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Scratching the Surface: Discussing the Differences Between 80s and Modern Sitcoms

The world of sitcoms has seen a major shift from the 80s to the modern era. The entertainment industry has evolved tremendously over the years, and sitcoms are no exception. From the stories to the characters, the sets to the music, everything has undergone a change. In this article, we will explore the primary differences between 80s and modern sitcoms.

The Storylines

In the 80s, most sitcoms had a simple and predictable storyline. They revolved around middle-class or working-class families, their daily lives, and the lessons they learned. The focus was on creating a perfect world that the audience could escape to. Shows like Full House, Growing Pains, and The Cosby Show had families that encountered problems but ultimately always found a solution, usually within the span of half an hour.

Modern sitcoms, on the other hand, have moved away from the perfect world trope. They have become more realistic and have abandoned the old formula of providing easy solutions. They often highlight the darker side of life and explore issues like mental health, sexuality, and addiction. Sitcoms like The Big Bang Theory, The Office, and New Girl focus more on the characters and their relationships, making them more engaging and relatable to the audience.

The Characters

Characters in 80s sitcoms were usually one-dimensional and stereotypical. They followed the traditional gender roles, and actors usually stuck to one or two expressions throughout the show. Men were portrayed as alpha, dominant figures, while women were shown as passive and dependent on the men. These shows were more about the family as a whole than individual characters.

Modern sitcoms, however, have changed this completely. Characters are multidimensional, more realistic, and often defy gender roles. Shows like Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Good Place have characters that are diverse, complex and don’t always follow traditional gender norms. Characters in modern sitcoms are allowed to be flawed, which makes them more relatable to the audience.

The Set

One significant difference between 80s and modern sitcoms has been the shift from using a traditional set to using location shots. In the 80s, scenes would be typically set in a few static places, such as the living room, kitchen, and bedrooms. These sets were not frequently changed, and the focus was purely on the story and character development.

Modern sitcoms, however, have diversified their shooting locations. They often incorporate outdoor shots and real-life settings, allowing the audience to experience the show on a more immersive level. Shows like How I Met Your Mother and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia showcase the setting as a central part of their storytelling, enhancing the audience’s viewing experience.

The Music

Another significant difference between 80s and modern sitcoms is the use of music. The 80s sitcoms always had a feel-good soundtrack, designed to uplift the audience and bring joy to their lives. The music was usually catchy, and the theme song would stick in the viewer’s head.

Modern sitcoms, however, have deviated from this path. They often use sound effects and background scores to set the tone of the scene, making it more immersive for the audience. They also use popular music that resonates with the characters and the story. Shows like The Office and Parks and Recreation have used popular songs to enhance specific moments and depict the mood of their characters.


Sitcoms have come a long way from the 80s. They have diverged from the traditional family tropes and moved towards a more realistic, character-driven plotline. The characters are more diverse and multidimensional, and the sets and music are immersive, making sitcoms a more enjoyable experience for the audience.

So, if you haven’t already, give modern sitcoms a try. They offer a refreshing take on the traditional sitcom formula and are guaranteed to make you laugh, cry, and enjoy.

Which era of sitcoms do you prefer? Let us know in the comments below.