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erichw1504's avatar

How does the hot wife/foolish husband formula work in sitcoms?

Asked by erichw1504 (26420points) December 10th, 2009

You know what I’m talking about. Shows like The King of Queens and Everybody Loves Raymond, where the wife is attractive, smart, and rational while the husband is either fat, dorky, irrational or unattractive (or a combination).

What makes this good televsion? Does it allow for funnier set ups? Is this the main way to make funny sitcoms? How has it influenced society?

What are some other sitcoms that follow this formula? Does it still work?

How about a sitcom that doesn’t, but is still funny? How is it able to generate laughs?

Bonus: What is your favorite sitcom that uses the hot wife/foolish husband forumula?

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39 Answers

JLeslie's avatar

Hmmm? Is it just for laughs or is it also that we seem to only, or usually, put hot woman on tv? Maybe it is more of a comment on society and how we expect our women to look?

erichw1504's avatar

@JLeslie That’s a good point about attractive woman on TV. I guess that’s how the saying goes: “Sex sells.”

J0E's avatar

Fat stupid guys are funny, and everyone likes to look at hot wives. It’s a winning formula.

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

The sitcoms aren’t based on this observation… those shows are funny because they are funny… not because a fat guy landed a hot wife…. duh…

Is it so inconceivable that some women aren’t shallow?

fireside's avatar

Most comedic duos involve a funny person and a serious person.
This goes for more than just sitcoms.

Probably the reason why we see this particular combination is that attractive women with a not so great husband is more marketable than attractive man with a less appealing wife.

One example that didn’t follow this would be Roseanne.
There they were both fat and wacky, but the husband was still more of the serious one.

Of course this man-wife combination goes back to the days of cavemen with Fred Flintstone and his hot wife.

aprilsimnel's avatar

@NaturalMineralWater – TV execs in Hollywood are shallow, or else there’d be a show with a silly, fat, homely woman and her Gabriel Aubry -lookalike husband with common sense.

I guarantee that that will never happen.

CMaz's avatar

@J0E Has simply put it.

Though there are exceptions as with Suzanne Somers and Patrick Duffy.
On the SitCom Step by Step.

J0E's avatar

It’s probably a subliminal message intended for women, in hopes that the human race keeps reproducing even though the country is becoming overweight. If woman don’t see fat stupid men as viable mates then the U.S. is in big trouble.

75movies's avatar

And Roseanne didn’t any good looking people on it. Of course it wasn’t funny either.

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

@aprilsimnel The shows mentioned get good ratings. Why would they change it? It’s all about demographics, target audiences… money. It shouldn’t be Hollywood that gets blamed.. but consumers imho.

There’s always soap operas where just about everyone is “good looking” and the shallow reign supreme.

aprilsimnel's avatar

Well, what about us plain gals? Give us a little fantasy, too, thanks.

BTW, I’m not challenging you, @NaturalMineralWater, I’m just saying that for whatever reason, it’s more important to Hollywood that women are more physically attractive than the men on these types of shows, not that it’s personally your fault that it’s this way. OK? Cool.

Cupcake's avatar

It’s because men want to see a man who is relate-able and a woman who is unattainable. Women want to see a woman who is successful and a man who is worse than they have at home.

Of course, I just made that up and don’t really believe it. I don’t know why it “works”. I think it’s stupid, overplayed and annoying.

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

@aprilsimnel There’s always real life. =D

There’s plenty of fantasy to go around… just not on those two shows.

Oh don’t worry, I’m not taking offense to what you said by any means… Lord knows Hollywood is riddled with squalid, dollar eyed blokes with a tendency toward the benign… I’m just sayin.. XD

erichw1504's avatar

@fireside Fred Flintstone, good answer! Also made me think of cartoons like Family Guy and The Simpsons who also use this formula.

gemiwing's avatar

Honestly the whole set-up doesn’t work for me at all. It’s overdone and boring to watch. What does House say in that one episode? Math doesn’t lie? (correct me if I’m wrong)

It’s just not believable enough to be reality-funny and not outlandish enough to be wacky-funny to me. Have a hot chick married to a pinata and I might take an interest. Yet another fat stupid guy married to someone who he wouldn’t get in a million years? Yawn

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

Wow.. I never looked so deeply into the inner-workings of a sitcom before.. lol… I just laugh at the jokes and the dynamic between the actors.. it’s funny… I don’t have any pre-conceived notions of what a sitcom should have..

I really enjoy Seinfeld as well… and it had some strange looking people in it.. XD

erichw1504's avatar

@NaturalMineralWater That is a good point with Seinfeld which didn’t use this formula at all, yet was extremely popular.

OpryLeigh's avatar

I love King of Queens!

I also like 8 Simple Rules which I think has a similar formula. Paul Hennessey is a bit of a loveable fool at times.

I think a lot of times in these programmes the men are supposed to be loveable and funny and there are so many jokes that can be influenced by hot wife and fat, dorky but loveable husband. That’s why it works!

gemiwing's avatar

Maybe that’s it- I don’t see them as lovable, I see them as borderline-abusive, arrogant and unappreciative. Heh, maybe I dated too many of them?

