One reason TV and the movies distort life is that many of those who make the films and sitcoms are out of touch with the fulness of the truth. There are a few things I learned very early in my career as a television critic: We were interviewing the producer of a new television series, a program featuring a tempestuous romance between a slightly chubby, gray-haired, grandfatherly detective and a gorgeous twenty-year-old model. One of the writers asked if there was a reason that several programs with similar premises were being previewed for the press.
Two, maybe three, kids of varying ages. They live in a suburban house together. Sometimes, mom does too. Their lives revolve around school and work, but they take place mostly in the shared domestic spaces of the house: What to make then of the sudden, if still quiet, resurgence of the genre?
If the cultural role the family sitcom plays is that of a mirror — we seek and create shows that represent who we think we are — then it seems as good a time to crunch numbers.
What kind of family have these sitcoms constructed over the years? The data backs up what a glancing impression would indicate: The family sitcom is a genre that almost exclusively represents a model suburban two-parent household with 2.
From glaring racial disparities to an almost exclusive focus on two-parent households, the contemporary family sitcom seems beholden to the " family values " that so defined the Reagan administration — the last time the genre was at the forefront of American culture.
An established genre for over six decades, the family sitcom emerged as a prime example of post-war affluent American society. They had something for everyone. In a television landscape with limited choices, shows that aimed for broad appeal were king.
Inadvertently then, the family sitcom was both a hook and a mirror. Dad, mom and children each latched on to different characters on screen, identification being one of the earliest but most enduring ways in which viewers and producers alike understood the new homebound technology.
But as American demographics and family structures have been changing, why has the family sitcom remained so woefully limited in the types of families it depicts?
In the season, 14 of the top 50 Nielsen-rated shows were family sitcoms, with Roseanne and The Cosby Show topping the list. That was the same season that saw the premiere of perhaps the most successful family sitcom of the past three decades: Modern Family, widely heralded as a return to form for family sitcoms, is the highest-ranking one at number 17, followed at numbers 27 and 28 by a pair of CBS comedies Two and a Half Men and Mom that are modern reworkings of the genre.
By the s, reality TV shows about families — like the Osbournesthe Gosselinsthe Duggars and the Kardashians — offered more accurate portrayals because they were real families. From a cultural point of view, the changing demographics of the American family perhaps made the cookie-cutter suburban families whose spacious living rooms were host to kooky plot lines about boyfriends and proms feel outdated.
Nontraditional or broken families seemed to call for a different genre. Despite prominent exceptions, the family sitcom remains white and, more strikingly, ethnically homogenous. In the s and s, when the genre first came to be at the forefront of American culture, the families depicted were "typical" suburban families, then still a novel though increasingly more common concept.
Suburbia, emerging as the main symbol of a prospering post-war economy, became in itself an aspirational model for the American people.
Leave It to Beaver, the pinnacle for the family sitcom, also symbolizes the mid-century American suburban family.
The picket-fenced house, spacious living room and hidden-from-view bedrooms upstairs are stalwarts of the family sitcom. Father Ward Cleaver, the son of farmers, is employed in a white-collar job, while his wife is a full-time homemaker.
The Cleavers are, in essence, the American dream of upward mobility incarnate.The experience taught me an important lesson: “reel” life (the world as it is reflected on TV and movie screens) often bears only a passing resemblance to real life (the world most of us live in)—especially when we are trying to live within a gospel framework.
Diving into someone else’s life for half an hour can provoke a range of emotions and experiences that the daily grind fails to deliver.
We witness a world full of passionate embraces, cunning deception and characters teetering on the brink of radical change or chaos. As early as , television families have depicted not only the way we live today, but also the way we ought to live (Tueth, ).
Hence, television has continued to present comedies about family life that ranges from the didactic model of domestic conventionalist and gradually to non-conventionalist ways of life.
The TGIF lineup was the last dying breath of family sitcoms that targeted families who had nothing better to do on Friday night than watch TV together before the Internet offered way better alternatives. Television's "modern" families are not as new as they appear: The nuclear family remains the norm.
Nontraditional families: While the mockumentary style and gay family unit made Modern Family feel contemporary, it was pretty much an old formula packaged anew. Even as it depicted three different households, it still maintained the most traditional of all family models: the two-parent household.
The Comparison of the TV family to the everyday real life family can take many avenues to explore, but I'll try to keep it as basic as possible. First I'll break down the animated TV family "The Simpsons", and then I'll break down a real life middle class family that I know all to.