldon.
You know what was similar between most of the sitcom spin-offs? They weren't nearly as good and as successful as their predecessors.
Prove me wrong and name at least two spin-offs that were great. Even though it's almost always a bad idea, sitcom creators keep on coming up with ways to show more about one of the characters. I understand it's with a desire to satisfy the fans and make more money, but they forget about the fact that people should be able to stop at some point — finish on a good note... and come up with new ideas.
Can you name any other sitcom cliches that are extremely annoying? If there's anything you don't like even about the shows you love, share your ideas in the comments!