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Mtl_zack's avatar

Why do all sitcoms have the same layout in their apartments?

Asked by Mtl_zack (6735 points ) January 20th, 2009

Friends, Seinfeld, Frasier, Will & Grace, Dharma & Greg, That 70s Show: They all have the exact same layout for their apartments. There’s a long couch with a coffee table in front of it, and a tv in front of that and there’s an armchair at a 60 degree angle to the couch. Like this:

|————| TV —————>Rooms

+ _______

======= ———->Card Table —————>Rooms

——————————————> Kitchen Area

-
-
-
-
|———| is a tv
+ is a chair
====== is a sofa
—————- is a coffee table

The kitchen area is off to the side, and there are some bedrooms behind the tv or couch. There’s also a card table adjacent to the kitchen area.

Why is this standard?

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14 Answers

asmonet's avatar

Ease of filming. :)
And it looks just lived in enough.

jessturtle23's avatar

Because sitcoms are typically fixed camera and in front of an audience. They have to be seen at all times.

aprilsimnel's avatar

Yup, camera placement. Sitcoms are a three-camera set-up. At least Frasier‘s apartment set was interesting, with the angles of the sofa and the off-center terrace door placement.

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

There’s a deeper psychology to it too. If people see something they recognize and are comfortable with, they are much more prone to laugh then if the set is something odd or out-of-placeish. (i don’t know .. i just made that up just now… it’s probably total crap)

aprilsimnel's avatar

It would be just a logistical and timing nightmare (and it would cost a lot more) to shoot a studio audience-based sitcom or sketch show with cameramen running around, but it is what’s familiar.

Desi Arnaz came up with the filmed 3-camera setup as used today for I Love Lucy. If you find clips of TV shows from the late 40s to ca. 1951, they look really bad to our eyes, because they were shot live with one camera going left to right and aimed from the waist up. The only way to record a show was to aim a film camera at a TV. There were no decent commercial video cameras or VCRs until the late 50s. I Love Lucy looks “normal” to us – that show started the familiar “living room couch in front-kitchen on the right-bedroom on the left-front door in the back” set that we know today. They were the innovators of the sitcom as we know it.

steelmarket's avatar

You notice that about Frazier as well, @aprilsimnel . I thought that set was groundbreaking, to use that overused adj.

A lot of the “couch facing the camera” shows actually have a TV as a part of the set, facing the couch. We usually see only the top and back of the TV (like on Seinfeld).

It’s like we are the TV, looking into their house. Which is really kind of spooky.

SeventhSense's avatar

It’s the same apartment. They just change the name and the city.
Actually the couch is over to the left a little bit and you forgot the curtains on the kitchen door.:)

Zen's avatar

@SeventhSense It’s also the same actors, just wearing costumes and make-up. Internationally, their voices are dubbed.

;-)

SeventhSense's avatar

@Zen
Star Wars Dub———-> LOL

Rude_Bear's avatar

Actually, no. As I recall the Outside door on Threes Company was on the Right….. All others were on the left.

wyrenyth's avatar

A lot of sitcoms are pulling away from the idea of a studio audience, and they still have this basic set-up. Big Bang Theory, for instance, is a show I’m fairly sure is not taped in front of a studio audience, and yet it has exactly the same set up. The audience is looking out through the TV at the couch and a chair or two set at an angle, with the kitchen on the right, the bedrooms off behind, and the door “out” to the left. Penny’s apartment is set up in a perfect mirror (which makes sense, but anyways.)

I think it’s, again, the sense of recognition and familiarity, as well as ease of filming. Psychoanalytically, we like what we recognize. We are comfortable with things we are familiar with. We dislike or are instantly wary of things which are new to us. It’s basic human psyche.

AshlynM's avatar

I think because that’s how most Americans have their living room set up as well? I have everything except the coffee table in that exact placement myself because I live in a small condo.

zenvelo's avatar

It was a bit different for Archie, Edith, Gloria and Meathead. They had two armchairs facing the TV, stairs behind them. But I Love Lucy was set up the way it is described above.

I agree though with @AshlynM; if you walked into 90% of family living spaces in America, you’d probably find something close to what is described: a couch with a coffee table facing a TV, an armchair to the side.

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