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Predictability

As the term predictability would indicate, a McDonaldized society, "...emphasizes such things as discipline, order, systemization, formalization, routine, consistency, and methodical operation. In such a society, people prefer to know what to expect in most settings and at most times (page 79)."

This has a two-fold effect. It makes the experience of the consumer the same at every location of a McDonaldized company. It also makes the work routine for the employees of that company.

Some people like this predictability, and would argue that it is a good thing, you don't have to worry about eating a bad burger. Burgers from one McDonald's to the next will taste the same. Workers, don't have to worry about thinking for themselves, they will have time to concentrate on other things, while they go through the motions of performing their jobs. But, is this predictability better? When you travel to a different area, do you want the experience to be the same? If you are in France, touring the city of Paris, do you really want to eat at McDonald's? Doesn't that detract from the whole experience of a different culture? It is true, many employees don't want to have to think while they are working, but isn't a job that is challenging better?

This predictability has spilled over into more than just jobs and food. The most popular movies out today are sequels. Sequels are great, because they are almost assured to make money for the studio, writer's don't have to work as hard, because the characters have already been developed. Consumer's love them because they also don't have to think. The moviegoer is usually familiar with the characters in the sequel and know what to expect, making the movie experience more of a passive one.

Television is even more infamous for its predictability. It has been said that there are only 40 different sitcom situations, and have been since the 1960's. These situations are used over and over again, from one sitcom to the next, without fail. Occasionally a new plot will be introduced, but next week it is back to the same old situations.

Next time you are watching your favorite sitcom, think of these ten experiences, and think to see if it is being done, or has been done on your show:

  • Sitcom family or group goes camping.
  • One member of the sitcom family or group feels unloved, or unneeded and the rest of the episode is spent convincing that person he or she is a necessary part of the family.
  • One member of the sitcom family borrows another member's car (usually child borrowing parent's) and gets into an accident with it. The person who borrowed the car tries to cover it up.
  • One cast member is accidentally labeled a genius through a computer malfunction.
  • A member of the cast is forced to get a job in a fast-food restaurant.
  • A cast member (usually the resident "nerd") gets to be the hero as a member of a sports team.
  • A female member of the cast gets pregnant. The most unlikely male cast member is forced to go to Lamaze class with her.
  • The same female cast member will eventually go to the hospital to have the baby, leading to a "zany hospital" episode, ending in a touching newborn baby scene.
  • An episode will center around a car coming through the wall of a house.
  • One of the children of the sitcom family attempts to move out on his or her own, only to find out the he or she still needs the family, and moves back home.

If you can recognize these plots from more than one sitcom, then you, hopefully, can see what is meant by the predictability of television.


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