Guest Author - Robin Rounds Whittemore
What type of characters would you like to have in your sitcom? Think about some memorable characters from sitcoms past and present. Take a look at some characters from other countries, as well.
We will start this off with two groundbreaking characters from TV sitcom history. One was a man who spoke out about things he knew about, and more often, things he did not. The other character is a woman who broke some boundaries by breaking some stereotypical thoughts.
Archie Bunker, played by Carroll O’Connor, was a very memorable character. We all saw his shortcomings, and there were many offered. He brought up subjects that had been taboo before, but they worked here. Although Archie had his faults, we are also able to glimpse a very vulnerable, softer side; and that endeared him to many.
Julia was a character played by Diahann Carroll. Julia was not only an independent career woman, she happened to have dark skin. Ms. Carroll was the first African-American woman to be a lead in a show. The show started in the late 60’s and it was a revolution for a woman with darker skin to portray a responsible nurse, not a domestic servant.
Craig T. Nelson brought a man to life that most people would wish on their worst enemy. Christine didn’t deserve this pompous, clueless, and childish man, but your worst enemy would. No matter what Hayden Fox’ take on life was, he did care about the people in his orbit. As with Archie, in spite of his faults, you found yourself rooting for him.
Barbara Billingsley as June Cleaver was one example of a stay-at-home mom. Many jokes have been made about cleaning a house with pearls on. Back in the day, that is how it was done. Jane Wyatt as a mom that really knew best was another example of the mother that some of us grew up with.
Compare the stay-at-home mom of the past with the sometimes stay-at-home type portrayed by Roseanne. The stand-up comedienne parlayed her domestic goddess jokes into a show that dared to portray an actual typical family. The house was not located in a famous posh zip code. The characters were not “TV pretty”, and the life situations were real.
Sue Ann Nivens was skillfully played by Betty White. Betty went on to give us Sue Ann’s almost complete opposite in the naïve, innocent Rose Nylund. Both characters had stand out qualities that made them unique.
The BBC gave us such characters as Mrs. Slocum in “Are You Being Served”. She was the one whose hair could be green, pink, blue, or even normal colored hair. She was played ever so well by Molly Sugden.
Another BBC offering was Patricia Routledge as Hyacinth Bucket (please pronounce that boo-kay) in “Keeping Up Appearances”. No matter what class in life she was, she always wanted to appear better off. I am sure there were characters like that in American television, but her wonderful portrayal of Hyacinth has drowned out all thoughts of others.
There are many more characters that we could mention, of course. Take this time to go over in your mind other characters that were not mentioned in this column. When you remember them; write down what stood out about them to make them cross your mind.