Standardized Sitcom Housing
No matter what a Dom Com
is about, viewers will have very little trouble getting into the house. In fact, most will know it like the back of their hand.
No, they haven't seen it before, but they're intimately familiar with it because it's Standardized Sitcom Housing.
The standard house in TV land is almost always two stories, sometimes with an attic and/or a basement. On the first floor is the living room and the kitchen. No matter the context (what period the house is from etc), it's often built open-plan, so there's usually no separation between the two rooms other than perhaps a breakfast bar or cooking island.
If there's a dining room, it's just another extension of the kitchen-living room zone, a dining table off by itself on one side, with maybe a chandelier hanging over it. The front door is almost always stage left and, unlike the majority of front doors (unless it's an apartment), opens directly into the living room/kitchen, with no hallway
(see this explanation for why
) If the show spends time in two different houses/apartments, the second will usually have the front door on the opposite side, to make it more distinct from the first. Anyway, the door is almost never upstage, which is reserved for staircases and/or big picture windows that reveal obscuring bushes and painted backdrops. Staircases always slope down to the front door. If there is a basement, it always opens into the kitchen, usually parallel to the staircase.
On the second floor are all the bedrooms and the only bathroom in the house (if that
) or at least the only one with a working shower. The basement is for the laundry (and the pot smoking if you're in the '90s vision of the '70s
This is true of most any house in TV land, no matter how the house looks on the outside. Often the outside doesn't bear any resemblance to the inside, with different arrangements of windows and doors. Sometimes the house will have way more rooms inside
than would be plausible for a house the same size as the one used for outdoor and establishing shots.
A variation of this is the smaller Standardized Sitcom Apartment. It usually consists of a living room, a kitchen, two rooms opening from the living room and a bathroom. The front door opens directly to the living room which has The Couch
, a small table, the TV and usually enough space behind the couch for some working space. The kitchen is usually open-plan in front of the couch so it isn't seen in the usual couch-shots. Due to size-constraints, they don't have a dining table or if they have one, it's rather small. The fire ladder can frequently be accessed through the windows, sometimes with access to the roof.
At this point the familiarity of the layout may be a useful tool to acclimate new viewers, but it would have originated (and continues to flourish) as a side-effect of the multiple-camera system
. One-camera shows are free to avoid this layout, although some of the elements might still be useful for staging (with a front door opening into the living room, for example, a character (or vehicle
) is able to fully interact with the inhabitants as soon as he's entered — characters also won't have to leave the scene if they're letting him in).
Can cause Values Dissonance
(in an Informed Ability
way) to viewers who live in areas where two-storey houses are common only among the rich. The house looks like it belongs to a rich family, but the people living in it are supposedly not... (This often overlaps with Friends Rent Control
See also Living in a Furniture Store
For the enlightenment of any spatially confused tropers, stage left is to the audience's right (i.e. to the actors' left as they face the audience) while stage right is to the audience's left. Also, upstage is away from and downstage is toward the audience. So now you know.
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- Boy Meets World
- Family Matters: At stage left was the living room, which included a stairway at the left. Upstairs were four bedrooms: The master bedroom, separates bedroom for Eddie and Laura (although it is speculated Judy shared with Laura when she was part of the show), and a bedroom for Rachel (this later became Richie and still later 3J's room). Back downstairs was the bedroom for Mother Winslow and a bathroom. At stage right was the kitchen, with small pantry/foyer at the back and a back stairway. The front door opened into the living room, while the back door led to the garage and alley.
- The Hogan Family: Nearly identical to Family Matters; both sitcoms were produced by Miller-Boyett.
- Step by Step: Similar to Family Matters, although not identical. Like its sister show, the front door opened to the living room, with the back door opening into the kitchen/dining area. However, the kitchen is in the center of the stage, while stage right is Carol's beauty salon (early seasons) or J.T.'s apartment (in later seasons). Upstairs were at least four bedrooms: One for the boys, one for the girls and the master bedroom; the fourth was likely a spare, until Lily was born.
