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How come the top-billed star of a sitcom usually plays a "loser"-type character? (1 Viewer)

John_Lee

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Sure, those episodes where Lucy was an efficient, proficient candy sorter who never made mistakes, or the ones where she had "no 'splaining to do" to Ricky whatsoever were a hoot.
 

John_Lee

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Sure, those episodes where Lucy was an efficient, proficient candy sorter who never made mistakes, or the ones where she had "no 'splaining to do" to Ricky whatsoever were a hoot.
 

MarkHastings

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I've been talking about this for years. The father of any sitcom family is almost always portrayed as an idiot. I think too many execs are fearing the backlash if they portray a wife in a "submissive" role, so they have to start taking the men down a peg.

Now we are bombarded with guys playing the "dumb" role.

There has got to be a better way to portray a strong female character and get away from the negative stereotype, without the need to hammer a negative stereotype into the male role to accomplish it. :rolleyes
 

MarkHastings

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I've been talking about this for years. The father of any sitcom family is almost always portrayed as an idiot. I think too many execs are fearing the backlash if they portray a wife in a "submissive" role, so they have to start taking the men down a peg.

Now we are bombarded with guys playing the "dumb" role.

There has got to be a better way to portray a strong female character and get away from the negative stereotype, without the need to hammer a negative stereotype into the male role to accomplish it. :rolleyes
 

Joseph DeMartino

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Because it is hard to laugh at/feel superior to people who are richer, better looking and more successful than us. :)

This needs explaining? This is not a TV phenomenon, nor a recent one. Comics as far apart in time and style as Bob Hope and Woody Allen played variations on essentially the same character - the vain, cowardly would-be womanizer. Bill Murray in Ghostbusters is practically channeling Groucho Marx's fast-talking con man. It was The Three Stooges, not the Three Leading Men, who were a success in vaudeville, movies and TV for something like 50 years.

Dagwood Bumstead was the prototypical nitwit father, and he long pre-dates television. It isn't that "network execs are afraid to show women in submissive roles" becauase all of this goes back long before network execs, much less the sort of feminism that produces this kind of "explanation". (Read The Taming of the Shrew and tell me which sex comes off better and smarter - then watch Kiss Me Kate and the Moonlighting episode that was a take-off on both - just for laughs.) And on TV they were showing idiot fathers in the 50s when nobody was complaining about women in "submissive" roles.

Hell, the Roman satirists were writing about fathers too dumb to notice their wives infidelity and their daughter's promiscuity before the birth of Christ. Our neolithic ancestors probably told such stories around the fire near the mouth of the cave. :)

MTM only appears to be an exception because she was largely the "straight-man" on her show, supporting the more obviously comedic characters. But for all Mary Richard's success on the job her love life remained a mess, and the awfulness of the parties she threw was a runnng gag throughout. And she could be made fun of for being too straight, square and uptight.

"There is nothing new under the sun" It only seems that way if you aren't too familiar with what came before.

Regards,

Joe
 

Joseph DeMartino

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Because it is hard to laugh at/feel superior to people who are richer, better looking and more successful than us. :)

This needs explaining? This is not a TV phenomenon, nor a recent one. Comics as far apart in time and style as Bob Hope and Woody Allen played variations on essentially the same character - the vain, cowardly would-be womanizer. Bill Murray in Ghostbusters is practically channeling Groucho Marx's fast-talking con man. It was The Three Stooges, not the Three Leading Men, who were a success in vaudeville, movies and TV for something like 50 years.

Dagwood Bumstead was the prototypical nitwit father, and he long pre-dates television. It isn't that "network execs are afraid to show women in submissive roles" becauase all of this goes back long before network execs, much less the sort of feminism that produces this kind of "explanation". (Read The Taming of the Shrew and tell me which sex comes off better and smarter - then watch Kiss Me Kate and the Moonlighting episode that was a take-off on both - just for laughs.) And on TV they were showing idiot fathers in the 50s when nobody was complaining about women in "submissive" roles.

Hell, the Roman satirists were writing about fathers too dumb to notice their wives infidelity and their daughter's promiscuity before the birth of Christ. Our neolithic ancestors probably told such stories around the fire near the mouth of the cave. :)

MTM only appears to be an exception because she was largely the "straight-man" on her show, supporting the more obviously comedic characters. But for all Mary Richard's success on the job her love life remained a mess, and the awfulness of the parties she threw was a runnng gag throughout. And she could be made fun of for being too straight, square and uptight.

"There is nothing new under the sun" It only seems that way if you aren't too familiar with what came before.

