sitcoms
Sometimes sitcoms are just what we need for a light-hearted escape from reality. (Illustration by Francesca Mahaney, Pratt Institute)

What You Can Learn From ’70s, ’80s and ’90s Sitcoms

Technology-washed and introverted millennials can learn a thing or two by watching some classic shows from the last century.

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sitcoms

Technology-washed and introverted millennials can learn a thing or two by watching some classic shows from the last century.

Watching old sitcoms might not seem relevant to today’s cultural climate. However, a day of binge-watching 20th century television might be exactly what millennials need to cope with the increased anxiety, depression and introversion spread amongst the demographic. Here are four reasons why today’s youngsters should exit the “Black Mirror” phenomenon and dive into some more golden ages of television.

1. You Learn Social Skills

It’s important to point out that millennials grew up during the birth of the digital age. As society becomes more reliant on technology for information than each other, the world takes on more of an antisocial climate. Nowadays, effective communication that sparks intimacy and friendship is harder to attain.

Sitcoms such as “Friends” or “Cheers” demonstrate friendship and family bonds before the technology surge. Joking with friends at a coffee house or watching a Red Sox game at an open bar is proof of how many memories can be made if you log out of social media for a second and begin to live in the moment.

Contrary to hiding behind direct messages and iMessage, old sitcoms highlight a time when people had to exert confidence if they wanted to make friends and even better memories. Watching a few episodes of a 1980s television show will help you realize the benefits of extroversion. Studies show that extroverts tend to be happier, with more optimism and better mood regulation. Extroverts also have better networking and teamworking skills, which is essential for job placement.

Next time you feel the urge to make contact with your phone screen to avoid talking to someone, revert back to the sitcoms where you can realize that an outgoing personality is worthwhile.

Who knows who you will meet when you make contact with something other than a screen?

2. Learn to Let Things Go

The late 20th century was the age of the sitcom. Unlike most of today’s popular shows such as “Stranger Things” or “13 Reasons Why,”  which run with a consistent plot throughout the entire season, each sitcom episode deals with something totally different from the previous one.

In the nick of 30 minutes, the audience is aware of the characters’ problems. By the end, viewers would either be satisfied or deeply upset with the solution. Either way, the audiences’ feelings will quickly subside because another episode with a completely different plot would air the following week. By diving into the world of situational comedy, millennials can learn to not dwell on the past and focus on their present and future.

From “Good Times” character J.J. dropping his “Dy-No-Mite” catchphrase to watching Jerry, Elaine and George of “Seinfeld” wait for a table at a Chinese restaurant, sitcoms are relatable in the sense that the characters are working through problems just as common as anybody else. The difference is the optimistic and humorous outlook on life that motivates them to move on from what they cannot control. 

3. Teaches You to Be Yourself

With social media’s misleading filters and the popularity of medical body enhancements, it is becoming normal to change the way you look and hide one’s true self. Fortunately, some sitcoms show you that you don’t have to look or act like everyone else.

What makes sitcoms so great is that every character’s personality is not only distinctive but accepted. For instance, “Cheers” character Diane Chambers was a snobby and bougie know-it-all who often feuded with the easygoing and sarcastic protagonist Sam “Mayday” Malone and supporting character Carla Tortelli.

However, Chambers’ willingness to stay true to herself by demonstrating her intelligence and empathy is what made her so lovable to the rest of the characters and what sparked an intimate relationship between her and Malone.

Societal pressure has always been prevalent and old sitcoms are a portrayal of the few people who rebel against the world’s irrational expectations. And you want to know something else? The characters and the viewers at home love them for it.

4. Teaches Morals

Before reality TV that glamorized crass behavior, there was a sophisticated approach to comedic television. The 1980s comedy series “The Cosby Show” observes the funny banter as well as serious instances of family life. Whether amused by Cliff Huxtable or feeling compassion for precious 4-year-old Olivia, the eight-season-long sitcom was popular for its moral messages.

Fortunately, old sitcoms were not always targeted to the middle age demographic. “A Different World” dives into the essence of college life. While addressing issues of your everyday college kid such as living with roommates and romantic relationships, the show shed light on topics such as domestic violence and America’s race relations.

Television of the late 20th century was a tasteful approach to comedy that held moral themes that are applicable to the millennial age of catty housewives and teenage brawls spread across social media.

In another sense, sitcoms might not be the most appropriate guide for being social. However, that doesn’t mean you should give up just yet. The humor that comes along with the genre is a known coping mechanism for anxiety and depression.

Sitcoms are comical distractions that allow you to focus on someone else’s problems. Marc Hekster, clinical psychologist at The Summit Clinic in Highgate says that the show “Friends” in particular can trick your brain into believing that complicated things can be solved with relative ease. Although it is somewhat unrealistic to rely on sitcoms as a guide to life, there is solace in watching a television show exploring the regularities of the average Joe.

Next time you’re feeling anxious, depressed or simply drowning in today’s deceptive approach to unscripted programming, give old sitcoms a chance. Not only are they relatable but they’re funny as hell. Either way, you’re going to need a reliable show to hold you over while waiting for the next season of “Riverdale.”

For those who are convinced about the impact of old sitcoms, streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon feature several old classics. The shows will not only help you forget your worries but maybe spark your creative impulses for the next generation. Who knows where television will end up by then?

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