- Bewitched averted this. The front door was stage right with a foyer, the stairs descended into the middle of the main room, dividing the living room from the dining room, and the kitchen was a separate room (with shutters dividing the kitchen from the dining room). A hallway leading out of the left hand side of the foyer led to Darren's study/home office, a side door to the house and a second door into the kitchen. The living room was off the right hand side of foyer and had large glass doors along the back wall that opened onto a patio. There was also a half-bath downstairs.
- Home Improvement is one of the most notable switch-ups in the expected floorplan, the front door was at the back of the set with the kitchen and living room merged at the front, with the back door at stage left, connecting to a sideyard which is the location for scenes with Wilson. This accommodated a door on stage right leading to the garage which would also appear as a set. The neighborhood seems to be structured so that there is a back alley used to access the garage from the back of the house.
- Also interesting is that there is a column blocking the the stairs and most of the front door from the audience POV, and often there are scenes taking place in that foyer. When they got a piano they placed it in that back corner.
- The Brady Bunch: The front door was at the center of the stage, with the living and dining rooms merged immediately ahead of the door (as one were to walk into the house), the staircase to the right of the living room (accessible after having to walk around an entry area half-wall), the kitchen immediately ahead of the living-dining area, and the family/rompus room (also the alternate entry for the family) above that. To the right of the door (from the vantage point of the viewer) was Mike's den/work study. Behind the kitchen was the foyer, which contained the washer-dryer and the entry to Alice's (rarely seen) bedroom. Upstairs were three bedrooms and the walk-in linen closet. From the top of the stairs, one passed the boys' room, the girls' room (with bathroom in between); across the hall was the master bedroom, with a master bath. Above all of that was the attic, converted (for the final season) into Greg's room.
- All in the Family/Archie Bunker's Place: A simple two-room house downstairs. The front door opened into the living room (stage right, to the audience's vantage point), with a staircase at the top of the stage to the audience's vantage point and the dining area at the end of the living room. Behind the living room (or stage left, as viewers can see it) is the kitchen. There is a back door, which opens into the alley, where presumably there is the garage. (Although no mention of a car is ever made; in fact, Archie is known to borrow vehicles for personal use.) Upstairs is the bathroom and two bedrooms; presumably to the left (from the staircase) is Mike and Gloria's room (this later was Stephanie's room) and Archie and Edith's room. Below the staircase to go upstairs is the staircase for the basement.
- Norwegian sitcoms more often than not have the front door at stage right. Notable exception is At Martin's, where the front door was in the back, right next to the stairs. Still opened right into the living room, though.
- The Cosby Show separates the kitchen from the living room with an actual wall and door, but the dining room is a room "behind" the kitchen. There's a smaller, more commonly-used table in the kitchen.
- Additionally, the front door is on the right from the audience's perspective. There is a left-side "back door" in the kitchen, with the dining room door upstage. This almost results in a Justified Trope, as the Huxtable residence is shown to be a Brownstone walk up, so it is not unreasonable that the front door would not be on the lengthier upstage wall. Strangely, said wall does have a window, despite sharing a wall with the building next door.
- Peter (then Spinner's) Loft in Degrassi qualifies, it has a large living room - kitchen area downstairs, and up a small staircase is a bedroom area. Earlier seasons if we saw more than just a kid's bedroom the house/apartment would fit.
- One of the biggest stylistic differences among incarnations of the Degrassi franchise are the houses. The Kids of Degrassi Street was shot largely on-location in the titular neighborhood which consists of pre-WW2 closely-spaced/small-footprint multistory houses; Degrassi Junior High was shot on location in more suburban environs (probably built in the '50s/60s); The Next Generation is mostly made on a backlot and the older-style houses are back.
- Drake & Josh and iCarly almost fit the description word for word. They both subvert it a little, though. Drake and Josh often had the characters in their room and used the kitchen less often, and iCarly has much of the show take place in the room where they shoot their webshow. Spencer's bedroom, while never seen, is on the bottom floor, as is the bathroom.