Regards,

Joe
 

John Kilduff

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Thanks for all the schools of thought...

The "submissive" guy angle had crossed my mind, but Joseph DeMartino has reminded me of the history of this character-type. Outside of reruns and DVDs of several of the sitcoms I mentioned, I hardly ever watch these types of shows anymore.

The "fathers-as-idiots-in-the-50s" ref caught me off-guard. I thought the image of the 50s TV father was that of a stout-hearted, wise, pipe-smoking, firm-but-fair man, and not a bumbling oaf. I oughta watch TV Land more.

Sincerely,

John Kilduff...

It's the human comedy, I suppose.
 

John Kilduff

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Thanks for all the schools of thought...

The "submissive" guy angle had crossed my mind, but Joseph DeMartino has reminded me of the history of this character-type. Outside of reruns and DVDs of several of the sitcoms I mentioned, I hardly ever watch these types of shows anymore.

The "fathers-as-idiots-in-the-50s" ref caught me off-guard. I thought the image of the 50s TV father was that of a stout-hearted, wise, pipe-smoking, firm-but-fair man, and not a bumbling oaf. I oughta watch TV Land more.

Sincerely,

John Kilduff...

It's the human comedy, I suppose.
 

Christ Reynolds

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just the same as commercials. every other commercial has girls goofing on guys. guys are ALWAYS the suckers in commercials. i'm all for equal rights and correcting mistakes that were made in the past, but it seems this goes too much in the opposite direction.

CJ
 

Casey Trowbridg

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Mary was no loser that's for sure.

I don't know for all of those examples I can think of ones where the opposite is true. Andy Tayler was no loser, he was a good natured Southern small town guy who may have seemed off base a time or 2 was actually very wise. A guy like Sam Malone was a pretty successful guy, if for partial reason than he over came alcaholism and all that stuff, and would hardly be considered a fool, he was outsmarted but often would do some outsmarting of his own. Rob Petry was also a pretty well portrayed character.
Having said all of that, it seems to have taken a turn in that direction in recent years. I really think that in modern terms this phenominon started with Al Bundy, and least we forget Homer Simpson. It may be though that in the case of a guy like the Toolman he might not have had it completely together, but its not like every guy on the show was an idiot, which would really have been a problem, the smartest one was Wilson. It takes great skill IMO to play that kind of character but to appear lovable at the same time. Plus, I kind of see this as an example of how men like to think that they have more control than they actually do, and perhaps that's why some of these characters while taken to an extreme are still relatable.

Another example of a guy who was not the butt of everyone's jokes but was still the leading character was Bill Cosby's Cliff on the Cosby show. Sure he acted wacky and out there from time to time, but that is elements of Cosby's actual commedy routeens.

The trend doesn't really work for females...I mean Rosanne was the glue of that family really, and while not often a success as a career person, she was not portrayed as a clueless oaf. Murphy Brown is another good example of this.

Then you get in to onsomble casts such as Friends, where nobody has top billing but the oafish character (Joey) does exist, and you wonder if he will continue to be played like that in his own sitcom.

Frasier is one of those shows that at its peak really had no oafish like characters, they all had their charm and were all in one way or another blessed with a certain kind of wisdom.
 

Dan Rudolph

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Some good exceptions to the stereotypical sitcom family are That '70s Show and King of the Hill. The trick is to come up with character flaws other than stupidity. Self-centered, uptight, high-strung and curmudgeonly work very well.
 

andrew markworthy

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Why play a loser? Because a normal or always-successful person is dull to play. Think of the great characters from Shakespeare - Othello, Falstaff, Hamlet, Brutus, etc, etc - all of them flawed in some way. It is their faults and weaknesses that make them interesting.
 

Lew Crippen

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A good point Joseph—while I don’t know if anyone ever figured out that there were dumb fathers from cave painting, the men in Lysistrata were thoroughly whipped. ;)

No doubt the Greeks had a word for this, but even if they did not the premise of Aristophanes comedy probably was not original in 410 BC.

It was funny then and funny today.

Loved that episode of Moonlighting—an episode that actually explained (for those with no background in the classics) the series’ origin.
 

Jeff Gatie

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The one thing I find shocking about this thread is everyone has refrained from writing "loser" with internet standard spelling "l-o-o-s-e-r". :D
 

Jeff Gatie

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No, the one I've seen the most is 'looser', usually in the ultimately ironic phrase "You are such a looser!". I'm pretty sure it's people that think they are spelling it correct. Maybe 'luser' is a slang spelling, like 'phat', I don't know.
 

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