Audience of a Sitcom

Many of the present day TV Sitcoms are designed for a family audience. Check the schedules to find out when TV Sitcoms are broadcast as this is a good indication of the intended audience. It is important that you realise that the satellite and cable channels are not the original home of the sitcom and shows broadcast here are usually repeats of the original show.

Digital broadcasting has meant declining audiences for all channels, including TV sitcoms because of the range of channels available. Teenage audiences seem happier to aspire to the glitz and glamour of the ‘American dream’ rather than the more down to earth British variety. Age also defines preferences: the ‘oldies’ are catered for with the grumpy old men and women in One Foot in the Grave and Waiting for God; families have the evergreen My Family while younger audiences prefer Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps. You should investigate the scheduling and audiences for a range of past and present TV Sitcoms.


Basic Form and Conventions

A TV Sitcom can be defined as GUM: Great writers, Unforgettable performances and Memorable characters. The target audience tends to be 18-35 year olds but they can appeal to almost any age group. There are a number of defining conventions:

  • Theme tunes: often sung and invariably catchy and hummable.
  • Locations: identifiable simple locations: a pub lounge; a living room; a kitchen etc. The location often sets the tone of the TV Sitcom. The choice of location rarely changes for the series, although extra sets may be added.
  • Situation: not always the location but there is often a sense of being ‘trapped’, especially in British TV Sitcoms: Porridge trapped in prison; My Family trapped by the family; Red Dwarf trapped in space, Only Fools and Horses trapped by life in Peckham.
  • Characters: there are three main types of character in a TV Sitcom – the main characters, the supporting characters and the transients who appear for perhaps one or maybe two episodes. If there are too many characters the audience may lose the closeness and rapport that develops. The relationships between the characters within a TV Sitcom create the ideal narrative strands – eg father/son/daughter, husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend, two lads together,
    mother/son, old couple, neighbours, boss/secretary etc. The characters can be twodimensional
    stereotypes or more complex and complicated but they do not
    change. The audience can easily identify the characters even if they do not like
  • Dialogue: this is designed to be witty with impeccable timing to get the most laughs, with pauses in the right places. There needs to be a totally symbiotic relationship between the actors and the writers. “The essence of good, successful comedy is timing.”
  • Opening credits: These often give the audience a flavour of the show to come by showing the characters and/or the locations.
  • Humour: British humour is unique. Shows that have been tremendously successful in Britain rarely travel to America without a total make-over in all but name. Today’s audiences are less inclined to find the slapstick humour of the past as funny especially as they have been brought up on a diet of more obvious.
  • American humour: There needs to be a steady flow of humour in action, situation and character. Pathos is used to create bitter-sweet humour in TV Sitcoms like Butterflies and Ever Decreasing Circles. Slapstick humour carries Dad’s Army and Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em and farce plays a part in Fawlty Towers. British satirical humour is demonstrated in the double entendres evident in Are You Being
  • Actors: There do not need to be established stars in the lead roles but the actors must have a sense of comic timing that marks them as successful TV Sitcom stars. Established TV Sitcom stars include: Richard Briers, Prunella Scales, Robert Lindsay, Ronnie Barker, David Jason etc. Modern TV Sitcoms have made the careers of Caroline Aherne and Ricky Gervais.
  • The storylines in TV Sitcoms are rarely on-going and most come to a resolution at the end of the programme. There is usually closure at the end of a series although some successful American TV Sitcoms like Friends do end sometimes on a cliffhanger.
  • Class Values: Although many TV Sitcoms appear to be based on very middle class values, there have been just as many successful working class based TV Sitcoms, some of course where the working class hero is trying to better themselves eg Steptoe and Son and Only Fools and Horses.

Preliminary Material Release Date

The Preliminary material is released on the AQA website on Friday 25th April

However is will be in hard copy in you media lesson after that date.

Assessment Objectives and Weightings

The scheme of assessment requires candidates to demonstrate their ability to:
– use media terminology appropriately to describe theoretical concerns and production techniques
– demonstrate a knowledge of mass media organisations and their structures including new technologies, output and the working practices and constraints under which they produce texts
– be aware of the impact of the mass media on people’s lives and the formation of social attitudes (AO1 – Knowledge and Understanding 15%)
– analyse and evaluate a range of media texts, their distinctive formats and conventions, including their own media productions consider the implications of media representations of individuals, groups, events and issues
– explore the relationship between the production of media texts and institutions  and their consumption by audiences (AO2 – Analysis and Interpretation 20%)
– use practical skills to create, individually or as a group, a media production, demonstrating creativity and initiative in using available resources
– undertake a range of pre-production tasks such as research, scripting, and storyboarding and production tasks such as recording, editing and design

About the Controlled Exam

The Controlled Test carries 50% of the total marks available for this qualification, and please note that:

– sufficient time is given of the teaching of the Controlled Test topic before
the release date of the preliminary materials (3571/HM and 3571/FM)
– no teaching of the topic will take place after the date of preliminary materials release
– no tier changes are permitted after this date – make sure you get the right tier
preliminary paper from your teacher

When is the preliminary materials out?