Monday, July 12, 2021

The History of the Sitcom

Saw the first two episodes of CNN’S new docuseries, THE HISTORY OF THE SITCOM last night.  I was soooo looking forward to this.  After watching the first two all I can say is I hope it gets better.  

First off, let me acknowledge that there’s no way to do a comprehensive look at 70 years of sitcoms in eight hours (and considering all the commercials, I bet it’s more like six hours).  There will be many omissions.  Add to that, some shows will get more weight and screen time than they deserve.  That’s to be expected.  I’m sure if they had nine hours, BIG WAVE DAVE’S would have had a whole segment devoted to it.  

Another point that’s not the fault of the producers:  I found it sad seeing some of these sitcom stars from the past today.  Some did not age well.  And was I the only one saying, “bad plastic surgery,” “good plastic surgery?”

The series is broken down into general topics.  

Part One was families.  The first half walked you through the ‘50s up through more contemporary shows.  The second half could be entitled, “Look How Inclusive We Are.”  Inclusive except for Jews.  Not a single mention.  Not a frame of THE GOLDBERGS (either version) or RHODA.  

And if you want to devote a large segment of the show to African-American representation and their impact on society, how can you ignore AMOS & ANDY?  Feel free to say evolving society found it offensive and took it off the air.  But it was a very popular show in its day and featured an all African-American cast.  It's like doing a history of baseball and conveniently ignoring the 1919 Black Sox Scandal.

Part Two was about sex.  Maybe 30% on heterosexual sex, and 70% on LGBTQ sex.  Included in the heterosexual section was I DREAM OF JEANIE.  It was broken down in two categories — shows that weren’t allowed to address sex (I LOVE LUCY, THAT GIRL, etc.) and those where everybody has sex (SEX IN THE CITY, FLEABAG, GIRLS).   Gee, times have changed is the obvious conclusion.

But that section all felt like an afterthought.  The LGBTQ section took over most of the show. Yes, it was groundbreaking, and yes there are moments that helped change peoples’ opinions to become more accepting.   But there’s way more to seventy years of sex.

For starters, how about sexual tension?  How do you do an hour on sex and not even make reference to Sam & Diane in CHEERS?   Or MOONLIGHTING, or the early years of MASH?  Or TWO AND A HALF MEN?  Several classic sex farces were done to perfection on FRASIER.  And you can throw in CALIFORNICATION.  You can also go way to the ‘50s for LOVE THAT BOB and DOBIE GILLIS.   Like I said, straight sex was an afterthought.  

My point on both parts, -- they were less history lessons and more civics lessons.  

Other than Norman Lear, Steve Levitan, and Darren Starr, no writers were mentioned.  They spent a ton of time on FRESH OFF THE BOAT.  You would think it’s one of the five greatest sitcoms in history.  Who wrote it?  At one point some talking head said that black shows started finally being written by black writers.  Who?  Wouldn’t that be more informative than a fan coming up to Constance Wu (who tried desperately to get out of FRESH OFF THE BOAT) and telling her how meaningful her show was to her?   FAMILY TIES gets a nice long segment and not a word about its creator, Gary David Goldberg.  

Again, I hope the other chapters are better.  So far it's very much a documentary with an agenda.  What did you guys think?   Remember: Anonymous and Unknown comments won't be posted.  

60 comments :

Glenn said...

It's a "woke agenda" documentary, plain and simple.

Rob Greenberg said...

I had an issue with their definition of 'Sitcom.' So much time on shows like 'Transparent,' 'Girls' and 'Insecure.' 'The Good Wife' had more humor than any of these shows.

Xmastime said...

Haven't been able to watch it yet (don't have cable) but I'm *guessing* it doesn't mention Eric Monte, which is an outrage.

Covarr said...

I haven't seen it myself, but I have seen plenty of things with an agenda of some sort, and regardless of whether I agreed with that agenda, I always drew my personal "is this worth my time?" line based on how it balances that agenda against general entertainment (or in a documentary's case, informational) value.

