Rebecca May Ristow | A&E Editor
Almost every young adult has a favorite sitcom. Even though we didn’t grow up with Friends, we’ve all seen the show at least once. The Office is practically considered a classic by young adults, only rivaled by the die-hard Parks and Recreation fans. Some people love New Girl, while others vouch endlessly for the appeal of The Good Place, How I Met Your Mother, or Community. All of these shows follow similar formats, focusing on extremely outrageous groups of main characters as they get themselves in even more ridiculous circumstances. Situational comedy is sometimes called lowbrow, or made fun of for being simple or relying on stereotypes. So, why do young adults love sitcoms?
One reason is relatability. Even though characters in sitcoms tend to be dramatic, they are still reflective of reality. We may not totally act like Michael Scott, because he’s completely outrageous. He ignores every social expectation and rule. However, his need for love, validation, and attention is nothing short of completely human. Viewers relate to the needs of the character, and often not the actions. Part of the appeal is that we can then fantasize about reacting the way the characters do. People in real life are limited by real world expectations and social rules, but that doesn’t keep us from wondering what we would be like if we were in a crazy situation too. It’s very freeing to imagine acting on every whim we feel, like on a show. Adolescents and young adults are also very preoccupied with the idea of finding themselves. Finding characters we relate to, taking online quizzes, or casting your friend groups in TV shows can be fun, but it can also assist in helping you understand where you fit in society.
People also love sitcoms for their absurdity and escapism. Leaving the real world, for even thirty minutes, to laugh at something completely unrealistic can be really healthy. To relax, laugh, and enjoy something full heartedly is the biggest appeal of comedy. Humor may change with the times, but comedy will never die. It’s something that will always be needed. Media doesn’t have to be explicitly intelligent or artistic to be enjoyed. It’s not wrong to get joy from something silly, in fact, it’s necessary.
We also come back time and time again to sitcoms because they are easy to watch. We’re growing up in what has been a particularly turbulent time in the world. It seems like every day there’s a new tragedy. In an unpredictable society, young adults gravitate toward rewatching the same shows because they know what is going to happen. Even when things are bad for the characters, there’s a certain comfort taken in knowing that everyone will be okay. We relate to the struggles of Jim and Pam’s relationship, but we know they’ll be together by season four. Knowing that things will work out makes the show all the easier to watch and only amplifies the escapism already felt when watching a show. I think this is why sitcoms remain classics among young adults, and why they continue to get produced.