- At one point we do see Spencer's bedroom, which looks the same as the studio, same with Carly's room before its redesign.
- Everybody Loves Raymond: Both houses have the main entrance on stage right. However, there is also a back entrances on stage left that is often used.
- Full House
- The Banks household of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air definitely qualifies— although their formal front door is stage left and offscreen, family members more frequently enter the house through the kitchen (in the version of the house's layout seen from season 2 forward). If they have guests, Geoffrey is there to answer the door for them and can leave the scene to do so. There was also a set of not-too-often used doors upstage in the living room.
- Season one was unusual as there are very few similarities between the two different sets, yet are mentioned to be the same house. The stage-left front door was used more often and shown a few times, and the stairs were upstage in the small hallway the front door was in. In the second set, the stairs were upstage-right in the living room. The kitchens were similar, but seemed to have been inverted, direction-wise. The original kitchen was smaller, but the backdoor is in pretty much the same place. The kitchen can be justified with an actual renovation.
- An odd subversion in the case of the Banks house was that, while most versions of this house are much larger than you'd expect the family to inhabit given their supposed income, the Banks' home had a surprisingly small floor area, at least in the lounge, given the apparent size of the house in exterior shots. Maybe they had other rooms that you saw less, but...
- Subverted on The George Lopez Show: the family has the usual kitchen/living room setup, but the vast majority of the action takes place in the kitchen or backyard.
- The house on The Golden Girls differs slightly from the standard sit com house where all the rooms are on the same floor with a large living room area connected to the front door with a patio area beyond and at the other side a separate open plan kitchen and dining area, the 4 bedrooms which sometimes all seemed to have their own bathrooms were up a very short hallway from the living room. Plus the outside of the house did not match the interior at all.
- Growing Pains
- Hannah Montana
- When Happy Days began as a single camera show, the Cunningham's house had a normal looking layout. After the first two seasons, the show was filmed by three cameras in front of a live studio audience. The Cunningham house set was changed to the exemplar Standardized Sitcom Housing. It's front door opened into the open space of the living room and the dining room, which was separate in the old house became part of the living area. When you look at the layout it makes no sense with the outside shown in exterior shots. The living room door and the kitchen and its door are on the same side!
- Hey Dad..!, by contrast, is set in what appears to be a realistic Australian house. Certainly, most Australian houses will have a separate lounge room (or living room) and kitchen, and many lounge rooms will have more than one comfy chair.
- The Kelly residence also varied in that the home office was at the front of the house, putting the front door towards the center.
- The same is true of 'Kingswood Country' where the front door opens into the living room, the kitchen is separate and the back door (used at least as often as the front door) opens into the kitchen.
- 'Mother and Son' also had the kitchen separated from the living room by stained glass doors.
- Livable attics and basements are rare in Australian houses too.
- Assuming the Australia house even has a basement — a rare thing. The Queenslander style house will frequently have enough space beneath for a de facto basement, but that space is usually taken up by hordes of spiders and snakes.
- The house on The King of Queens partially averts this by being on stage right, but they use the back door (stage left into the kitchen) as often as they do the front. The kitchen and living room have a great deal of access between them, however, and the stairs do slant down toward the door.
- Living Single: Entrance stage right for both the girls' and boys' apartment. The door into the girls' kitchen is occasionally used, and there are frequently scenes in the entrance hall of their apartment building.
- Averted in Malcolm in the Middle as it was shot in an actual house. It's tiny, and the kids all share one room.
- The same applied for UK soap opera Brookside, which was filmed on a real cul-de-sac on a housing estate, using a number of houses for filming while others held production offices, dressing rooms, and so on.
- Justified in Coronation Street (where the exteriors of the houses are permanent buildings specially created at Granada Stuidos, but the interiors are filmed elsewhere on multi-camera sets)- terraced houses of that vintage often were laid out much like this (front door opens directly onto sitting room, stairs run down to face front door, small kitchen accessed through sitting room) to make them as compact as possible.