All in the Family was a show that basically always had an agenda, but it knew first and foremost it was a sitcom, and succeeded at that. The agenda, though ever present, was never in the way of it being a good show. I find that downright commendable. MASH, same thing (with maybe a few exceptions in some of the later seasons, but they were just that: exceptions), deeply anti-war, had a lot to say, but it never got so loud about it that it failed its job of a sitcom.

Based on this review, it would seem this documentary has gotten the balance wrong. And it's not even effective; hitting people over the head with the ideas you want to push is more likely to push people away from them, entirely regardless of what those ideas are.

DanMnz said...

I didn't tune in because I knew all of this was going to happen. CNN being in charge of this was the red flag. Then seeing the picture, you see all these great shows, and then two newer ones tossed in for diversity only. The older shows were ignored for that same reason, makes zero sense. Typical agenda now a day... cherry-picking shows, and ignoring facts they should mention. BORING!!!

15-Seconds said...

Hugely disappointing. Jeffrey Tambor got 10X the screen time as Ted Danson...Most amusing part was the various ways people to say "despite the recent developments" when talking about Bill Cosby -- without actually saying what they were. I thought we were open about sex on TV now, CNN.

Don G said...

Not enough clips, very few extended groundbreaking ones, and way too many superfluous talking heads.

Masked Scheduler said...

I was interviewed for this but don't think I'm in the first two (watched the first) Biggest issue for me was I DIDN'T LAUGH ONCE. For me that's a problem when
you are doing something so audacious as THE HISTORY OF THE SITCOM. The only time a chuckled a bit was watching these "kids" who weren't born or were toddlers when most of the great comedies were part of the zeitgeist talking like "experts". That was more humorous than the clips.

Mike McCann said...

>>Other than Norman Lear, Steve Levitan, and Darren Starr, no writers were mentioned. >>

I realize that Pugh and Carrol, Paul Henning and their cohort have all passed -- as have top producers such as Sheldon Leonard and Desi Arnaz. But the art form was introduced and nurtured by their talent, as well as their peers of the 1950s and '60s.

Did the show use any archival interview to tell the stories of the creators, the talented staff that rebooted a radio concept into something very different for TV?

(Confession: I was working Sunday night and didn't have a chance to watch. Your comments are not convincing me to watch this doc "on demand.")

Carl O. said...

Overall, a disappointment.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

I watched last night as well, though I felt like there were a couple of missed opportunities for certain shows to be discussed. . . .

Like when they were talking about the influx of black families on TV as well as non-traditional family dynamics (i.e. widows, widowers, single parents, etc.) there was absolutely no mention of SANFORD AND SON (which I believe was also originally a Norman Lear production) - not only was this a black family, but Fred himself was a widower, making him a single parent to Lamont.

Not to mention when they were discussing how certain everyday subjects that were becoming more commonplace throughout the 60s and into the 70s, but were still considered too taboo for television, like divorce, there was a missed opportunity to discuss THE ODD COUPLE, since that show was rather controversial for its time - so much so that they were under a lot of network scrutiny to make sure there was never so much of an implication that Felix and Oscar might be gay, hence the mandated opening narration proclaiming, "Can two divorced men share an apartment without driving each other crazy?" (According to Garry Marshall, it was either that, or include lyrics with the theme song).

I also had no idea that Pamela Adlon - a voice actress from my childhood - now has her own live action "sitcom" . . . boy, did it look terrible. I know none of you agree with me on this and think I'm a prude for it, but in all honesty, I feel like television (not just sitcoms) have become far too comfortable discussing sex anymore, becase it seems like that's all they ever discuss - I can't think of too many shows where the characters' sex lives (or lack thereof) are not the main focus of the entire show in this day and age. And I'm talking about sexual activity in general, not sexuality or gender identity (although I have to admit, seeing Jeffrey Tambor as a woman was actually rather frightening to look at).

Other than that, I have to ask: since when are 30 ROCK, MODERN FAMILY, FRESH OFF THE BOAT, SEX IN THE CITY, and fuckin' GIRLS sitcoms?

Gary said...

I've only seen the first segment so far, and was underwhelmed. I may be biased, but if at some point they don't spend about twenty minutes on The Dick Van Dyke Show, then all their credibility is out the window.

John said...

