40 Hours of Television

The class is over, but the discussion continues. Does the media shape reality, or does reality shape the media? Art can imitate life...and life can imitate art. "40 Hours of TV" will explore the media and its impact on us all.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Sitcom Ageism?

My family has a Saturday night ritual, where we tune in to Oregon Public Broadcasting to watch "Britcoms." The shows we watch are the wonderful As Time Goes By, starring Dame Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer as a middle-age couple who rediscover each other 40 years after a romance they had in the 1950s; My Hero, a silly show starring Ardal O'Hanlon as the dim-witted super-hero Thermo Man; Keeping Up Appearances, with Patricia Routledge as the high-society seeking Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced "bouquet") and her long-suffering husband Richard (Clive Swift); and finally, Last of The Summer Wine, about an aging group of friends and their misadventures (the show is the longest-running program on the BBC, debuting in 1973).

With the exception of My Hero, all of the shows feature casts of older actors, mainly in their 60s (and 70s on Last of The Summer Wine). These older characters are portrayed in a positive way, as real people and not the comic relief we see in American television. And it got me thinking, how many American sitcoms feature middle-aged actors? The Golden Girls comes to mind, but that's it. And I wonder, why is it that the BBC has no problems with using older actors, but American television shys away from it? Perhaps older characters aren't popular with American viewers, or at least with the target demographics.

Sure, some shows have older characters, but they are portrayed as either slightly crazy (Jerry Stiller on The King of Queens) or meddling (Doris Roberts and Peter Boyle of Everybody Loves Raymond)

It would certainly be a nice change if American sitcoms starred older actors and were portrayed as normal folks. Will that day ever come? Who knows. Until it does, I'll stick with my Saturday night Britcoms.


Blogger Sally said...

I've noticed that too...where are the normal seniors?

3:02 PM  
Blogger Christopher Trottier said...

Britcoms are where it's at. Ever since Reality TV, the American sitcom has been on the wane. I think Arrested Development is the last hurrah.

9:03 PM  

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