The Magnifying Class #8



Another “Magnifying Class” is taking place today at the University of Oxford. Our group turns its attention to Ordet (1954), directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer. It is a moving film about living faith, about the life of faith, the life that faith gives. It speaks volumes to me and it leaves me speechless every time I watch it — or perhaps it makes me acutely aware of the limitations of verbal expression.


“The Magnifying Class”: #3 · #4 · #5 · #6 · #7

American and British Sitcoms


Brett Mills draws a sharp distinction between the production of British and American sitcoms:

In Britain, the writer usually creates a programme, seeks a producer, retains much of the control over the programme’s development and the series usually ends once the writer no longer wishes to write it. In America, producers usually create and control programmes and employ writers to write them, retaining the artistic control which, in Britain, is much more firmly in the hands of the writer.[1]

This description is only partially correct because Mills does not acknowledge the fact that the producers who create and develop American sitcoms are usually writers. Mills does however make some important points — for example, about the industrialised nature of American television production. The time gap between production and broadcast is very short and makes it easier for sitcoms to be topical, reflecting current social issues. There are therefore cultural differences between the sitcoms produced in America and in Britain. Popular social analysis is common in American programmes of this genre, but not in their British counterparts. The latter inevitably reflect general concerns. Yet there are other genres where the channelling of social commentary is more usual in the British context such as the soap-opera.


[1] Brett Mills, Television Sitcom (London: BFI, 2005), 55.