After watching the first episode and being almost 70 years old I wasn’t sure that this “documentary” wasn’t discussing another universe. There was almost no mention of the 50’s and 60’s classics; most of the shows I remembered from the 60’s were glossed over and the 70’s shows were, for the most part MIA / KIA.

Having watched the CNN “History of Late Night” and being supremely disappointed, my hopes for this new “Documentary” were already low, but not quite as low as I felt after the episode was over. Very, very disappointed and I have canceled the DVR schedule for the remaining shows.

Michael said...

I neglected to watch or record it, and now I'm glad.

How can you discuss sex in sitcoms and not mention--and I'm with Gary, and I'm biased--Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore, both together and in their 1970s sitcoms. In the classic original, they had separate beds, but Reiner said they were the first couple who looked like they made sure to push the beds together, and I agree. In the 1970s, Van Dyke had an episode where their daughter catches him and his wife in the act, and CBS pretty much destroyed a lot of the show. I also have to cite two of my favorite all-time MTM moments:

1. Her mother is going to have dinner with Rhoda while she dines with her father. As the mother leaves, she says, "Don't forget to take your pill." Both Mary and her father say, "I won't," and he turns and stares at her, and Mary returns to tossing the salad.

2. Mary's boyfriend (Ted Bessell played him, and there's a That Girl connection for you) is getting drunk with Lou, Murray, and Ted while Mary dines with a previous flame. At one point Ted is prone across Lou and Murray and when he says it's the first time he's gotten drunk, Lou says, "In drinker's terms, tonight Ted lost his olive." Well.

Craig Russell said...

Look like you said Ken, 6 hours is impossible to cover 70 years...want a real Sitcom history documentary? Have Ken Burns do it. And put it on PBS or Netflix. No commercials, more time to deep dive.

You can compare this to an all news radio station's coverage of a Presidential Election vs. NPR. Or a usual TV Morning show story compared to CBS Sunday Morning. 6 hours =360 minutes. There have easily been more than 360 sitcoms on in TV history.

It will be interesting to see where the remaining episodes go....

Craig Russell said...

To John....the people who did the "History of Late Night" are the same that did the Sitcom History. And neither is the company that produces the great "Decades" shows for CNN..."The Sixties" and "The Seventies" are done by Tom Hanks's company with Gary Herzog. WAY better than these producers...those shows have a way different feel to them. The Sitcom History feels like a People magazine version of the history of the sitcom.

Ere I Saw Elba said...

Ken,

I'm not going to watch the series because the way you describe it, it just sounds dreadful. All Inside Hollywood and PC boilerplate and basically not a real documentary, but a bunch of bombast to appeal to simplistic and cynical woke generation politics.

Bottom line: This was created as a ratings gambit for the 18-34 demographic, not about making a serious documentary. It's the off-brand bargain bin Ken Burns.

There was a series called I LOVE THE 80s around 20 years ago that was basically the same shit--pretending to be a retrospective serious compilation show, but really just superficial Gen-X patronizing fluff.

Takeaway: Don't ask Hollywood to analyze itself. It just never works.



scottmc said...

Your opinion and the feedback from readers helped remind me of some of problems I had with the opening episodes. My first thought was did they forget who their target audience was? It is likely that the typical CNN viewer has never seen many of the shows featured.
Reducing CHEERS and NIGHT COURT to production stills in connection with Must See Thursday was an oversight. Norman Lear is essential to the topic of Sitcoms but I don't think we needed to see all three Mike's and Gloria's.
The segment devoted to SOAP confused me. One moment they seemed to praise Jody,the Billy Crystal character, and then it looked like they had objections to him. They touched on the anti-war sentiment of the early 1970's but never mentioned MASH. The part on Three's Company didn't mention that it,like All in the Family, was based on a British show. Or, that they first went to Larry Gelbart to write it. On one level, it felt like Intoduction to Sitcom 101 while also seeming like a graduate thesis on the evolution of sex and sexuality.

Jrandall said...

I recorded the episodes on DVR to watch later - but now am rethinking that plan and will probably delete them - sad that with so many years and so much material that you can still end up with such a superficial and uninspired story :-(

Joseph Scarbrough said...

