The Roomate Themed Sit-com

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate October 2001

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The Roommate-Theme Sitcom There are several types of genres that exist within the category of situational comedies. There is the Animated situational comedy such as The Simpsons. There are the Family-Centered sitcoms such as The Cosby's. And of course there is the roommate-themed situational comedy, represented in this study by Three's Company, The Golden Girls, and Friends. This genre study will examine the more prominent characteristics that these shows share. Settings, character themes, and conflict will all be examined in order to highlight the characteristics that these shows all have in common.

One of the more obvious similarities between these shows is their setting. All three of these shows are primarily set under roof. The four Golden Girls are all roommates housed under one roof, located comfortably in suburbia. Jack Tripper and his roommates from Three's Company are all lodged in a nice apartment, as are the 6 friends that make up the primary cast in Friends.

The only exception to this last example is the fact that the male members of the show Friends are stowed away in an apartment next door to the females' apartment. These settings allow for a great wealth of entertaining scenarios in each show due to the close quarters that each roommate in each show experiences. The setting of each show is such that on any given day, a character from any given show will be challenged by his or her environment.

The apartments that the cast of Friends dwell in is not all that different from the setting of Three's Company. Both apartments are fairly small, which allows for potential conflicts (as will be shown later) as well as intimate bonding. Although the Golden Girls reside in a house, they too are subjected to the same joys and trials as the members of Friends and Three's Company. Each show more or less parallels the next in that they all work out any conflict, and share any happiness by the episode's end.

Another way in which these three shows are tied together into one genre is their theme. All of these shows are based on the theme that various personality types are put into one household. When these personalities mix it is the source of many entertaining scenarios and hijinks. Each set of roommates contains characters that seem to be of the same mould. In Three's Company, Jack Tripper's roommate Chrissy is a friendly airhead who is very naïve and is thrust into unlikely situations by her gullibility. In one episode Jack convinces Chrissy that she has no will power, and Chrissy accuses Jack of womanizing. To prove Jack wrong Chrissy says she will not eat anything as long as Jack does not womanize. Although starving oneself is unhealthy, this is funny in the context of the show because in the end no real harm is done.

In the show Friends, Phoebe mirrors Chrissy's airhead characteristics. Phoebe, like Chrissy, is usually put into scenarios by her own air headed characteristics. In one episode of Friends, Phoebe and some of the others try to recreate a lost family recipe for cookies. After spending days on end baking batches (in an attempt to duplicate the desired recipe), they find that the recipe was not a family homemade family recipe, but a recipe that comes on the packaging of chocolate chips. Phoebe had believed that her secret family recipe was a highly treasured bit of information, when in fact it was a much-used generic recipe that anyone could obtain. In the show Golden Girls, the equivalent personality to Phoebe and Chrissy is Rose. Rose is a gentle lady who always has good intentions (eerily similar to Phoebe and Chrissy). A good example of Rose's personality landing her in an unlikely scenario is when she convinces her roommate Dorothy that they can fix their broken toilet rather than call a plumber. Throughout the show they repeatedly try to fix the toilet and each attempt is met by failure or disaster.

The air headed roommate is not the only character theme that these shows share. Each show has a character that is more or less the clown/comic of the household. In Golden Girls, Sophia plays the comic character, and in Friends the clown of the bunch is Joey, while in Three's Company Jack Tripper plays the role. One episode of Three's Company, titled "Jack The Giant Killer", especially highlights Mr. Tripper's comic characteristics. In this show he is forced into a boxing match with a professional boxer. When he enters the match he does nothing but run around the ring in circles in order to avoid being hit. This is especially entertaining because Jack had presented himself as a skilled boxer.

Another good example of the comic character theme can be found in an episode of The Golden Girls called "Vacation". In this show Sophia is left at home while the other three roommates leave for vacation. Rather than waste away in loneliness or jealousy, Sophia launches off into an adventure of her own, which culminates with her becoming romantically involved with a Japanese gardener. All of this is entertaining because Sophia is the oldest of the roommates and it is so unlikely that she would become romantically involved with anyone, especially a Japanese gardener. Sophia's characteristics provide just the right amount of comic relief when or if the climate of the show becomes too dry or serious. This is also true of Joey, the comical character from the show Friends.

Joey's role as the comic themed character of Friends is truly emphasized in an episode where his health insurance is cancelled. He is determined not to get into a situation where he might need to see a doctor so he begins a weightlifting program. This comical scenario he has put himself into is heightened when he gives himself a hernia while lifting weights. Rather than go see a doctor, his resolve is somehow strengthened by the injury and he decides that he needs a job in order to get health insurance. While the other characters of the shows are definitely funny, it is the antics of Joey, Sophia, and Jack, that can truly define them as the more comical characters of their shows.

Another characteristic that these three shows share is the nature of conflict that arises when the various personality types are all housed under the same roof. The three shows all use the same scenarios to entertain the viewer. One type of conflict that all three shows offer is the intrusion on privacy. The close quarters of Jack Tripper and his roommates causes numerous intrusions on privacy. This is best related to the viewer of Three's Company when Jack enters the bathroom while one of his female roommates is showering, which he does fairly often. This conflict is not enough to cause major drama, but is enough to generate material for an entertaining show.

The women of Golden Girls are also prone to intrusions on privacy, best illustrated by Blanche Devereaux and her constant meddling into the affairs of her roommates. A good example Blanche's meddling can be seen in the Golden Girls episode titled "Rose loves Miles". In this show Rose is discontented by the behavior of her boyfriend. To the horror of the other roommates, Blanche encourages Rose to cheat on him, which made for much excitement and fun in that episode, not enough to cause major drama, and this is appropriate because the show is supposed to be fun and light hearted.

These three shows can all be put in the "Roommate-theme sitcom" because of the shared characteristics that were highlighted here. All the roommates have a particular setting in common as they all live in a house or apartment with various roommates. Each show has conflicts that are a result of the setting (the close quarters). And finally, each show has shared personality types that provide entertaining material to the viewer. While each of these sitcoms may not be identical to each other, they all share enough qualities to label them as fitting into the Roommate-theme genre

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