These old sitcoms are cringe-inducing if you watch them now

Joe Sommerlad@JoeSommerlad
Saturday 01 June 2019 09:00
Jerry Ferrera, Jeremy Piven, Adrian Grenier, Kevin Connolly and Kevin Dillon, stars of Entourage(Rex)

Twitter often takes a gleeful relish in "cancelling" artworks or public figures whose sentiments no longer chime with contemporary moral or social values.

At its worst, this phenomenon amounts to what one critic memorably described as "a neo-Victorian 'cultural conversation' rooted in public shaming", but often the grievances viewers point out after revisiting older films and television programmes with fresh eyes are entirely justified.

Sitcoms are particularly vulnerable to being called out in this way because of what it is they are inviting their audiences to laugh at.

Jokes about the very idea of homosexuality, about objectifying women, foreign accents and even blacking up might have seemed fine in mainstream 1970s comedies like ITV's Love Thy Neighbour (1972-76) or Mind Your Language (1977-86), but they are as excruciating now as they would be unthinkable of staging.

But even a more recent show as beloved as Friends (1994-2004) has drawn criticism over its apparent homophobia and lack of diversity, especially when it began streaming on Netflix last year, finding a new audience less inclined to allow its judgement to be clouded by 90s nostalgia for Central Perk and Marcel the monkey and keen to take issue with the show's undeniable faults and failings.

Screenwriter Eden Danger opened a canned of worms in this regard when she tweeted an undeniably misogynistic line she took exception to from the Hollywood bro-comedy Entourage (2004-11).

The responses she got indicate the sheer number of old shows out there whose jokes, characters and assumptions would no longer be deemed acceptable and just how quickly times and tastes change.

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