@John They did spend a deal of time discussing sitcoms of the 50s like I LOVE LUCY basically setting the stage for sitcoms in the decades to come, especially when it comes to depicting a nuclear family after Little Ricky entered the picture and the Ricardos moved to the country - this lead to the discussion of how shows like LEAVE IT TO BEAVER, THE ADVENTURES OF OZZIE AND HARRIET, AND FATHER KNOWS BEST took the focus on a family and their dynamic and made it a staple of traditional domestic comedies, while shows like MY THREE SONS and BACHELOR FATHER steered into a different direction with a family dynamic that was unlike typical married with children type of dynamic.

And as for the 70s, they spend a deal of time discussing that as well, mainly how Norman Lear's shows brought in a new era of sitcoms for a variety different reasons, ranging from discussion more socially relevent issues like differences in views among family members (ALL IN THE FAMILY), women's rights (MAUDE), and, again, depicting a working class black family (GOOD TIMES). THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW was also discussed in regards to Mary Richards's dating and sex life, despite not being tied to a man.

They also further expounded on the 70s in regards to certain sitcoms putting a new spin on TV families, such as THE BRADY BUNCH bringing together a new family with a widower father with three sons, and a divorcee with three daughters; and THE PATRIDGE FAMILY showing how a single mother and her children form their own touring musical group.

As for the 60s, I agree, this era did feel a little glossed over, though I DREAM OF JEANNIE was briefly touched on during the discussion of the evolution of women's rights during that decade as well as the 70s.

Ere I Saw Elba said...

As a follow-up to my earlier comment--when I said "Hollywood" I absolutely was not referring to you personally! Love your blog and value the comments of other thoughtful people. Just a commentary on the crass entertainment parts of the industry in general.

Mitch said...

With but a few exceptions, I've rarely laughed at TV sitcoms, especially those from the 1960s onward. And I see the sitcoms from the '70s and '80s as ham-handed message shows aimed at a middle class, middle-aged middle America audience. For me -- and I'm a baby boomer -- radio sitcoms are a lot funnier. The radio versions of Jack Benny, Burns and Allen and Our Miss Brooks still make me laugh. Must have something to do with the writing and the talent.

DBenson said...

I remember when Entertainment Television (and maybe others) would do a two-hour history of "Three's Company", "Gilligan's Island" and similar shows.

There was an amusing determination to give them weight, usually with a brief montage of the Vietnam war, civil rights protests and other issues the series in question never alluded to. "It was the sixties/seventies", a serious narrator would intone, "and America needed to laugh". You were left to imagine fearless producers standing up to network executives: "As a matter of patriotism, we demand you allow us to be twenty years out of date and to never offend sponsors, prudes or bigots!"

The show's history was presented as a matter of national concern, as millions fretted over the firing of Suzanne Somers, or a Gilligan's Island reunion movie was the television event of the decade.

There would be the nostalgic cast member insisting that nobody else on television was doing pure, honest comedy in those days, with a swipe at shows that distressed people by evoking real life. Some current celebrities or demi-celebrities would assert it was a profound influence on them, sounding like improvised eulogies for somebody they'd barely heard of. And the where-are-they-now bit with former stars explaining how they turned their backs on big Hollywood movies to find themselves and/or rediscover their art in dinner theater.

Chip Keyes said...

Kudos to your readers who suggested Ken Burns would have been a far better choice for this sort of history. This was lightweight, incomprehensive and a fundamentally shallow dive. Also, however one may feel about the actual show (I thought the first few seasons were very good), to discuss family sitcoms without mentioning a monster hit like Happy Days even once is absurd.

Mike Chimeri said...

Since I don't watch CNN, or much cable news lately (FNC is my preference), I'm not surprised that this series is a woke agenda civics lecture, to borrow phrases from you and the comments. That's what most of the Netflix and HBO Max documentaries are, too. I've only seen one on HBO Max, but I rage quit watching a few on Netflix, same with preachy political stand-up specials.

I think you should make your own documentary series on the history of sitcoms. I would definitely fund it on the crowdsourcing site of your choice.

Jahn Ghalt said...