- Married... with Children - in fact, the layout of the Bundy house was overall very similar to the Bunker house, with a couch in place of Archie and Edith's chairs.
- The Harpers' house on Mamas Family, more or less. The living room and dining area are one big room, with the kitchen separated by a wall. However, there is a downstairs bathroom, behind the living room. All the bedrooms are upstairs (except Vint and Naomi's, which is in the basement). Fans have also noticed a continuity error within dialogue that seems to point to one of the bedrooms "disappearing" when the show switched from network to first-run syndication. Since the basement is Vint and Naomi's room, it isn't for laundry in this case; the laundry room is a little area off the kitchen, between the back door and basement door. Also unique are the stairs: instead of a single open staircase like in most sitcoms, it's an L-shaped staircase. The few stairs that we see lead away from the audience up to a landing; the remaining stairs are behind the back wall and never seen.
- The Dunphys' house on Modern Family, the staris face the door directly and are unusally close to it alothough it's notable that they do have an actual hallway that continues on down to the kitchen or has a door that leads to the living room.
- My Wife and Kids
- The Sheffield household in The Nanny followed the format to a certain extent, but was justifiably far larger. People entered stage-right into a reception area with a hall and stairs leading to other parts of the house (and a bathroom under the stairs), then travelling right were the lounge/sitting area, a separate dining room, and a separate kitchen. Max and CC's office was behind these somewhere. Upstairs were the bedrooms and bathrooms. There was also a large but seldom-seen basement/wine cellar which Fran and CC locked themselves in at one point.
- Sylvia and Morty's apartment fit the sitcom standard of lounge-kitchen, and was realistically small.
- NewsRadio has this in an OFFICE: The elevator's on the stage right (though off-stage), the main office space is in the center. The meeting table (analogous with a sitcom house dining table) is off to the side in the main room. There's Dave's office (analogous with a study) on the right opposite the entrance. And characters off to do less-relevant tasks take the stairs in the back up to the booth (analogous to going up to bedrooms), though they remain visible, behind soundproof glass. The kitchen's the only out-of-place location, it is next to the entrance and behind a wall - though it has windows with venetian blinds.
- The Royle Family has a completely realistically laid out house. Narrow hallway, small living room, kitchen and dining room etc., none of which conforms to sitcom geography.
- This house is a little unusual because: The hall to the parents' room is made of four arches, a square, that breaks up the space between the living room and kitchen; the parents' room and bathroom are on the bottom floor; the kitchen is tilted, with one wall — the one with the open pantry — foreshortened and at an angle to give the kitchen an illusion of depth. Logically, it's impossible to create a floorplan of the house as it's shown.
- Samson En Gert had a front door on stage right and a door to a kitchen on stage left, with a door to a rarely used basement in the centre. Sometimes forays were made outside to the local town hall, a grocery store, or a barber shop.
- The Baxter residence in That's So Raven is uncannily similar to the Tanner residence in Full House, and virtually identical to the Winslow residence in Family Matters. (The actor who played 3J on FM is one of Raven's Power Trio).
- Who's the Boss? - this house was made to have a more-than-passing resemblance to the one in the last season of I Love Lucy.
- Working Class - One of the few sitcoms where the kitchen and the living room are fully separate.
- ALF - Also one of the few sitcoms that has the kitchen and the living room separate, though in this case there is a window between the two. This of course was for both plot convenience and shooting convieniece; when company came over Alf would hide in the kitchen, and the window made for convenient operation of the Alf puppet.
- "A.N.T. Farm" is this although the front door is stage right. With the show set in San Francisco, the outside of the house is similar to the Tanner residence, also in the same city.
- Good Luck Charlie is almost entirely this floor plan except for the wall between the living and kitchen and the angle of stairs.
- Melissa And Joey plays with the layout a little bit. Joey lives in the basement, the door visible from kitchen, and a few scenes have taken place in the dining room, which is location behind the kitchen and the living room. And yes, there is a door connecting the kitchen to the living room.
