‘Our usual impasse’
The episodic situation comedy revisited
in Popular television drama
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This chapter looks at the apparent simplicities of the situation comedy, comparing some 'classic' 1960s and 1970s British sitcoms with a more recent example, The Office. It aims to clarify the relationship of narrative form to ideological and historical content. The chapter focuses on the question of linear narrative development in sitcom: a vexed question in a genre that has traditionally been marked by, and has indeed in important respects relied on, a distinctive episodic circularity. By comparison with other forms of popular television drama, and notwithstanding its eternal popularity with programmers and audiences, sitcom remains notably underdiscussed. The fine line between humour and grim psychological realism trod by Alan Simpson's Steptoe and Son's comedy of frustration and entrapment was seized upon by critics as a means of redeeming the series from sitcom status.

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