Comments on the poster only.

1) Interesting how utterly "personal" it is - as it reflects a limited personal snapshot of a Friends fandom (6 caricatures of 6 stars - 4 of them full-torso), with an general lack of actual history.

I'll offer a gentleman's bet - that the poster was "created" by someone born after 1980 - with no adult supervision.

2) It is also weighted heavily toward recent (if not mediocre) sitcoms - in this case "weighting" is by rating/viewership. Exclusions are by far more notable than the inclusions.

2A) Here are represented shows starting from the early 50s to the 80s:

50s - I Love Lucy - (2) stars
60s - I Dream of Genie, GIlliigan's Island, The Addams Family - (1) star each
70s - All in the Family, Good Times - (2) stars each
70s - MASH - (3) stars
70s - Happy Days - Da Fonz
80s - The Golden Girls - (2) stars
80s - Family Ties (really?) - (1) star
80s - The Fresh Prince (really?) - (1, 2?) star(s)
80s - ALF (WOW) - (1) creature

2B) Here are some top-of-the-head (no "research") shows NOT represented - most of these were huge, long-lived, hits:

50s - Leave it to Beaver, Ozzie and Harriet,
60s - The Dick van Dyke Show (what?), The Beverly Hillbillies, Bewitched, Green Acres,
70s - The Mary Tyler Moore Show (WHAT?!?), Sanford and Son, The Brady Bunch, The Jeffersons,
80s - Cheers (WHAT?)

3) 20 men and boys, 16 women and girls, and 1 alien represent at most 20 shows. Sgt. Pepper's front cover has nearly twice this many personages.

Whatever, the "agenda" may be, the poster fails as a 'history'.

Alan Gollom said...

totally disappointed. I felt like I was watching the politically correct History of the Sitcom. I didn't recognize many of the sitcoms that were featured.

Mike Bloodworth said...

Yet another reason not to get cable.

Everything I wanted to say has already been covered by others. I will add this, however. I am often horrified by some of the unnecessary, excessive and/or poorly executed plastic surgery on various women. (And men) Some Ken knows personally. My first reaction is usually, "What happened to your face?!!"
I would love to see someone, perhaps the "National Enquirer" take pre-mutilation photos, run them through the age progression software that they use to find missing children so we could see what these celebrities might look like if they had never had any work done. They couldn't look worse.

Speaking of sex, did they, will they discuss belly buttons? One of the greatest controversies in the history of television. Although, I might be exaggerating just a bit.

M.B.

Brian Phillips said...

FRIDAY QUESTION: Earlier in the blog, you mentioned that you and David Isaacs spoke to people that served during the Korean War to write stories for MASH. Did you or any of the writing staff interview any blind people for "Becker" storylines?

Irv said...

"The Wonder Years" slighted again.

Including "Sex" in the episode title was like the promo tease during sweeps for the 11pm newscast.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

@Ere I Saw Able You're thinking of those VH-1 retrospective shows like I LOVE THE 70S, I LOVE THE 70S: PART DEUX, I LOVE THE 80S, I LOVE THE 80S: STRIKES BACK, I LOVE THE 80S: 3D, I LOVE THE 90S, I LOVE THE HOLIDAYS, I LOVE TOYS, and others. Those weren't meant to be serious documentaries, they were celebrity commentary shows, an entirely different breed - definitely for entertainment and amusement.

Alan Christensen said...

I hope the sex episode included "The Contest" from Seinfeld!

DG said...

I don't know who "created" the poster, but it was *drawn* by the great Tom Richmond (born 1966).

Gumbo said...

I keep wishing for your blog to get better but it never does.

Pete Thompson said...

As usual, your review is SPOT ON...! I had DVR'd "The History of Late Night" a month or so ago and generally enjoyed it. But there wasn't much NEW there.

I had great expectations for this then and was underwhelmed.

Sam and Diane were in there for one memorable nat sound pop, but boy they devoted a TON of time to Ellen and Will & Grace.

Hope it gets better...like your blog, which never fails to disappoint...!!!

(Unless you're Gumbo)

Brian said...

