The Sitcom Trope That Makes No Sense But Every Show Does It

By Robert Scucci | Published

For the sake of convenience and continuity, every single sitcom somehow has a soundproof kitchen that’s seemingly located in another dimension where guests can’t hear conversations across an open floor plan. On a technical level, this trope makes sense because erecting an entirely new set for secret conversations to take place would prove to be a cumbersome ordeal. But how much disbelief are we supposed to suspend when sitcom characters like Frasier Crane talk loudly about their guests who are clearly within earshot? 

Magically Sound Proof Kitchens

The only sitcom in recent memory that actually acknowledged this trope during its run was How I Met Your Mother. In the episode entitled “Okay Awesome,” Marshall and Lily are frustrated when they invite their new boring friends, Claire and Austin, over for a wine-tasting party. When Marshall steps into the kitchen to air his grievances about Claire and Austin, it’s revealed that Claire is standing right behind him, having heard everything. 

Used Even When There’s No Point

Even then, it’s implied that if Claire didn’t breach the kitchen’s threshold, Marshall would have gotten away with his mean-spirited jabs about Claire and Austin’s 30-year fixed mortgage and ultrasound photos. Given how the episode concludes with Marshall and Lily jumping out of their bathroom window to meet up with the rest of the gang at the club, “Okay Awesome” didn’t need to lean into the soundproof sitcom kitchen trope because it’s not like they were trying to save face in the first place.

Pokes Fun At The Concept

From this point forward, we never see Claire or Austin in any significant capacity again, so who cares if their feelings get hurt over some critical commentary when their hosts rudely leave their own home to get away from them anyway? 

What’s more, it would have been funnier if Claire and Austin overheard the conversation from where they were sitting because it would have led to a more awkward conversation in a later scene.

I’m willing to forgive How I Met Your Mother because it at least attempts to poke fun at the concept of sound segregation in sitcoms.

Frasier Uses It Too

But I can’t say the same thing about Frasier Crane, who often has crucial conversations in his kitchen with his booming baritone voice while his guests are sitting 10 feet away in the living area. One of the most egregious examples of the soundproof sitcom kitchen trope in Frasier can be found in “Daphne Dates A Niles Doppelganger,” in which Niles has a complete meltdown over the fact that he hesitated to tell Daphne his true feelings for her, only for her to start dating his exact carbon copy. While it’s implied that conversations within the confines of Frasier’s kitchen can’t be heard elsewhere, Frasier clearly hears Niles accidentally dropping and breaking his antique coffee cup from the kitchen while mingling with his guests. 

The Rare Exception

If sitcoms are going to use this trope, they should at least be consistent. The kitchen can’t only be soundproof when it’s convenient, but it can also be used for a sound gag across the same amount of square footage to take place moments later. At least in sitcoms like Seinfeld and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, everybody is actively plotting against one another, so the trope does, in fact, work in this context because everybody’s intentions are out in the open.