I was born in 1993, meaning I am a child raised on sitcoms. You know those live-studio-audience, learn a lesson at the end of every episode, virtually one-dimensional shows, that taught you when to laugh and when to “awww,” as if script itself wasn’t obvious enough? I feel as though my generation, the millennials, are the last generation who will live through the true sitcom/television experience, aka the last generation to ever think that at some point in time, sitcoms were cool. A time where there was no Netflix or Hulu plus and the only way we could watch our favorite shows was if we sat on our potato-selves on our couches at the right time.
Now, I’m not writing this article to discuss the point of if sitcoms were or have ever been cool, and I’m not nostalgically rehashing on a time of shitty technology as if it were somehow far more superior than things are today, because I hate when people do that, do you REALLY wanna go back to floppy disks yall? What I really want to discuss is our emotional investment in sitcoms and other syndicated television shows and how they betray us with their vicious loose ends, that leave me completely perplexed 10 years later.
Boy Meets World was a popular sitcom that ran from 93’ to 2000, literally from the time I was born to the time I was 7 and with the reruns that run up until now. I’ve watched my fair share of BMW to notice some inconsistencies in the plot and to develop an almost unhealthy attachment to these characters, (Is it weird that I’ve always wanted to meet Feeny?)
During the second season of the show, we are introduced to the anti-Feeny-new teacher, Mr. Turner. He is liberal, way less formal and has an earring for christ’s sake, HOW BADASS! He is a quintessential character in several different plot lines. One of which being, takes ragamuffin Shawn into his home while helping him grapple with the trials and tribulations of being a teenage heartthrob, (and some other serious stuff whateverrr). But then season 4 ends with Mr. Turner getting into a very serious motorcycle accident; the live studio audience GASPED with horror, the season ends dramatically, but then POOF, there goes Mr.Turner. Once the next season picks up we do not hear a word about him until they briefly mention that he was on the “other side of the school,” alongside Minkus (Poor Minkus, he was also forgotten about) in the high school graduation finale. WHAT HAPPENED TO MR.TURNER?!? Sure they feature him in one of the flashback episodes but that is beside the point, sitcoms have this incredible ability to completely erase characters or things that have happened without any proper explanation. Why this matters is because my eyes were glued to that television, I loved Mr. Turner and all the valuable life gems he bestowed on the young boys. He brought guidance and helped Shawn, and I reiterate he was kind of an important character in terms of the progression of the plot, so how am I supposed to react now when they leave me high and dry and Mr. Turnerless.
Another example, Topanga’s sister Nebula, WHAT HAPPENED TO HER, after season 1 she is barely mentioned at all. That being said, the show introduces Topanga as this tree loving hippie, who performs interpretive dances with lipstick on her face harping about “donuts in the sky,” yet once she goes to high school, she completely looses that, becoming just another 90’s babe with a layered haircut and crop top (I’m sure the writers regretted naming her Topanga after season 3, poor Danielle Fishel will never live past it.)
Or what about Cory’s little sister Morgan, THEY COMPLETELY CHANGE THE ACTRESS DURING THE 3RD SEASON AND DON’T ADDRESS THIS AT ALL. Boy Meets World isn’t alone on this; Did they think we wouldn’t notice? They changed out actresses who played the blonde daughter in Rosanne. They changed out the actress who played Vivian Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bell-air. And while this isn’t necessarily a sitcom, in the three part Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century movies, they change Zenon’s BFF from Raven Simone in the first film, to the girl from The Color of Friendship in the second, BACK to Raven for the third film, wtf. In fact this is a commonly used device to change actors mid series but instead of using this as an opportunity to create new characters or at least to give some extra subtext into former characters, they just try to pull the wool over our eyes, despite its complete transparency. I guess I shouldn’t harp on the replacement of virtually replaceable characters, like, are they really gonna make up some far fetched story about sending Corey’s little sister Morgan to study abroad in Istanbul, but frankly I notice these things and back in the day there was no open forum to discuss such discontinuity.
I also can’t decide what is worse, the actor switch or just completely cutting characters out with a vague explanation: Miranda from Lizzie McGuire, Raven’s mom in That’s so Raven, Or in Grounded for Life, the younger brother Henry and while they were all briefly mentioned by characters still on the show, obviously they were gone with a half-baked explination, leaving me wanting answers. Where DID Raven’s mom go?
In Full House they change Uncle Joey’s last name from “Cochran” to “Katsopolis,” after season 1 WTF!?!
However, I think the most frustrating unfinished plot line of all time has to be the kiss between Lisa and Zack on Saved by the Bell. Season 4 episode 6, “The Bayside Triangle,” Lisa and Zack kiss after he helps her with her fashion show or whatever, and the live studio audience went wild “OOOing” and “AWWWing” and a little “OW Owing,” and my heart totally fluttered! This episode aired in 92’, do we realize how progressive this is! An interracial hot couple making out on television, (I realize Screech was white and had a crush on her but he was a total perv and lived off his internalized misogyny, because clearly he never respected that Lisa’s “No” meant “NO”.) But I digress, this was interracial and this was paving the way for future TV couples and it really makes me sad that for whatever reason they didn’t flesh out this plot line. They left it suspended in the sitcom universe as an awesome “what could’ve been” and frankly I don’t care if Screech got his feelings hurt, I WANT TO SEE MORE “ZISA.” I think the writers had the potential to do something really cool but instead they just didn’t and introduced another white female lead, but this time, she wore a leather jacket OOOOH, ~sarcasm~.
What I’m getting at isn’t that sitcoms are inherently evil, or that it is some sort of conspiracy, or even that through transparent discontinuity are childhood memories are invalid because we were being spoonfed lies from billion dollar studios. I believe that even though sitcoms don’t make sense a good majority of the time, and even though they frustrate us and even though many a time they leave us high and dry, we are emotionally attached still, 10 years later, for a very good reason.
Sitcoms are a form of escape because they are the farthest thing from reality. They don’t ever really pretend to be real; problems like a caffeine pill addictions can be solved with a break down while singing “I’m so excited” to then never be discussed later. Characters came and went without an explanation; the famous celebrity of the time would have a cameo appearance and then never appear again. Sitcoms were the American ideal, everyone is happy; the main characters are put in wacky zany situations, only to be solved in 22 minutes all while learning a valuable lesson at the end. Sitcoms while being completely nonsensical, make sense. Future generations will never properly enjoy sitcoms because we are told now to question everything. But I think there is a certain piece of mind in not questioning these things, because frankly we will never actually know what happens to Mr.Turner and that’s sort of okay.
What sitcoms were your favorite?
Also what incongruences did you notice in some of your fave sitcoms?
Have a great day pussycats and PLEASE keep it sassy,