It's bad because it's been produced and edited by people who are not fans of the history of television. They are fans of whatever's on today, plus a few of the big splashy hits from recent times. They are like network or studio executives... complete devoid of any talent, creative ability or even class. Trust me, they are all patting themselves on the back for every clip that was an obvious choice and just as proud of themselves for not allowing any clips from some of the smaller but much. more funny shows that had groundbreaking comedy and things that made people laugh out loud.

I have always believed and continue to believe that comedy is in the hands of people who don't like to laugh. Oh, they'll laugh with everyone else in a room, as long as someone else starts it... with their eyes darting around the room to see which executive above them is laughing and that is the the only meter of judgment they have about what is funny.

If someone really wanted to do a series like this right, they would have hired TV writers, both drama and comedy, the kinds of writers that you KNOW would do a great job putting together the history and taking the time to mention some smaller shows that were truly brilliant but short-lived. They'd have also asked questions of the actors from a much smarter point of view and would have drawn out truly funny and interesting stories that have not been heard before.

I feel bad for the kid's generation, born in the last 13 years or so. Comedy is going to be a lot less funny than it was for us in the 1950's, 60' and 70's. Too many people waiting to be victims and waiting to complain and call creators sexists, or insensitive, or racist or homophobic or cruel to animals or.... well, you name it. As much as I miss working in a writer's room, I would not enjoy the restrictions and sensibilities thet are being forced on writers and actors in 2021. If you want to see something funny, find a streaming service that is showing "I Love Lucy" or "Get Smart" or "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" or any of literally hundreds of shows, big hits and small hits with funny people in them and funny people who liked them. That's the future of comedy. The past. I'm glad my kid will at least have that.

Rick Whelan said...

I don't need young whipper-snapper sociologists telling me how I felt about the great sitcoms of the 1950s through the 1970s. I was there ... and I know why I fell in love with them. The only interviews I appreciated were from the people who actually created sitcoms. All of the other "experts" were like eunichs describing how it felt being at an orgy.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

@Alan Christensen Nope! In fact, you know what episode it did include? "The Outing," as an example of how the subject of homosexuality was still treated in a humorous and lighthearted manner with how Jerry and George desperately try to quell the joke Elaine started up about the two of them secretly being gay lovers.

Which, again, makes me feel like there was a wasted opportunity to discuss THE ODD COUPLE, since there was always so much panic from ABC over any inkling that may have even suggested Felix and Oscar may be gay - so much so that Tony Randall and Jack Klugman would intentionally adlib homoerotic moments during filming just to give them a little scare; there's so many outtakes and gag reels on YouTube showing them to of them faking making out, or making gay jokes, and you can just hear the audience howling with laughter. Otherwise, this, once again, is why they mandated so many changes to the show, i.e. including the opening narration explicitly mentioning Felix and Oscar were sharing an apartment because they were divorced, to establishing that they both had active dating lives (hence why The Pigeon Sisters were eventually written out of the show), while Felix still routinely tried whatever he could to get back with his ex-wife Gloria.

To that end, Jack Klugman had mentioned in interviews the irony of it all, because years later, you probably couldn't have a successful series without including at least one gay character, which brings us to another problem that wasn't really addressed in either of the parts that aired last night: how in recent years, networks have adopted an unwritten rule that a series must include at least one minority character as part of the ensemble to show diversity, and while this does have good intentions, unfortunately, more often than not, said minority character ends up becoming a token and a tool, which only serves to defeat the purpose of supposedly depicting inclusion and diversity.

Carolyn Smith said...

Of all of the CNN series' that have used television to illustrate culture, current events and news, the first two episodes of the History of the the Sitcom is by far the worst I have ever seen. The authors seems determined to make a point about the woke culture that will suit their progressive notions, no matter whether or not any such culture really appeared on mass television. This is truly terrible

Barry Traylor said...

Thanks for your review Ken now instead of watching it I shall paint a wall and watch the paint dry. Sounds like more fun.

Jim said...

Please let us know when Gumbo is your podcast guest.

Greg Ehrbar said...

