The Tropes That Have Aged Poorly in Sitcoms From The 1990s and 2000s

A room full of old school, vintage televisions, most of them on
Photo by Nabil Saleh on Unsplash

Upon reflection some tv shows and movies of "a certain time" don't hold up to scrutiny.

And there are reasons.

We've grown A LOT as a society and that means the art reflecting it has evolved too.

This can make us torn between where we are as people and the pull of our nostalgia.

It doesn't mean we can't watch but it's all through a new lens.

Redditor Fracassi_Fanboy wanted to discuss the comedy shows of the past and the parts of their stories that can make us cringe. So they asked everyone:

"What's a common element from 90s or 00s sitcoms that has aged poorly?"

For me so much of it is production quality.

Good Lord we have come a long way,.

No $$$ Woes

sex and the city friendship GIFGiphy

"People living far beyond their means."


"Sex And The City comes into my mind."


"Everyone but Carrie was suppose to be wealthy in that show."



"Clip shows. I am doing a binge on Family Ties currently and they have about one clip show per year. Same premise every time: a visitor arrives and the family reminisces about previous episode."

"I hated these back then, and I completely skip them in the re-watch now."


"Clip shows are just a remnant of another era. People didn't regularly tape or rewatch shows that weren't in reruns, so they were a chance to revisit a pivotal scene or funny moment."

"Sometimes they were used to remind viewers of older plot points before they were brought up again. Sometimes episode production was delayed and they needed to put together an episode quickly/cheaply, or a show was nearing the end of its run and they wanted additional episodes for syndication."


Intimacy Issues

"Sex being portrayed as a currency the wife doles out when she needs something from the husband or to reward him for obeying her."


"I wonder how much of this was pure tv show fiction and how much actually reflected peoples sex lives at the time because of how women's sexuality was handled back then?"

"Like I’m married now and my wife is nothing like these tv characters who apparently would opt out of ever having sex if possible. But maybe if she was born a few decades earlier she would’ve been raised to be ashamed of her own feelings and actually not enjoy sex. Who knows."


Beauty Standards

"The 'ugly' years for the gorgeous main character are usually just the actor in a fat suit and fake braces. Bonus points for glasses."


"Shows will still do this with the 'ugly' or 'nerdy' characters who are still crazy good looking. Elena in 'One Day at a Time' is a beautiful woman, but ya know, glasses and a pony tail."


"New Girl did a very poor job of trying to make Zooey friggin' Deschanel 'nerdy' because she has glasses and dresses 'quirky.'"

"Her glasses don’t even have lenses in them after the first couple episodes, because they wanted to show off her giant Bambi eyes."


Space Issues

Classic Film Room GIF by Warner ArchiveGiphy

"I don’t know if this fits into this category but... their nice bedrooms!! The kids rooms are always HUGE! And so greatly decorated. I used to draw floor plans for my dream room at age 6! Lol."


"Mostly this is because they have to have room for the cameras of course."


Everybody's homes were really spacious. It's odd.

Not in NYC

Season 3 Victory Dance GIF by FriendsGiphy

“'Broke' characters or middle-class ones having really nice homes/apartments/being clearly comfortable."


Malcolm in the Middle managed this the best. Them not having any money was a pretty critical component of the show, even when it wasn't part of the plot."



"The incompetent dad. The dad is always portrayed as an idiot that can't do anything without the wife telling him how."


"That's because most family sitcoms in the 1980s-2000s were set up as a star vehicle for the comedian playing the dad. And "goofy idiot" is an easy sell for laughs. Ray Romano and Tim Allen and Jim Belushi and Kevin James (just as a small example) already had established comic personas as brash buffoons, and their sitcoms were designed to showcase them."

"The wife characters were there to be foils for the husband's hijinks, just beautiful plot devices for the most part."

"Just like how on I Love Lucy, Lucy was the fumbling buffoon who made everything spiral out of control and Ricky was there to pick up the pieces- the show was designed to showcase her. And why in Roseanne, Roseanne was far more likely to f**k up and have to learn a lesson while Dan said 'I told you so.'"

"The show was based on Roseanne' self-deprecating comedy. Or why Fran Fine is constantly making insane choices and misunderstanding things, but Mr. Sheffield stays cool and collected- the show was called The Nanny, not The Rich Widower."


Smile More

"The uptight, joyless mother."


"Smart, patient, gorgeous, and perfect wife with lazy, stupid, and fat husband. (Marge and Homer, King of Queens, Everybody Loves Raymond, Tim Allen had two in Jill and his work husband Al)."


The Worst

"Everybody Loves Raymond was every single thing that's wrong with that era of sitcom. Every. Single. Thing."


"That show makes me rage. Justice for Debra!"


"I remember seeing a comment about this show recently that brought up the interesting point how everyone on Ray's side of the family was the problem (not just the mother) and that Debra was a saint for putting up with them lol."



"The playboy character who makes elaborate schemes to get with women."


"I think I saw a blog one time that described how several of Barney Stinson’s schemes to get laid qualified as sex crimes."


"I got into a discussion with some friends about creepy womanizers in sitcoms, mostly who was worse, Barney Stinson or Dennis from IASIP. I firmly believe that if Glenn Howerton Rob McElhenny played Barney everyone would look at the character way differently. But because it's NPH doing it, it's just considered wacky hijinks."


Does she Fly?

Las Vegas Blessing GIF by SpiegelworldGiphy

"I don’t know if it’s just me, but I’ve never seen a single nun in my life. But somehow they’re everywhere in old sitcoms."


Nuns are funny. Let's keep nuns and lose almost everything else.

photo of person's hand on wall
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