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From the Honeymooners to the Odd Couple: the mid to late 1900s were the golden age of comedy (Op-Ed)

Sitcoms are not what they used to be. Looking back at oldies like The Honeymooners and The Odd Couple, it is not hard to see why they were so successful. Unlike many sitcoms today, these shows focused on one thing more than anything else: humor. There was none of the 21st-century fear of “saying the wrong thing,” no “every category of the human race must be recognized.” The focus was on bringing quality content to the consumer. With memorable quotes, humorous characters, and easy-to-follow plots, the mid-late 1900s were top-tier entertainment.

Jackie Gleason’s The Honeymooners was simple, perfect comedy. The male leads were always in a get-rich-quick scheme, and the female leads were smart, sassy 1950s housewives. The plots of each episode were not overcomplicated and focused more on entertaining the audience than anything else. While some parts of the show, such as allusions to hypothetical and off-screen violence, might not be taken lightly today, these jokes were handled correctly and were not meant to be taken seriously.

The 1970s sitcom The Odd Couple was comedy gold. Again, the premise is simple: two divorced friends, who happen to be polar opposites, are living together. World-building in shows was not a big thing in the 1970s, and it works better than the overcomplicated sitcoms of today. Instead of episodes that follow each other, which can be easy to get lost in, The Odd Couple focuses on the scenarios two friends and their extended social circle find themselves in. With no need to overthink anything, it is a comedy and should be seen as such. Again, there are some jokes that today’s audiences might not take kindly to, such as one of the friends being somewhat of a creep. However, past audiences knew not to take any of it too seriously.

I am lucky enough to have watched many old sitcoms from my parents’ DVD collections. Wow, I wish more modern sitcoms were like them. It is sad that, as times have changed, the quality of sitcoms has decreased. If we want comedy to continue being a part of our culture, we cannot be afraid to crack certain jokes or use a format that some might consider questionable. It has been done before, clearly, and the world is still spinning. In the right hands, it can be done again.


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