Lucy and Friends
Sitcoms, or situation comedies, were first developed for radio, but today they are typically
found on television. They feature a group of characters in humorous situations, which
normally take place in the home or workplace. Situation comedies originated in the
United States, but today they are some of the most popular programs around the world.
The sitcom that revolutionized television in the 1950s in the United States was I love lucy,
starring Lucille Ball and her husband, Cuban band leader and sometime actor, Desi Arnaz.
It was the first scripted program ever to be performed in front of a studio audienee, and to be
recorded rather than broadcast live. I love lucy set the pattern for situation comedies for years
to come. Ball and Arnaz played a married couple similar to themselves, but Lucy always got
involved in crazy, comic situations. These often involved slapstick and physical humor.
In recent years, two sitcoms from the United States have become popular all over the world:
Seinfeld and Friends. Perhaps the greatest success of the shows was the fact that
there was no one star at the center of the plot and the action. The stories revolved around
the entire cast, not one actor or actress alone.
Seinfeld (1989-1998) starred Jerry Seinfeld, a stand-up comic who played himself.
The other actors on the show played, well, somewhat unusual characters: Kramer, George,
and Elaine. The show concentrated its plots around small, everyday things, like taking clothes
to the drycleaners, getting tickets for an important game, arguing over parking spaces, and
using answering machines. These were trivial things, but ones with which the audienee
could identify. As Jerry Seinfeld said about his program, it was “a show about nothing.”
Friends (1994-2004) followed Seinfeld’ success, and it presented similar everyday events and
relationships. The show lasted for ten years. In 2004, the final episode of Friends was
watched by over 50 million viewers in the United States. What made Friends so popular?
It was the fact that the six friends were just that-friends. And it wasn’t just on the show.
In real life, the cast of friends were pals. Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox-Arquette,
Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlane, Mathew Perry, and David Schwimmer become very close.
And on camera, that real-life chemistry showed. No matter what happened, no matter who did
what, or who said what, Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Joey Chandler, and Ross were friends.
Americans could relate to the series and to the cast. It didn’t need fancy locations or
elaborate special effects. All it needed was the friends.