22 minutes

They say that laughter is the best medicine. It’s true.

For the past three years, I’ve lived my life nearly TV-free. The combination of  a very uncomfortable living room (it has no window) and sharing a flat with a dude who actually don’t mind sitting in said living room with his girlfriend nearly everynight left me no reason to invest in a proper TV or cable channels.

It was a big lifestyle change–television was a big part of my life before I moved to Hong Kong. I went from watching at least 2-4 hours of television a day throughout most of my teens and early 20s to watching maybe thirty minutes per week the last three years.

Recently, I moved to a new flat and, for the first time in my Hong Kong-stint, I have a proper living room. I immediately invested in a HD TV to go with some legit cable channels. Now, my life resembles normal people again–I come home, and instead of going into the room, I turn on the TV and sit on the couch. Life in HK is still hectic and busy, so instead of trying to chase real TV shows with storylines, I watch old sitcoms.

Sitcoms are fun. You don’t have to chase because each episode is self-contained. You don’t have to think too much because these situation comedies generally do not have very complicated storylines. It’s television entertainment in lighter doses.

What makes sitcoms great is you don’t have to think. You can have it on in the background and do other things–check email, flip through a mag, eat–without worrying about missing too much. But don’t think a sitcom must be fluff, or that it can’t be taken seriously when compared to the hourlong dramas. When done right, a sitcom can elicit the same emotions a good movie or drama series can–Will Smith’s teary “why doesn’t he want me?” speech after being abandoned by his father a second time in Fresh Prince of Bel Air comes to mind. The iconic characters spawned out of a sitcom can take on any iconic characters of a film and hold their own (Al Bundy would kick any movie character’s ass save for John McClane).

What really separates sitcoms from everything else is the laugh track. A few years ago, when My Name is Earl, The Office, and 30 Rock–shows that were in traditional sitcom mode but without laugh tracks–started gaining popularity, people said laugh tracks were dated and were on the way out. Who needs to be told when to laugh, right?

Well, I don’t know if laugh tracks are on the way out because I’m out of the loop (haven’t watched TV in three years, remember?), but I love them because it’s great to hear laughter.

When I come home from a tiring and stressful day at work, I like to turn on the TV, turn it to a sitcom and just..relax. I may not be necessarily watching, and most of the time I’m not, given all the errands that I gotta do when I get home, but it’s nice to hear laughter. Even canned ones. It’s almost therapeutic in a way… I can’t say how much more I enjoy my nights now that I come home and can have a sitcom running in the background instead of the way I lived last three years.

There is a time for drama. Just not during that 15-30 minute stretch when I get home and just want to hear some TV noise while I change into my underwear.

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