Sitcoms are the junk food of TV: they’re easy to consume, don’t really provide much in terms of nutrients, but it’s a great way to kill 20 minutes. Sure, studios try to put fresh spins on sitcoms, but really, it all boils down to the same, tired tropes over and over again.
If you don’t know what a trope is, it’s basically a writing pattern that relies on character archetypes, stereotypes, and clichés. Internet slang has given us a broader idea of what TV tropes and tropes in media in general are, but TV tropes are some of the easiest to spot because, well, sitcoms rely heavily on them. And why wouldn’t they: it’s the easiest, cheapest way to get a laugh specifically because TV tropes practically cross all boundaries of genre, culture, and medium.
TV tropes are so overused that we don’t even notice it anymore: put a cowboy hat and a slim necktie with a white suit and bam, you get a southern gentleman. Attractive girl meets nerdy boy and whoomp, there it is, conflict!
It’s lazy but efficient: it’s a way for writers to portray characterization in a short span of time without, y’know, pesky things like actual writing.
There are dozens, even hundreds, of TV tropes, but these 3 are the most tired and overused of them all. Here are the TV tropes we’re so sick and tired of seeing:
TV Tropes We’re Tired Of: The Love Triangle
One of the most tired and clichéd of all TV tropes, the Love Triangle is a surefire way of creating tension in a show. Teen dramas love this, mostly because love triangles are, in essence, extremely immature. This isn’t to say that it doesn’t happen to adults, it’s just that adults handle love triangles in a boring, mature way.
But the secret between the love triangle trope is how it creates engagement with audience members: when done right, viewers are going to be split between Persons A, B, and C. Just look at Twilight to get an idea of how rabid a fandom love triangles can create. It’s not just on TV: you can see love triangles in pretty much any form of media with, you know, humans. Heck, there are even some DnD source books with Demogorgon love triangles (don’t Google this, if you don’t want to see some disturbing images).
It’s never going away, of course, but I just wish TV writers could bring something fresh to a tired TV trope like the Love Triangle like, I don’t know, a compelling plot?
TV Tropes That We’re Tired Of: The Will They/Won’t They
Yet another staple of TV shows, the Will They/Won’t They is a TV trope that describes the relationship between two main characters. It’s so common that it’s almost TV sitcom law to have at least one couple in your cast to be part of this dynamic.
As the name suggests, the Will They/Won’t They couple will spend entire seasons teasing the audience as to whether or not they’ll get together. Ross and Rachel from Friends is a good example, but so are Joey and Pacey in Dawson’s Creek, Scully and Mulder in The X-Files, Ted and Robin in How I Met Your Mother…I mean the list goes on and on and it’ll probably easier to list the shows that don’t have this trope. Internet and social media love to turn the Will They/Won’t They into memes because, well, it fuels engagement and interest in their shows, but also because it allows them to imagine alternative scenarios for their favorite characters.
Done correctly, however, and the union of these two characters would be like a gigantic sigh of relief for everyone watching. Of course, if a show hinges on this relationship, the moment that you have the characters get together, it’s practically over.
TV Tropes We’re Tired Of: Ugly Guy, Hot Wife
Pretty much every half-hour sitcom about married couples will follow this specific formula: Joe Schmoe is an average, often schlubby, lookin’ fella married to a hot, but often neurotic and nagging, wife who is completely out of his league.
This one goes all the way back to the ‘50s, when Lucille Ball played the hot wife opposite Desi Arnaz in I Love Lucy. It was such a hit that pretty much every show since then has copied the formula, from The Honeymooners and The Mary Tyler Moore Show all the way to King of Queens, Everybody Loves Raymond and so on and so forth.
Arguably one of the most problematic of TV tropes, the Ugly Guy Hot Wife trope is, for lack of a better word, fairly sexist and misogynistic against the female leads. Often, the male lead, who is made to look like average Joe, is portrayed as fun-loving, hilariously hapless, but overall a good guy at heart. Meanwhile, the wife is shown as nagging, snide, loves to snipe, and while ultimately centered as a supportive and loving wife, is often shown as the butt of most jokes.
The fact that the reverse of this trope is rarely, if at all, seen on TV is testament to how outdated this trope is. Sure, it might have worked in the ‘50s when TV was finally becoming accessible to the working class and people needed something aspirational to watch, but in the 21st century? It just looks completely gross.
But archaic as it is, TV studios are still cranking out these shows by the dozen, although thankfully shows like Family Guy, Kevin Can F*** Himself, and other shows that want to break this stereotype. Sure, Beauty and the Beast did it first, but that was written sometime in the medieval times, and we’ve all pretty much agreed that Belle was a Stockholm Sydrome-suffering Damsel in Distress. Have we really not moved on since?
You’ve seen them all, and still seeing them in plots of popular TV or streaming shows. In the age of Internet of Things, we’re stuck in the same lame storylines. Do you have TV tropes that annoy you to no end and wishes the writers would just do away with them? You can share (or rant) in the comments section below.