Sitcom characters – stuck in the middle

One of the defining features of sitcom is that the characters are stuck. They are unable to get away from the family, workplace or friends that frustrate and annoy them.

More than that the main characters of sitcoms are usually stuck in the middle – between superiors they can’t avoid and those beneath them that they just can’t seem to shake off.

Think of Blackadder stuck between Queenie (Blackadder II),  the Prince Regent (Blackadder III),  and General Melchett (Blackadder IV) on the one hand and Baldrick and Percy and Lieutenant George on the other. Think of Father Ted stuck between Bishop Brennan and  Fathers Dougal and Jack. Think of Tim in the Office, stuck between David Brent and Gareth.

This doesn’t apply in a simple way to all sitcoms. Think of Peep Show where the two main characters Jez and Mark are at times the others superior and sometimes their inferior depending on the context.  But it can still be a useful way to think about the main characters and their relationships.

What I’ve learned from thinking and reading about all this:  If your sitcom characters aren’t stuck, you need to make them stuck. A common and effective way to do this is to stick them between characters above them and characters below them.