This discussion will aim to explain 'what puts the comedy into situation comedy', and the two main sitcoms that I will analyse are 'Only Fools and Horses' and 'Fawlty Towers'. Firstly, a definition of situation comedy is that it is a 'humorous drama based on situations that might arise in a day-to-day basis'. Sitcom originally started on radio in England which is a severe difference to American Sitcom which began on television, and hence gives a rather more cultured, verbally dependent humour. In this essay analysis I will mainly be concentrating on British Sitcoms. What I think a good comedy should consist of is a good story outline some ongoing jokes, deliberate mistakes in speech, exaggeration of features, some sort of family situation, verbal humour and physical humour and also comedy twist at the end and sad point followed by sudden comic outbursts/timing, and lastly a good selection of characters. A successful comedy nearly always contains a clever character that comes up with all the plans and great ideas, plus a character that is a bit slow and clumsy, and always gets things wrong and is the main cause of the comedy. Finally there is often a character that just happens to be there like a tag along and these are the ones that sometimes glue the rest of them
In every situation comedy there are certain conventions that we would expect to see. They vary from; characterisation whether it is a major or a minor character. The types of characters used in sitcoms have a fundamental influence on interaction and comedy, as the conversation two or more characters have and the way they behave and contribute towards the comedy will have a great impact on the audience, especially if they are judging if the sitcom is successful or not. In Fawlty Towers the major characters are Basil and Sybil Fawlty and the minor characters are Polly, Terry (The chef) and Manuel. Another convention used in situation comedy to produce comedy which also links in with characterisation is stereotypes. These are character and narrative shortcuts and simplifications of members of social groups, existing prejudices, which can cause offence and reinforce. Older sitcoms have affection towards this as it would suit the audience back then. Moreover stereotypes have a link with interaction between characters to produce comedy which is vital. Character Interaction is one of the key functions to build comedy in a sitcom. This may be shown if the audience laugh at a joke said between two characters, and the way they interact between themselves, therefore this will cause to stir up a conversion and so on. This is shown in one of the episodes of Fawlty Towers, when Basil and Sybil interact between themselves, and Basil doesn't like the way Sybil acts and goes off mimicking her face. As a result of this we will as a younger audience laugh at this particular humour, as a result this makes the sitcom successful.
In addition a situation comedy must have a setting/situation, the setting of situation comedy contributes to the uniqueness of it situations and this may lead on to define the comedy itself. For example in 'Only Fools and Horses' the setting is their council flat in Peckham of which they are 'trapped in'. This brings the opportunities of comedy as they live in an apartment and the objects they have are not valuable and useless, however, when Dell Boy gets the chance to earn money 'this time next year we'll be millionaires', so he has the ambition and the desire to change this and grow out of this. He then uses his chance to convince his fellows to bag the item they have in their own home to make something out of it when really they can't. This is demonstrated in the episode 'chandeliers', Del Boy overhears that the Lord of the Manor is having trouble with the firm he's hired to clean their chandeliers. He wastes no time in offering the Trotter's services as chandelier cleaners for a mere £350. With Rodney and Del up ladders, and an old sheet the only thing between the cut-glass chandelier and the floor, it is only natural that Grandad detaches the chandelier from the room behind them. Del's fast talking excuses are the Trotters' only chance they have of escape! At the beginning of this episode Del Boy was talking to Rodney and grandad about the possibility of them become millionaires this time next year and as always the end up failing in one way or another. This is an example of a situation where the audience find humorous and laugh, to add to this the reaction of the character at the end when the chandeliers fall and they walk over the broken bits of glass is the moment which really caught by eye.
Character Interaction also has dependencies which result in either a verbal or physical humour to take place. Physical humour is humour using the body/object. Physical humour has immediacy that by passes language completely and goes straight to the funny centre. Another great advantage of have physical humour is that it appeals to all age groups, in addition people perceives the person who is able to use physical humour basics well, as a confident and able person. This makes you stand out from the crowd and you are publically admired. They work well in sitcoms because they attract the audience's attention and this is also another way comedy is put into a situation comedy. This is important because it livens up a sitcom and defines its individuality between all the other sitcoms in the world, and if they include physical humour it makes that particular sitcom ('Fawlty Tower' and 'Only Fools and Horses') stand out. Without this key ingredient sitcom would be boring and uninteresting to watch.
Verbal Humour is another way the interaction between characters turns into comedy, this time using wordplay, puns and twists on words. An example of verbal humour in the sitcom I watched on 'Fawlty Towers'. The phrase 'I know nothing' suddenly becomes a very completed situation. Manuel and Basil have a painful conversation about the bet, in order to keep it away from Sybil. Basil tells Manuel to pretend that he doesn't know anything about the horse which he bet on winning. However it is more complex, as Manuel who is from Barcelona doesn't speak very good English takes time to understand this and as just as he does, Sybil enters the room. During the conversation Basil struggles to keep his cool as he tries and explain and keeps repeating 'you know nothing' and Manuel keeps repeating 'I know nothing', the funny thing about this is that he repeats it in an Spanish accent which adds on to the comedy.
Ongoing jokes are jokes that are repeated every series. For this bit I am going to be looking at Fawlty Towers, and an ongoing joke which we can spot straight away is the letters being altered from 'Fawlty Towers' to create different sets of anagrams in each episodes over the two series. This makes this sitcom unique as it is one of the only sitcom shows which focuses on this ongoing joke in every episodes and series. In addition some of the anagrams hey create are funny and have humour to them such as in Series 2 in the episode 'Basil the rat' the anagram which the sign reads is 'FARTY TOWELS'. This is one of the better ones which I like.
During Comic Timing the actors play parts which are very important to the success or failure of a comedy in a situation comedy, and they deliver the jokes to determine how successful they are. My favourite example of comic timing is in the 'Only Fools and Horses' episodes, when Del Boy falls through the bar. This is an example of clear and perfect comic timing. The build-up was crucial in order for the comic timing to be a success. It started off in a bar when Del Boy is with Trigger as they try and impress a 'bird' (another girl in a bar). However when he leans on the bar table behind him, then later it is lifted, and Del Boy doesn't know this and falls through the bar. In my opinion this utter brilliancy and genius by the directors to create this especially as the tension was building up. To sum it up Triggers reaction when he turns around looks around to find Del Boy adds to the coming timing and Physical humour.
To conclude I think that the two comedies ('Fawlty Towers' and 'Only Fools and Horses') which I chose to analyse are good examples of Situation comedy because...
Successful because they have all the key ingredients which a sitcom needs to be necessary and stand out from the rest, and also Only Fools and Horses was voted top of the U.K sitcoms.