Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Halloween: A sitcom's holiday

Posted By on Tue, Oct 25, 2011 at 2:14 PM

click to enlarge treehouse_of_horror.jpg

Dramas may prefer Christmas – a time for sappy speeches, mid-season finales and special guest stars. But Halloween is a sitcom’s holiday. Quickly, here’s five reasons why:

1. Where Christmas thrives on sadness and sentimentality, Halloween thrives on  mischief, hijinks and general goofiness. While sadness and sentimentality can deepen a sitcom, goofiness propels it. There are holidays for adults and children – but Halloween has rapidly become a holiday for adults to act like children. And isn’t that, at its heart, what every sitcom is all about?

2. Halloween gives simple story structure. Writers provide structure, normally. But a lot of times, they just don’t do a good job. The A plots lead nowhere, the B plots feel arbitrary. But Halloween, with its pranks, and costume searching and trick-or-treating and ill-advised parties, provides a skeleton of a structure for you.

3. Costumes allow for key insight into characters’ personality. A sitcom develops, not through an ongoing plot, but through the way deepens its characters, showing new aspects of their personalities, discovering new layers, exploring how they’d react in different contexts. Choosing a costume – or lack of costume – for each of the characters makes for a fun gag and reiterates key aspects of the characters. Yes, on Community, geeky Abed dresses up in an elaborate Alien costume, slacker handsome Jeff dresses up by putting on a cowboy hat, and politically correct Britta chooses an unflattering costume to counter sexist expectations.

4. Nothing makes mistaken-identity-based farce easier than a whole bunch of people dressed up in face-concealing costumes.

5. Halloween – with its whole model of scary stories –allows for a bit of non-canonical goofiness. Even long into the decline of the Simpsons, the yearly Tree House of Horror episodes still managed to amuse. Even when writers struggle with coming up with creative sitcom plots, telling a scary story or spoofing a classic scary movie is easy. The gags write themselves. (Which, incidentally, could be the premise for a 30 Rock Steven King episode)

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