comedy depended a great deal on the ability of the audience to ‘get’ the joke as laughter from the audience was always a sign during stage performances that the play was being well received. This element of external interaction was incorporated into the sit-com, but with the added benefit of being able to record the show first and then air it later. Thus, unexpected reactions from the audience could be cut out, errors in performance could be tried again and prompts for audience reaction weren’t as obvious. By combining these two approaches, the sit-com still maintains the illusion of being a live event in spite of the great degree of editing and production involved. This ability to edit and change has also introduced more meaning into the shows produced. Just as the comedies of stage and radio were reflections of their society, so have the sit-coms of the past several decades reflected the society that produce them but with the greater realization of preservation of performance and significance to audiences. In many ways, the sit-com of today has not changed a great deal in its structural format even as its reflection of society has altered and the level of meaning presented has deepened with greater understanding of the principles at work.
Before one can look at individual sit-coms to see if they hold up to a common definition, it is helpful to have a definition and idea of development in place. Generally sit-coms, or situation comedies, are defined as a form of comedy that presents episodes of recurring characters as they interact within a common environment, facing some sort of complication and resolving it at the end with some form of happy ending. The sit-com has developed from a long history of stage performances intended to entertain the masses by featuring stories they were able to relate with while also poking gentle fun at the lifestyles of the wealthy. According to Lewisohn, precursors of the sitcom have existed since the times of