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Sitcom 'Extras'

  • Date Submitted: 03/02/2010 03:27 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 40.7 
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Take one example of a sitcom and examine how it challenges generic expectations in relation to at least two of the following: narrative structure, ideology and visual style.

Situation Comedy was introduced in British broadcasting in the 1950s.   Generally, the sitcom is seen as an unchanging media, with little scope for reinvention and receives little critical acclaim.   However, Extras, directed by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, is an example of a sitcom that challenges generic expectations in relation to narrative structure, ideology and visual style while true to the form of a situation comedy.   This is done very effectively as the new translation of the traditional sitcom’s elements creates a more layered and sophisticated type of comedy.
Brett Mills talks of the sitcom genre’s origins saying ‘whether (they) lie in theatre, music hall, vaudeville, cinema or a combination of these, the resultant for is seen to have remained stables for decades.   This is generally true, and for Extras to be considered a situation comedy it certainly conforms to most narrative rules; it has the 25-30 minute time-slot, the equilibrium – disequilibrium – resolution format, constant characters, recurrent themes, comic modes, and a consistent setting.   However, Gervais and Merchant challenge expectations by making subtle changes in these areas to produce a sitcom that stands out as original and has a different effect than classic sitcoms such as Hancock’s Half Hour, for example.
      Immediately noticeable in Extras is the lack of opening credits with a theme song.   Instead is a simplistic black screen with the word ‘Extras’ in white.   This represents the bleak atmosphere the comedy about a struggling actor has – a cheerful jingle introducing the main cast would seen highly inappropriate.   In fact, Cat Stevens’ song Tea for the Tillerman is the theme music for Extras, but is only heard at the end and is arguably bleak itself.
      The absence of a laughter track is very...


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