The television boom in the 1950’s was meant to abide by the Rethian ethos to inform, educate and entertain. However, audiences claimed television was dull. To attract large audiences, especially younger viewers, ITV introduced new kinds of programming including situation comedies (sitcoms) such as Abigail and Roger in Atletico Partick (1956). However, it was the American sitcoms that proved most popular on UK television as, “American upper-class standards are seen as desirable. ” Scollon (1998:56).
The rise of commercial television did generate criticism of what was perceived to be a lowering of cultural standards and an excessive reliance on imported American programmes. To analyse sitcoms, I adopted a qualitative approach and did a close conversational analysis (CA) and the representations of the characters in “Will and Grace. ” This US Emmy award winning comedy started in 1998 and quickly followed the international success of “Friends. ” It’s about a male and female cohabitation, in an adult comedy and Will is gay. It examines the relationship between a man and a woman where sex is not a factor.Order now
In particular, I wanted to show the representations of homosexuals in sitcoms and how this issue is addressed in the dialogue. Conversational analysis is a unique form of qualitative research concerned with the analysis of “talk-in-interaction. ” According to Heritage and Hudson, “It’s gives systematic insights into the ways in which members of society interact. ” (1984:1) Detailed descriptions of transcriptions are used as they provide a useful representation of what is said and how it is said. By making transcriptions, the researcher is able to attend to details that would escape the ordinary listener.
When analysing an episode of Will and Grace from www. durfee. net/will/transcripts, I found the conversational structured differed from many theorist’s research into sitcom CA. I found that it abided by particular structures that were apparent in a lot of the episodes and have become a formula for its unique comedy appeal. The first thing I noticed, when analysing the transcriptions, was the insistent use of pauses. They are a display of specific meaning, whether written in the script or not. How the researcher interprets them as, “all based on their preconceived notions. ” Garfinkel (1967:103).
The first one in the script is when Jack, a gay friend of Will and Grace, is talking about his problems. He then pauses, suggesting he is waiting for sympathy from the other characters. When he doesn’t receive it, he says, “I’m sorry. Did I bring everybody down? ” He uses the other characters dispreffered response and fills in for them by asking a rhetorical question. The audience knows that he has “brought everyone down” and he just makes that obvious to emphasise the humour of the pause. The second pause in the transcript is not to convey humour, but tension between the characters.
Grace and her quirky assistant Karen are talking about Jack. Then they start to argue and adopt a staccato rhythm, where their words are short and harsh and are not part of a free-flowing conversation. According to Goddard, “this causes tension. “(2001:81). However, the pause is the most dramatic part of the scene here as it lasts 4 seconds, allowing more image than dialogue to take place to show their feelings to the audience. It allows the audience to grasp their tension and feelings and make their own judgements about the event.
The final pause in the episode comes in the last scene, when Wills father, George is giving a speech. He says, “My son is gay. (beat) Will, where are you? ” The silence is significant here, as the character of George has said something controversial and he is waiting for a reaction from the people in the room. It also allows the viewing audience to react to what he has just said. The fact that his son is gay would guarantee audience arousal, because it is a taboo subject that isn’t promoted much in broadcasting. The character of George is a vital part in the way the conversation is made.
His speech patterns are repetitive and provide structure that the other characters feed off. For example, in his opening scene, he stutters when speaking, it’s a signifier of nervousness. This nervousness continues throughout the episode and even makes other characters, like Will, begin to stutter. Stuttering is shown in transcripts as “H-How” or like “I… I” It depends on how long the script writer wants the character to stutter for, to show how nervous or shocked they are. George also repeats words in his sentences. “It’s nothing. It’s a little something. It’s nothing. Absolutely nothing.
” He is trying to send out a specific message here, but his repetition suggests he’s not telling the truth. This is a common theme in sitcoms, as it is amusing to the viewing audience, who know the truth, when the other characters don’t. According to Nunberg, “Repetition is a classic strategy for good audience response. ” (1980:53). In sitcoms, the main purpose for audience pleasure is comedy. The characters are all fighting for attention, to be heard and to make the best jokes for the audience. This then allows the characters to project their voices to make sure the audience can hear their point of view.
According to Goffman, “Language is conceptualised as a resource that speakers use to try to project a particular identity. ” In the case of Karen and Grace, the two main women who work together in the series, they constantly battle for affection from their homosexual friends Jack and Will. In doing so, they increase the pitch of their voices to convey confidence and to gain authority in the workplace. This is also known as the Hyperbolic Text Choice. In scene two, in Grace’s Office, the two women are fighting over Jack. The persistent use of exclamation marks immediately connotes aggressiveness.