What exactly is a sitcom? In particular: what distinguishes sitcoms among the (presumably) broader category of comedy series?

It's easy enough to give classical examples of sitcoms. They tend to have several common features: usually there is a recurring set of characters who are put in comical situations, often there is a laugh track, usually it's pure comedy (as opposed to comedy + action, or comedy + fantasy, etc.), usually plot progression is relatively slow.

I'm curious which features are essential for a series to be considered a sitcom. This question arose from an attempt to figure out if The Good Place is a sitcom; it seems to be something of an edge case. However, I'm more interested in a general answer.

1 Answer 1


Situational Comedy

A sitcom, short for "situation comedy", is a genre of comedy centered on a fixed set of characters who carry over from episode to episode. Sitcoms can be contrasted with sketch comedy, where a troupe may use new characters in each sketch, and stand-up comedy, where a comedian tells jokes and stories to an audience. Sitcoms originated in radio, but today are found mostly on television as one of its dominant narrative forms. This form can also include mockumentaries.

A situation comedy television program may be recorded in front of a studio audience, depending on the program's production format. The effect of a live studio audience can be imitated or enhanced by the use of a laugh track. During filming productions, the laugh track is usually prerecorded.

I think we are seeing a lot more diverse definitions of comedy and comedy-drama over the years.

For instance, the TV series Chuck is sort of uniquely brilliant, because it takes two situational comedies with his family life being like Friends and his Buymore life being like Superstore (workplace comedy) and marries them with a spy action dramedy.

In terms of the Good Place, I could see how it is categorized as such, because of how it fixates on a particular place with mostly the same characters, even though I would agree it seems to touch drama and could almost be considered a fantasy situational dramedy

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