Q.Ledbetter explains what makes a BAD sitcom.
I have a very powerful distaste for most anything that Tyler Perry does. As a young Black Man in America, I stand alone in my opinions for his work. My father, who absolutely LOVES Tyler Perry, has gone as far as to call me a "sell out" because I do not like his plays, movies, or TV Shows.
Tyler Perry has a television show called "Tyler Perry's, House of Payne". (NOTE: One of the reasons I don't like Tyler Perry is because he puts his name in front of EVERYTHING he does like its an elementary school homework assignment.) This show breaks just about every rule of good television and makes every sitcom blunder known to man. "House of Payne" is not the only sitcom to make these mistakes, but it is the only sitcom that makes them all simultaneously. Some of these mistakes include the following:
The characters in sitcoms should be played with class. Any extreme personality traits should be exaggerated, but done so with a sort of discretion. "Kramer" from Seinfield is the ONLY example of an actor over doing his role with success. Look at classic sitcoms like, "The Cosby Show". None of the characters in the Huckstable house hold were over done. It was a very funny and VERY classy show.
Look at shows like, "Family Matters". This was a great sitcom UNTIL Jaleel White started over doing his character, Steve Urkel; and when his new character Stephan Ur'kel was introduced, he REALLY over did that role. Not to mention the character Waldo was made to be TOO stupid (a mistake made by the writers of "Boy Meets World" in later seasons with 'Eric', Cory Matthew's bumbling idiot of a big brother).
Usually there is only one character or two that are over played, but ALL the characters in "House of Payne" are over done.
-The father is too loud.
-The mother is too much like a "big mama" character.
-The eldest son is too rational.
-The youngest son is actually well played.
-The niece is too adorable and witty.
-The nephew is too adolescent.
SELF-DEFEATING STORY LINES
This is the largest mistake that "House of Payne" makes. Usually there is a main plot and a sub-plot in a sitcom. While the main plot is going on, something else is happening that is not really that important, but always seems to tie in. "The Cosby Show" (the best sitcom ever in history), pulled this off without fail.
The biggest mistake a sitcom can make is making the plot or the sub-plot TOO preachy. "House of Payne" is written by a man who has strong religious roots to his comedy and creativity, so a bit of preachiness is to be expected. That is fine as long as you don't try to make your show a comedy.
Perfect example: I watched an episode last night where the nephew was on an on-line dating site and arranged to meet the girl he was talking to. The doorbell rings and OOPS, its a middle aged man come to rape him. You read that right. A sitcom that is supposed to make me LAUGH had a lead plot about a child almost getting raped. Eventually, the boy's father and uncle came in and served the potential rapist a beating, after which a valuable lesson was learned.
I wasn't laughing.
The sub-plot centered around the father and a family friend doing jury duty for a case that had NOTHING to do with ANYTHING!
I wasn't laughing.
A previous episode I saw of "House of Payne", circled around a house fire where the eldest son almost died (3 members of the family are fire fighters). The episode ended with a shot of the eldest son trapped under burning wreckage in the house.
I wasn't laughing.
LACK OF REALISM OR POSSIBILITY
This isn't a requirement for great sitcoms. As a matter of fact, making your sitcom TOO realistic can be harmful. I don't watch prime time television to learn something or be enlightened and I surely don't watch syndicated reruns to recap their educational value; however, a sense of realism and possibility makes things funnier.
Look at shows like "Seinfield", "The Cosby Show" (best show ever), "The Fresh Prince", "Curb Your Enthusiasm". All of these shows don't insult reality. The things that happen in these shows are not LIKELY to happen, but in their contexts the characters make decisions that actual people would possibly make.
In the aforementioned episode of "House of Payne", the father (who is the town fire chief) had a desk set up directly outside of the burning building. I'm talking about RIGHT OUTSIDE OF THE FRONT DOOR!
1) Where did he get the desk?
2) Why would he set up said desk RIGHT OUTSIDE THE FRONT DOOR OF A BURNING BUILDING?
3) Why wasn't he wearing an oxygen mask.
Come on. I'm not stupid and I would hope that you would write your characters to not be stupid either.
My father and family may think that I'm not completely black because I don't like Tyler Perry's work, but its not like I HATE the guy. I like him about as much as I like vegetables with diet soda. Its not the worst thing in the world and sometimes it may even be good for you, but it just doesn't taste good.