The 6 Rules of Giving Birth on Sitcoms (or Why I Would Still Be Pregnant if I Was on Murphy Brown)

Posted by Jessica S. Marquis

Having a baby is not easy, but having a baby in a sitcom seems like a gauntlet of slap-stickery. There are so many moments primed for canned laughter timed with delightful story clichés.

Think you’re ready to head to the hospital? Here are the six guidelines from our sitcom playbook outlining how to properly deliver your precious new plot point.

6. Have your water break at a very public time, and then have that baby! Let us set the stage: The mom-to-be should be doing something ironic or inconvenient or, preferably, both. All of a sudden – uh oh! – she looks down at an unseen but heavily-foleyed waterfall gushing from between her legs. (Note: This rule alone would have disqualified me because, like many women, my water did not break on its own.
In sitcom world, I would still be 40-weeks pregnant, sitting on antique lace in a fancy tea room discussing militant feminism.) In the land of scripted television, this moment means the baby’s arrival is imminent, so panic follows, along with #5: Embark on a high-speed hospital transport. Unless you’re Daphne on Frasier, who went from water breakage to baby crowning so fast the cast just stayed in the vet office and saved money on a scene change.
5. Embark on a high-speed hospital transport. Women’s labors on TV are usually a fraction of the length of those of their real-life counterparts, so, when it comes to the car ride, Audubon-worthy speeds must be employed. This leads to the following sub-rule: If you don’t encounter an entertaining obstacle course outside the vehicle, raise the stakes by delivering the baby in the car.
Blossom acted as a vehicular OB/GYN on Blossom, and a combo of this rule occurred on Everybody Loves Raymond, when the baby almost arrived in Robert’s police car on the wacky way to the hospital.
4. Engage in hilarious Lamaze breathing exercises. According to the wisdom of the writers’ room, every pregnant couple on TV needs to know the “hoo hoo hoo hee hee hee” breathing pattern that will magically invoke a newborn. Often, an entire episode has been devoted earlier in the season to one of these classes.
Alex P. Keaton coached a Lamaze class on Family Ties; Will picked up a date at the class he attended as a surrogate for his Uncle Phil on Fresh Prince of Bel Air. So when it comes time to breathe, you can bet the setting is ripe for hyperventilation and other hijinx-filled oxygen antics. What kinds of antics?
Well, Perfect Strangers had Larry getting the thinned air squeezed out of him in a hot air balloon while coaching Jen through her breathing! Yes, antics indeed.
Even Lamaze has removed themselves from the tiredness of this plot device: They now state on their website, “‘Breathing’ is no longer the hallmark of Lamaze.” But it is still the hallmark of hilarity.
3. Let everyone into the delivery room. Sitcoms have determined that privacy is overrated when it comes to this intimate moment in a woman’s life. That is why the delivery room door seems to be a swinging saloon door.
Dharma & Greg featured Greg delivering coffee to the many birth attendees while multiple arguments carried on around the laboring mama.
On Mad About You, Jamie’s sister opened the delivery room door right as the baby was crowning, then promptly retreated.
And on Full House, Danny interviewed the laboring and belabored Becky as she camped in her bed between contractions. In this wonderful clip – available only in Spanish for some reason – all three of the men of the [full] house have been granted permission to hang out in her room as she approaches the pushing stage, hair and makeup still intact.
2. Curse out all of mankind, emphasis on the “man”. He got you into this mess, so let him know it. If Murphy Brown can do it, so can you! (But perhaps not quite as eloquently, as Candice Bergen won an Emmy for her performance in that episode.) To make this an even more poignant birthing experience, accompany the four-letter words with a goodly amount of screaming and eye bulges.
1. Have the baby in an elevator. If you get on an elevator with a pregnant woman, you’d better be prepared for a long ride. At least, that’s what this video seems to indicate, as Doogie Howser, the Saved by the Bell crew, and even Archie Bunker help welcome little bundles of joy into confined spaces in this ode to the ultimate sitcom-birth situation. We’re not sure what’s more amazing: That the babies arrive clean and a month old, or that the cast can tell the sex of the baby based on its intercom cry.
Did we miss any sitcom baby delivery rules? Have any favorite shows where you saw our rules in action? Share them in the comments below.
Jessica S. Marquis is the author of Raising Unicorns: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Starting and Running a Successful – and Magical! – Unicorn Farm (Adams Media). She blogs at Unicornomics and spends the rest of her time in Phoenix with her husband and daughter.