Reality Meets Fiction
New cable show seeks to blur the line.
by Mark D. Johnson
February 14, 2003
“My Life is a Sitcom” is a contest among humorous real-life families to win the prize of starring as themselves in a traditional sitcom based on their lives and taped before a live studio audience. Each week, one of the eight competing families is featured as actual sitcom writers (who have written for hit shows) spend a couple of days with them, taking notes. Judging the competition are three former sitcom stars: Maureen McCormick (Marcia, “The Brady Bunch”), Dave Coulier (Joey, “Full House”), and David Faustino (Bud, “Married with Children”). They watch footage from the writers’ visits, discuss with the writers the elements that could work for a sitcom, and then decide who moves on.
The families are often shown in preconceived, though unscripted, situations based on their normal lives. Those contrived segments may put off some viewers since it is made to appear as though this is what would really happen if cameras were not present, but by now, anyone watching Reality TV should be savvy enough to expect a skewed reality. It is an understandable necessity in this case, since these are essentially auditions to show their potential for comedy in humorous situations, and of course even the funniest families aren’t always immersed in sitcom-like situations in real life. In the end, what we see is that these families show good instinct for humor as a group and who may or may not have good acting skills. (The latter is not taken into the judges’ consideration.)
The interesting part of this series is the examination of what makes for a good sitcom, and what aspects of a family’s real life can translate into good, comedic fiction. What kind of characters make for good traditional comic roles? What kind of family dynamics are funny? What kind of real life situations can be entertaining? The celebrity panel of judges show an insightful understanding of the genre, though the discussion shown is brief.
Of course, this is the Reality portion of the show, and as such, it’s light entertainment, good for family viewing. Whether the resulting sitcom is anything worth watching remains to be seen. Even if the fiction part doesn’t pan out, you’ve got to admit it’s an intriguing experiment.
"My Life is a Sitcom" airs Mondays at 8/7c. Multiple episodes are often repeated on weekends.
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