Sitcoms where the characters get to progress toward their goals?
November 25, 2016 7:19 PM   Subscribe

A common plot device used in sitcoms is that the main characters repeatedly try and fail to achieve their goals. But what are some sitcoms where the characters make significant progress and that's what drives the plot forward? (Other than Parks and Rec, which I love.)

For example, I would love a version of Silicon Valley where the characters successfully start their company at the end of season 1 and then realize that oh hey, running an office with hundreds of employees is even harder than starting a company! Or a Flight of the Conchords where the band finally has their big hit and has to deal with the pressures of fame.

I like a lot of what Parks and Rec did, but even it kept falling back on the idea that every time a character achieves something (other than marriage, which it treats as sacrosanct), they get challenged on it repeatedly like Leslie with her council position and Tom's clothes rental business. I much prefer stories that have continual forward motion.

Assume I haven't seen plenty of fairly popular shows, so even if your recommendation is something "everyone" has seen go ahead and comment. Any country/language is fine as long as I can get it subtitled in English. But please stick to sitcoms and not a different genre.
posted by capricorn to Media & Arts (34 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
My Name is Earl...and maybe, Weeds?
posted by Toddles at 7:23 PM on November 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


There's less of an incrementality to it, but in My Name is Earl, Earl's goal is to undo all the wrongs he's done in his life and he does undo a wrong in every episode. The wrong's don't really "add-up" to anything though.

Once upon a time started with the goal of breaking the curse, and a new goal has materialized each season. It's more incremental in that each new goal is really only a possible goal once the previous goal is met. This season is pretty meh.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:25 PM on November 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Hmm, I'll try not to threadsit but just to clarify a little - in My Name is Earl, does his situation/circumstance change significantly as he begins to right more of the wrongs? Or is it more of an episodic nature where you could watch them in a random order? I'd prefer the former.
posted by capricorn at 7:32 PM on November 25, 2016


Barney Miller saw a number of characters hit their goals (become a detective, write a novel, take in some kids) and go through out changes in life (get divorced, get forced to retire). But I don't know if you're looking for something that old with that slow a burn.
posted by sardonyx at 7:36 PM on November 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


I think 2 Broke Girls make progress towards their goal but I stopped watching because it wasn't that funny to me.
posted by metahawk at 7:37 PM on November 25, 2016


Does Gilmore Girls count as a sitcom? Probably not but there is a lot of this on that show.
posted by lunasol at 7:39 PM on November 25, 2016 [7 favorites]


The Detectorists.
posted by ilovewinter at 7:47 PM on November 25, 2016 [6 favorites]


House of Lies [small spoiler] - the consultants manage to leave Galweather-Stearn and go independent, which results in both good and bad befalling them. Things they do for or to their clients often have ramifications several episodes later.
posted by mistersix at 7:51 PM on November 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Maybe Brooklyn Nine-Nine, sort of? There's a lot of internal character growth for a sitcom.
posted by jeather at 8:02 PM on November 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


In Community the characters progress through school.
In Mike and Molly, Molly quits teaching (in I think the 2nd season or 3rd season?) to become a writer and we see how that goes, from getting inspiration to writing the book to what success looks like.
Veep? The veep eventually becomes president. (Spoiler alert?)
posted by bleep at 8:37 PM on November 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:40 PM on November 25, 2016 [7 favorites]


It's only 9 episodes into its first season, but I think The Good Place qualifies.
posted by oh yeah! at 8:43 PM on November 25, 2016 [10 favorites]


My Name is Earl came to mind right away. I think Earl does undergo a personal transformation. It is ultimately a sentimental show.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:52 PM on November 25, 2016


Friends moves forward, although sometimes slowly, through the seasons -- Rachel and Monica and Joey make career progress, relationships progress, etc. (I think sometimes people get stuck on the Ross-and-Rachel back-and-forth and forget how much the characters moved forward in other ways.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:54 PM on November 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


Mom, the one about a sober mom and grandmother piecing together their lives after decades of drugs and alcohol abuse (it's a lot funnier than it sounds and stars Anna Faris and Allison Janney) has lots of that - going back to school, changing jobs, relationships. There are failures and natural tragedies and loss, but the show is about also getting up after those too.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 9:10 PM on November 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


How was Met Your Mother, while episodic, has overarching growth of characters as they move through relationships, family and careers.
posted by MandaSayGrr at 9:10 PM on November 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


+1 to Gilmore Girls. Teenage daughter applies to colleges, chooses college, goes off to college, mother has time to fill, undertakes her own venture, seasons change, daughter graduates college and tries to launch career, etc.
posted by salvia at 9:18 PM on November 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


How I Met Your Mother, while episodic, has overarching growth of characters as they move through relationships, family and careers.