- Mister Rogers' Neighborhood
- One Day At A Time. Most of the action takes place in the Romano apartment.
- American Dad! plays this straight. Front door stage left, stairs upstage in the living room, kitchen stage right, back door stage right with a table in. This presumably make it easier to plan action sequences.
- Family Guy subverts this, with the kitchen/dining room through a door upstage in the living room. The exit door is stage right from the living room, and upstage left from the kitchen, and the staircase stage left from the usual shot. If it were a real sitcom, it would be an absolute pain to shoot on, because it's designed more like a, y'know, actual house.
- The Cleveland Show is set up like an actual house, which would be a pain to shoot on in live-action.
- Averted on King of the Hill as all buildings and houses are designed as they would be in real life.
- The Simpsons have a front door which opens to an entry hall facing the stairs. But since it is an animated show, the staff has more flexibility with floor design.
- The producers explicitly make the house's layout inconsistent. Even fans' best efforts have yet to produce an accurate floor plan.
- Mary Tyler Moore Show: Both of Mary Richards' apartments fit this trope. Ted Baxter's apartment (as seen in later seasons, after he married Georgette) is averted, with the front door at stage right.
- The Big Bang Theory: The individual apartments follow this fairly well, between Leonard and Sheldon's place (the main set), Penny's apartment, Raj apartment and Howards room. What is done interestingly is that Penny's apartment set is directly connected to Leonard and Sheldon set with a stairway between them, which has led to entire scenes taking place between all three divisions. In addition the stairway is lightly redecorated to represent three floors with a separate foyer and a basement laundry room, which allows the characters to have five entire floors on three sets to do a Walk and Talk using careful cuts. You can see a floor plan here. As you can see, the apartment wouldn't work in real life unless it had some weird angles outside.
- Both used and averted in Friends. The apartment which sees most of the action (which belongs to Monica pretty consistently throughout) fits this trope precisely, but a good deal of the show also takes place in the apartment across the hall, Joey's place, so the door is on the right-hand side of the screen. If the people own extraneous apartments (such as Ross, or Phoebe) their design is often more unique.
- Various locations on How I Met Your Mother. Most notably Ted's apartment, but others as well. Barney's apartment is different by having a suit room and a hallway with his porn professionally lit.
- Mad About You had the layout of a standard sitcom house, but in a New York apartment. Instead of putting the bedrooms up on a second floor, they were down a hallway at the back.
- Due to the setting (a "small" New York apartment), some of the convention is broken, even when compared to other apartment-based sitcoms. For instance, the bathroom is clearly visible from the main room (something which rarely occurs on any show). Also, the kitchen is right next to the front door, which helps shorten Kramer's frequent journeys from one to the other. This however is more common to television apartment sets, and somewhat true-to-life.
- 3rd Rock from the Sun: The Solomons' apartment fits this pretty well. Most of the apartment scenes are in the living room (no couch, but several armchairs and a TV) or the kitchen (right off of the living room). Where 3rd Rock deviates is with their bedroom arrangement: Dick's bedroom is off the living room, Sally's is a large walk-in closet which is actually inside Dick's bedroom, and Tommy's is a small alcove behind the kitchen. Harry sleeps on the back porch. Access to the roof is through the kitchen.
- Frasier had one of these, though justifiably on a grander scale than usual. The front door opens onto a very large main room, with a large couch and Martin's chair, and a small bathroom next to the door. There's a fair-sized dining table, a grand piano, and some bookshelves at the back, and beyond that the door to Daphne's room, which has its own bathroom (Fraiser originally used it for his study). Next to the table is a small kitchen for having furtive conversations in. At the back of the main room, up a step, is a large window onto a balcony, and there are more rooms off round a corner (we don't see the precise layout, but both bedrooms are very large and seem to have their own bathrooms too.)
- Three's Company: The trio's apartment fits the description to a T.