From Friends to The Thick Of It, the TV sitcom has evolved – but it’s no longer in rude health. Enter offbeat shows like Stath Lets Flats, bringing joy and potential redemption

The sitcom has a long history of being dead. According to the former NBC president of entertainment, Warren Littlefield, in the early 1980s many people believed the sitcom was over. In 1999, Entertainment Weekly noted the genre’s demise. In 2005, so did Victoria Wood. The following year, the former ITV director of programmes, David Liddiment, made a programme called Who Killed the Sitcom? In the decade and a half since, similar questions have been posed repeatedly by publications on both sides of the Atlantic. Declaring the sitcom dead now seems more like an annual ritual than a convincing take on the state of comedy. But what if this time it’s actually true?

There are a few reasons why the sitcom seems, if not comprehensively deceased, then at least less responsive than it has ever been. In terms of the comedy zeitgeist, the sadcom – a frequently bleak drama hybrid – continues to rule (see: I May Destroy You, Feel Good, This Way Up, Insecure). Streaming giants increasingly shape our viewing habits, and they don’t tend to make sitcoms (their discrete episodic plots mean they are not very bingeworthy, for a start). The newly established National Comedy Awards, meanwhile, doesn’t include a sitcom category, while Bafta dropped its sitcom award in 2015 and replaced it with one for scripted comedy: this year’s winner, the comedy-horror anthology Inside No 9, in no way fits the sitcom mould.

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