Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sitcom Throwdown Part 1

Howdy everyone!!  I hope you haven’t been abducted or turned into a pod person.  I know it’s been a long while since my first (and so far, only) post, but I resolved to change that today.  

Today’s general topic, a topic which I anticipate returning to repeatedly, is entertainment and what defines it.  I like entertaining and being entertained and feel that my experience as a fan/performer allows me to offer opinions that aren’t entirely conjecture.  However, I’m not an expert and am known for...stretching the truth we’ll say.  But whatever, mostly I like to discuss the relative merits and flaws of the shows, books, movies, and games that I enjoy or despise.

Therefore, I decided to share something that I’ve been pondering for some time.  What makes one show better than another?  Specifically, what would make one sitcom better than another?  Two of my favorites are Scrubs and How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM).  I love both of these comedies, but for different reasons and in different ways.  Please allow me to elaborate by comparing the two shows in terms of Characters, Popularity, Emotional Response, Story-Telling and Cultural Influence.

As I started writing this up, I realized that if I were to put all five categories in one post, the post would be the length of a term paper rather than a blog.  Therefore, I will be breaking my analysis up over the course of several posts.

First, the Characters
Scrubs:  J.D., Turk, Elliot, Carla, Dr. Cox, Dr. Kelso, and The Janitor are the main ones.  
HIMYM: Ted, Marshall, Lily, Robin, and Barney.  
To me, I think the Characters of Scrubs are the better, more realistic ones.  The issues they faced are ones I and those I know have also faced.  They dealt with issues of insecurity, personal insignificance, arrogance, friendships, the effects relationships have on friendships, changing relationships, career woes, “selling out,” deaths in the family, depression, mental disorders, pride, and many others.  

HIMYM is primarily focused on dating woes and relational troubles.  Granted, they too touch on many things that Scrubs did: relationships affecting friendships, changes in lifestyles, death, career challenges, and selling out are all topics that spring easily to mind.  I suppose it may have been an advantage of the setting Scrubs had (hospital), but the types of people that came and went throughout the show were more varied than those that appeared in HIMYM.  Ex.) I never saw a veteran with PTSD in MacLaren’s. But there is a lot more eye candy in the bar than Sacred Heart.  

Interestingly enough, I don’t particularly care for the “main” character in either show.  Neither J.D. nor Ted really hold a lot of interest for me.  It’s their friends that make the show enjoyable.  However, both of those fellows have and did grow immensely during the run of their shows.  We can see Ted’s growth a bit more easily since the story arc is comprised of flashbacks.  We see who he is now and who he was.  J.D.’s growth is still present, but not as obvious.   

HIMYM does showcase the growth of the other characters better than Scrubs.  Scrubs was mostly a show about an individual doctor and his journey through the early years of medicine.  The other characters assuredly changed and grew as well, but they were never focused on as much as HIMYM focuses on its characters.  By Season 6 of Mother, the show is mostly about the other characters and Ted’s story is simply the framework that helps organize their tales.  In fact, go take a look at the DVD covers of the most recent seasons.  I bet you find that Ted is not the center of attention in those pictures.  On the other hand, J.D. is entirely the focus of both the DVD covers and the show.  In fact, the episode titles are almost all “My _____.”

“But, but!” you may protest, “Of course Scrubs focuses on J.D.  The show is told from his point of view!”  

You are correct!  The show is, indeed, told from J.D.’s view, but then, so is HIMYM told from Ted’s.  The difference, though, is that Scrubs is shown to us in the “present” whereas HIMYM is told as a historical narrative.  As such, J.D.’s story is salted, peppered, and garlicked throughout with his inner monologue, something we rarely experience from Ted (or any of his friends).  

All of this POV talk is simply to illustrate the maturation process of the characters in each show.  HIMYM’s is a much slower process or at least less obvious, barring that of Ted.  Honestly, though, Ted’s biggest change is that he is married by the end of the series (presumably) but internally he doesn’t seem to grow as much as J.D.  Dr. Dorian, though, we watch grow from an insecure intern to a less insecure doctor.  While his external changes are not nearly as dramatic as Ted’s career changes, his internal development far surpasses Ted’s.

Another point that bears consideration is the relationships the two shows cover.  HIMYM, as I mentioned, is primarily concerned with the romantic relationships of the characters.  The friendships are just garnish to the romantic side.  Ex.)  Ted and Marshall are supposedly best friends, but there are very few things about which they get angry at each other for, resent each other for, or things that simply force a gap in their friendship.  

Turk and J.D. on the other hand, have their tight bond of friendship established in the pilot.  They are inseperable...until Carla comes along.  Ted’s best friend was Lily’s boyfriend almost from the day they met.  The stresses of marriage on the Ted-Marshall dynamic were relatively small compared to the problems the Turk-J.D. friendship faces.  Basically, the writers of Scrubs did a better job than the HIMYM writers in showing the audience a tight friendship and the tribulations that come along with it.  However, Robin-Lily is very comprable to Carla-Elliot.

In the end, I have to give the “better characters” vote to Scrubs.  I think they did a better job of presenting real people and real (and varied) problems.  Score so far: Scrubs 1 HIMYM 0

I hope folks enjoyed this entirely pointless but fun, for me at least, posting.  Stay tuned for further analysis of these two great shows!!

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