Video: Not Playing It for Laughs

From AIDS to the homeless, sitcoms take a turn for the gloomy

An elderly landlady is brutally murdered in her San Francisco apartment by an intruder. A man who may have been drunk at the wheel is killed when his truck swerves off the road and tumbles over a bridge. One character dies of AIDS, another is disabled by Alzheimer's disease, and a family watches in horror as their house goes up in flames. Typical scenes from a trouble-filled TV fall? Yes, but there is something different about this litany of prime-time woes. These are the comedies, folks.

Sitcoms are trying to make you cry until you laugh this season. A new term...