However, the series finale undoes all the character growth of several characters. One of the biggest 'fuck you's from show-runners to their fans in recent tv history, utterly infuriating experience, would not recommend. (I mean, I remember there were a lot of funny episodes, but, for me the finale just retroactively ruined the entire series.)
posted by oh yeah! at 9:45 PM on November 25, 2016 [7 favorites]


Rachel and Monica and Joey make career progress, relationships progress, etc.

Came to say Friends. Also, Ross goes from working at the Natural History Museum to being a paleontology professor, Phoebe got married to Mike who was rich and Paul Rudd, but attaining a stable, secure life was a very long journey, and even Chandler went from being a "transponster!" to a fulfilling career in advertising (starting over as an intern.)
posted by Room 641-A at 9:51 PM on November 25, 2016


New Girl! They learn about their career choices and find love. Some characters develop more quickly than others.
posted by Crookshanks_Meow at 11:28 PM on November 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


RE ending of how I met your mother...totally agree. I think in my mind I had managed to forget the ending.

Skip the last couple episodes.
posted by MandaSayGrr at 12:25 AM on November 26, 2016


Hmm, I'll try not to threadsit but just to clarify a little - in My Name is Earl, does his situation/circumstance change significantly as he begins to right more of the wrongs? Or is it more of an episodic nature where you could watch them in a random order? I'd prefer the former.

I thought the whole appeal of a "situational comedy" was that you didn't necessarily have to watch every week to enjoy the episode. Sadly, I don't think character-driven comedy is commonly separated as a genre.

That said, I've enjoyed watching the characters develop in the F-X series "You're the Worst," even though they're all still terrible people after 3 seasons.

Also, although the series finale of HIMYM was terribly delivered, and you can hate it for that, I believe it was thematically consistent with the rest of the show. Film Crit Hulk wrote 3000 words on it, if you have time to read.
posted by rocketbadger at 2:35 AM on November 26, 2016


Detectorists for sure. Such a sweet wonderful show.
posted by RustyBrooks at 5:35 AM on November 26, 2016 [2 favorites]


Extras, though it's not that incremental.
posted by mzurer at 7:12 AM on November 26, 2016


The title character in Coach turns his hapless college football team into a national champion, then moves to the NFL, building an expansion team into a playoff contender.
posted by hangashore at 8:08 AM on November 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


What about The Mary Tyler Moore show? She's the only one that really grows, but for the time her arc was really inspiring to little Room 641-A.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:40 AM on November 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


Bojack Horseman fits somewhat. Characters often get what they want and though it rarely turns out how they expected it's usually for more human* reasons like actually not knowing what they truly want, as opposed to the more constructed reasons in sitcoms that serve primarily to set up comedy.

* NB: most of them aren't humans
posted by wemayfreeze at 8:43 AM on November 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is an hour-long show but it's essentially a single-camera sitcom. The main character has a long long journey to make (she's so broken inside), but she is progressing. She's also a bit of a chaos agent who stimulates the other characters to self-reflect and move forward in better ways. I've been told the creators/writers have a four year plan sketched out, so it's definitely not one of those shows where characters spin their wheels.

A lot of the comedy is of the cringe-inducing awkwardness type which is not normally my thing, but the show is so good that I'm OK with it. It's wickedly insightful and the laugh lines are abundant. There are a lot of Southern California in-jokes that will tickle you if you're familiar with the region (especially the San Gabriel Valley).

Oh, it's also a musical.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 9:15 AM on November 26, 2016 [4 favorites]


Seconding House of Lies.
posted by nosila at 2:05 PM on November 26, 2016


Seconding The Good Place; the interesting thing about it is that everything keeps moving forward. At the end of most episodes, I kept thinking 'but you've messed up your formula!' And it just kept going.

Also seconding the first season of Kimmie Schmitt.
posted by gideonfrog at 2:32 PM on November 26, 2016


Episodes
posted by riddley at 3:22 PM on November 26, 2016


Cougar Town fits this. Don't let the title put you off, it has nothing to do with cougars past the first ~4ish episodes. And even then, its more about friendships. But especially in the later seasons, the characters progress professionally and romantically, in a way that's satisfying, while still maintaining the heart of the show.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 9:55 PM on November 26, 2016 [3 favorites]


Scrubs does this, sort of. The characters develop from interns to residents to attendings as the series progresses.
posted by Rhomboid at 4:42 PM on November 30, 2016


I'll add a throwback to "Family Ties".

Over the course of the series, you literally watch a family grow up, work through issues, change schools, get jobs, love, fail, try again.
posted by sarah_pdx at 9:57 AM on December 4, 2016


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