A great source of comedy in TV sitcoms over the years has come from the differences between both the characters in the shows and the differences between those characters and the viewing audience. These differences are often heightened in sitcoms that put a cross-cultural relationship front and center, using the relationship for the foundation of the very show.
These five are among the most charming cross-cultural marriages we've seen in TV sitcoms.
My Big Fat Greek Life (2003)
In 2002, cinema audiences were overcome with Greek-fever following the unexpected success of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Audiences howled with laughter at the cultural differences between a WASP-y man marrying into a family of first and second generation Greek immigrants. Can you even imagine such a thing?
An inevitable TV spin-off brought most of the movie cast to the small screen, with the very notable absence of John "Chris In The Morning" Corbett. The big-screen enthusiasm quickly dissipated with the show cancelled after just seven episodes went to air. Whether the show was cancelled because the novelty wore off quickly, whether audiences rejected the reformatted version of the film, or simply didn't care for John Corbett replacement Steven Eckholdt, we will never know.
It's a shame as, while Italian American families are often depicted on screen, there are precious few depictions of Greek Americans on US TV.
Dharma and Greg (1997-2002)
This 90's sitcom was less about a marriage of two international cultures as much as two sociological cultures as free-spirited yoga instructor Dharma married conservative lawyer Greg. Hilarity ensued. While both came to the marriage with vastly different perspectives on the larger world and how they were to engage within it, the heart of the show came from the two series leads finding a common ground and respectful understanding of one another's attitude.
Happy Endings (2011-2013)
One of TV's most charming marriages was Happy Endings couple Brad and Jane. Very little was made of the fact that they were in an interracial relationship, but the show did delight in the cultural differences between the two. And I'm not referring to Brad's enthusiasm for his ventriloquist dummy. Rather, the show regularly made light of Jane's Serbian descent, which she routinely drew upon for strength.
TV marriages don't get much more culturally diverse than here where a human man married a witch. Though, Lilly and Herman Munster may come a close second.
Savvy viewers realised in the 60s and in the decades of syndicated re-runs that followed, that the marriage between human Darren Stevens and witch Samantha Stevens served as a metaphor for interracial relationships. A strong argument can be made that the metaphor in the show was quite specific in representing an interfaith Jewish marriage.
Historian Jonathan S. Z. Pollack writes "...in many ways, the show more accurately symbolizes marriages between Jews and non-Jews, especially considering the era when it was produced. In addition to a Hollywood convention that treated anti-semitism as a cover for racism, the witch characters’ ability to “pass” for mortal more closely mirrors the 'passing' issue among American Jews than it mirrors the experience of crossing the color line."
Mork & Mindy (1978-1982)
While an academic could easily use aliens coming to Earth and posing as a human as a metaphor for immigrants, that would perhaps be reading far too much into classic Robin Williams sitcom Mork & Mindy a little too much. Sometimes a spade is a spade. Here, the show was about nothing but culture differences as the hyperactive alien Mork exhibited all sorts of odd behaviour that would otherwise be accepted from his home planet Ork. He found a home on Earth with the dowdy, all-American girl Mindy (Pam Dawber).
It may have been love, it may have been biological desire, or, most likely, it may have been sitcom plotting contrivance, but eventually Mork married Mindy with the two later becoming parents. Mork and Mindy was proof that two people with very little cultural middle-ground can find a life together.
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SBS are looking for couples who come from different cultural backgrounds who are getting married before the end of March 2017 for a new documentary series. If you are interested in hearing more about the show and getting involved, please register at https://weddings.castasugar.com