When a sitcoms conflict ends

Is it still funny?

On “All In the Family” the first 2 1/2 seasons were about Archie and the Meathead going at it. Eventually though the 2 reached an understanding and became friends. To me, that is when the show went downhill and became too serious and boring.

Can you think of another sitcom where a major conflict ended?

The best seasons of MAS*H were mid-series where there was no major conflict between the regulars. Hot Lips had become Margaret and Winchester was stuffy but they didn’t really have anything but minor issues.

When the conflict is a will they/ won’t they romance- for instance The Office. It kept going after Jim and Pam got married.

I believe that character development is bad for sitcoms. Whenever characters change it dilutes the original concept. It can be done without ruining the show, but the situation part is the unique circumstance that known consistent characters find themselves in.

The first five seasons of Cheers were built on the Sam/Diane conflict. When Shelley Long quit, the producers built up the secondary characters and gave the show more of an ensemble feel.

Initially, that’s when I started liking Cheers more. Though with age, I appreciate the early Sam/Diane episodes much more than the broader comedy of the later series.

Many shows suffer from what I call “the neighbor effect.” Initially, some clashing neighbors are occasionally brought into the show to act as foils to the main characters (the Flanders to the Simpsons, the Darcys to the Bundys), but over time - despite the supposed antipathy of these neighbors, they are inseparable and the neighbor relationship comes to dominate the series at times.

… And they were no longer terribly funny. :mad:

Well, not in a sitcom sense. The more nuanced relationships Hawkeye had with Houlihan and Winchester made for a better show. Winchester especially, as he was Hawkeye’s equal or better in many regards, unlike Frank Burns; certainly a more formidable foil.

On the other hand, you can only cover the same ground so many times before it becomes boring and tedious.

What I dislike is where there is no development at all within a season and then between the last episode of the old season and the first episode of the new season all the cards get reshuffled. Character and situation development should be organic.

Yeah, but slowly but surely all the relationships became respectful and downright cooperative. First Hop Lips then eventually Winchester were made 100% ‘good guys’, not only never being in conflict with any of the others but always working together with them towards a common goal. Consequently the conflict for every episode had to be an external, deus ex machina one, and they got more and more ridiculous as time went on.

My rule of thumb for MAS*H is that when Houlihan’s hair went from blond to silver, the show was finally absolute shit (jumped the shark as we later said…)

Then it’s time to follow the British example and go out gracefully, long before you hit rock bottom.

I refer to this as the “Moonlighting Effect.” Once David and Maddie got together the show went straight downhill. Friends did the right thing by splitting up Ross and Rachel before the Moonlighting Effect could take hold.

The relationships in Scrubs changed as the show progressed.

Some examples.

The main relationship between JD and Dr Cox thawed but that was over the whole life of the show. And it was always made clear from quite early that, deep down, Cox respected JD for his positivity.

For a brief period Elliot and Carla were enemies but that soon ended.

Dr Bob Kelso was disliked by JD and Dr Cox but after Kelso lost his job he became much friendlier.

Dr Cox’s wife Jordan had a strange ‘hateful to him but find him sexually exciting’ relationship with Dr Cox which eventually mellowed into a much more conventional affection. She also began as contemptuous of JD (despite the sex they had), Turk and Elliot but came to form friendships. Especially with Elliot.


I think Scrubs is a good example of how change overall is good, because doing the same thing for the better part of a decade doesn’t work, but at the same time, each individual change can be good or bad.

The problem with British tiny season lengths is that you then need to develop three or four times as many series to fill the schedule. Maybe for dramas that are basically long movies cut into pieces these days that’s ok, but for comedies it’s generally better to keep something that works going and give it more episodes rather than upset the applecart. With comedies some history can fuel a lot of comedy. “WE WERE ON A BREAK!”

tvtropes.com calls this ‘Will They or Won’t They?’ and it’s very prevalent. And it is very often a show killer. I can think of an old one that tropes didn’t even list: Jeanie and Major Nelson in I Dream of Jeanie.

The conflict between Archie and Mike ended after 2 1/2 seasons and they became friends? Were you watching the Bizarro World version or something?

I don’t think it ended after “2-1/2 seasons” but over time their relationship did evolve. When you get past the loud bluster, a lot of Archie’s vitriol towards Meathead was “How dare you marry my daughter and be unable to provide for her?” Once Meathead graduates from college and gets a job and he and Gloria have a baby and buy a house and start looking like a real family, a lot of the bite goes out of Archie’s bark. Yes, they still have disagreements, owing to their very disparate worldviews (fer crissakes, they can’t agree on the order of putting on sock and shoes!) but the nastiness is virtually gone. Entirely reasonable, in the context of the show.

Similarly, when Archie buys the bar, he has to tone himself down further. He’s now a member of the business community and has to show a more respectable face to the world.

Niles and Daphne get married. Nuff said.

To be fair, those are all good examples of (more or less) series long character arcs.
To look at it from another angle, if those things didn’t change, people would eventually stop watching because the jokes got old and tired. If everyone treated each other like JD and Dr Itor, it would get real old, real fast, there has to be some character development (but the whole interns thing should never have happened).

God I so remember that scene, and I so agreed with Archie*!* It really makes no difference but the way Meathead did it just seems so wrong*!* Has anyone ever known someone who puts them on sock-shoe/sock-shoe instead of sock-sock/shoe-shoe?!?

Once again, easy to find on YouTube…