Caught in the Second Act: The Relationship between Film and the TV Sitcom
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While its narrative construction is essentially two acts, the sitcom conforms to the principles of dramatic writing posited by Aristotle: a thematically unified mode of drama centered on a character whose actions and interactions produce a plot that is comic in nature. In the sitcom, an incident threatens the disruption of the status quo that is expelled and, more importantly, the relationships between characters, including their conflicts are unaltered – the narrative is closed. Film narratives, on the other hand, are commonly defined by the conflict between characters on a journey of self-discovery, resulting in some transformational change; the narrative enables transformation of either the character/s, the world, or both. Narrative theory explores the relationship between character actions, traits and story, and how together they enable the narrative structure. Such theoretical models are extended and applied by practitioners to establish frameworks, enabling plot through three-five acts. This article posits that the sitcom sits in the middle act of its film counterpart wherein the main character seeks to change yet is unable to due to some psychological blindness regarding his or her ‘situation’. Critically analysing character actions and motivations in the 1947 film and 1960s TV Series, The Ghost and Mrs Muir, this paper considers the nature of relationships that bind sitcom characters and the elements to be considered when adapting a film to sitcom.
keywordsSitcom; film comedy; narrative; midpoint; theme.
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