OpryLeigh's avatar

@gemiwing Doug from King of Queens wasn’t borderline abusive was he??? Did I miss something?

gemiwing's avatar

@Leanne1986 sometimes they are but Doug is rarely mean. I think most of the ‘classics’ were, Honeymooners (ahh threats of violence are hilarious) for example. Sometimes I even have trouble watching Family Guy. The only thing that saves that one for me, is that it’s satire and not a true sitcom.

shilolo's avatar

Even Seinfeld worked this to a T. Go back and assess nearly every one of George’s girlfriends…

dalepetrie's avatar

I think there is definitely something to two ideas that were expressed.

1) Comedy works best with one goofball and one straight-man (in this case a woman). No different than Abbot & Costello or Laurel & Hardy….one fat buffoonish character, one put together straight man. Even the Odd Couple…Oscar may not have been “fat”, but he was the comic foil to Felix’ straight man. This formula is just applied to the husband/wife combo in a sitcom.

2) Men in general do have a double standard…they would be more likely to watch a show with an unattractive male and an attractive female than the other way around, because men are visual. Women by and large don’t care if there’s eye candy on the screen, they are less visual, some might say less shallow. So, yes, men can more easily relate to the buffoonish male and desire the put together female.

But I think there’s a third factor that explains shows like Raymond, King of Queens, et. al. These shows were vehicles for the stars and were based on the male’s stand up act. The entire show is based on the comedy act of the star, which is an act in which the star makes fun of his own buffoonishness. When the rest of the show is cast, well it’s just a simple fact that people in general (men AND women) would rather see attractive people on the screen than ugly people, which is why the vast majority of stars are more attractive than most people we encounter in every day life. So, we end up with the unattractive, buffoonish male by default, and the glamorous stars for the rest of the cast as that’s how casting works.

proXXi's avatar

IMO? It doesn’t.

loser's avatar

It would be nice if it worked in real life, though.

anoop66's avatar

Solution: I think that maybe more guys watch TV cos Foolish/unattractive guy => Guys would prefer that instead of smart, well built guys(How many of us are like them seriously?). Hot Wife=>DUH.

If more women were watching then maybe Hot GUY => Eye Candy Foolish/Fat Wives => DUH

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

Do we need to take this as far as the people in charge of casting? Perhaps the uglies (and I use this strictly as a term of endearment) didn’t get a fair shake at the deal from the get go?

holden's avatar

Lurve this question! I absolutely hate EBR and TKoQ, but I love the Simpsons, which more or less falls in the same category. Hmmmm….

sndfreQ's avatar

In addition to the ideas shared above, maybe another suggestion is that this formula represents archetypes for describing the modern power struggle between the sexes:

-That the man, in spite of his loutish buffoonery, can still land a hot woman for a wife; that he has the power of attraction (read: charm) despite his sub-par looks; and

-That the woman has power over the man in the relationship, having both brawn and brains (and that she actually holds all the cards, and though she can attract any man with her looks, she also has the temperance and morals to stick with and take care of her man).

The formula comes in the challenging of that assumption through writing and comedic devices, story and timing/circumstances.

aprilsimnel's avatar

I think Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore, together, were the only two people ever on TV who were both very good-looking and could also be goofy; everyone loved them. I still love that show. Such a perfect sitcom.

dalepetrie's avatar

Another point, is it only works when both are white. In the few black sitcoms that have ever existed, either they’re both put together or both frumpy. And though I can’t think of a single mixed race couple being the focus of a sitcom (the closest I can think is Tom and Hellen Willis, which was too long ago to be relevant to today’s standards), I’d say here life would have to imitate reality. In other words, you might see a skinny black man with a fat white woman, but you wouldn’t see it the other way around if someone were to make such a show. I can’t recall the exact quote, but Chris Rock said something to the effect of, a black man will fuck pretty much ANY white woman, doesn’t matter how fat she is, he just thinks, “more white to fuck”. But you’d never see a fine sister with a fat white man. You see a skinny black woman with a fat, balding middle aged white man, it means her credit is fucked up.

erichw1504's avatar

@dalepetrie “In the few black sitcoms that have ever existed”

Except for the 14 Tyler Perry sitcoms currently airing.

J0E's avatar

@erichw1504 Which all happen to be terrible…

dalepetrie's avatar

@erichw1504 – If they’re not on a major network, I don’t count them. You gotta draw the line somewhere or I’d have to count everything anyone has ever made for the web too.

sndfreQ's avatar

@dalepetrie

“After receiving high ratings, House of Payne entered syndication. Reruns were played through December 2007 before the second season began. The third season began on March 5, 2008 and the fourth season on June 4, 2008. House of Payne now airs on The CW and has aired 100 episodes.”

quote

Not all successful sitcoms are on “major networks,” but that depends on what you consider major-50 years ago major was three networks (CBS, NBC, ABC), but I guess it’s your party…

Tyler Perry is listed as #42 on Forbes, and has grossed $400M career earnings, but I digress.

dalepetrie's avatar

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the main reason Tyler has made SO much money is because he’s put out TONS of movies, they don’t make a ton, but they do really well in the beginning because they are screened in churches. He’s big with a certain crowd which in no way represents the “mainstream”, I still say to really count it has to have mass distribution and appeal. Just my opinion.

davidk's avatar

I think we owe this trend to the genius of this guy:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackie_Gleason

The Honeymooners started a comedic paradigm that just works. If you watch the Honeymooners one time you will find ALL of comedic tricks of the trade that have simply been reproduced with minor twists in all of the above-named programs.

By the way, a cartoon version of the Honeymooners established the same comedic paradigm in the American mind: The Flintstones.

Sayd_Whater's avatar

Because it’s comedy! LoOL

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