Years back when retrospectives such as this were done, before video and streaming of complete series, you didn't have almost all the greatest sitcoms in history available within seconds. Any young person today who wants to get a good idea of the most notable ones can do some research with various blogs, like this one, and make up a watch list, then watch the shows for themselves. You would be surprised that some sharp young people do just that, as I read their comments all the time on various platforms and encourage them with further suggestions.

No matter what the agenda or the intentions of this documentary are, anyone with any sense will dig deeper, and others who don't have little interest to begin with. The upside is that every single example everyone has mentioned can be accessed today.

Some of us lived it, we can live it again (I sure do), others can live it for the first time, with or without a documentary, which should never be a rigid guide anyway, any more than your cousin or the guy who you say "hello" to as you pass by in the office hallway.

It's just a matter of how you want to budget your valuable time.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

Looking at that poster illustration again, I have to ask . . . why does Radar look like he's constipated and extremely pissed off about it?

Kendall Rivers said...

Oh, Thank God i'm not the only one who felt underwhelmed, Ken lol. I agree, while I did appreciate some faves like Family Ties, All In The Family, Married with Children, Good Times, Everybody Loves Raymond, I Love Lucy etc. getting some fair spotlight, how the hell do they gloss over The Jeffersons, The Honeymooners, The Golden Girls etc when talking about family sitcoms because those were great examples of unique and found family type of sitcoms and I agree about the lack of mention of sexual tension in the sex episode with Cheers, Moonlighting, Who's The Boss etc. And you'd think that a show like The Golden Girls that was revolutionary in the discussion of sex on television, especially by women of a certain age would've got wayyyy more coverage other than just the Aids episode. Then they have the nerve to barely say anything about such iconic black sitcoms like Martin, Roc, The Bernie Mac Show etc that got like what? Two second mentions. I hope they do a whole episode on classic black sitcoms or else their claim to be "woke" will be proven false. I agree that this was wayyy too focused on trying to prove how "woke" they were as well as focusing too much on modern sitcoms which are nowhere near as good or memorable as the historic sitcoms that they're supposed to be talking about. Who even watches that Better Things show? Never even heard of it. Of course The Middle, one of the few actual quality sitcoms in this era is ignored. Guess it wasn't "hip" or making them look "woke" by talking about it enough to get any love smh. Rant over lol thanks for letting me vent.

Kendall Rivers said...

@Xmastime Nope! Not him or Mike Evans the co creator of Good Times with Monte. Typical, huh?

Kevin said...

Some people actually just want to watch a sitcom to be mindlessly entertained. Some people being me. Make me laugh. That's it. You have one job. I don't need a lesson, I barely need a plot. Just make me laugh.

Ben Bragg said...

The producers should have taken the approach done by "The History of Late Night" which was a straight chronological look. Start with The Goldbergs, explain how Desi changed the format with I Love Lucy, then as you get down the road explain the changes to the sitcom that emerged due to societal trends (The flight to the suburbs, Julia, MTM, All in the Family, MASH and Vietnam, Soap, etc). Spend an hour on Lucy, two on Norman Lear. Talk about how the sitcom was dead until Cosby revitalized it. You don't have to hit me up front with your agenda.

Mike Doran said...

Because of typical scheduling mischief by CNN, I haven't yet seen the opening of The History Of Sitcoms.
Sight unseen, this looks like Agendapalooza - but I am keeping an open mind, sort of.

That said, Ken, I'd like to propose a Friday Question, in the form of a Challenge:

Over on YouTube, you can find many episodes of My Mother The Car, by common consent the Worst Sitcom EVER.

The Challenge: I'd like everybody who reads this to look up Episode 5 of My Mother The Car, titled "Burned At The Steak".
No spoilers here; I believe that you ought to see this one cold.
Anyway, just watch this show, and tell us all whether you believe that it's "The Worst Thing You Ever Saw!"
Hey, maybe you might feel that way - I'm just curious, is all ...

So that's The Challenge - if you're up for it!
Any takers?

JS said...

I watched "That Girl" this past year. It is a bizarre show. They try to paint Marlo Thomas as being this independent, strong woman. Yet, she won't sleep with her boyfriend because she's afraid her daddy won't approve, and she's terrified when a mouse gets in her apartment. That show is just weird.

Mike said...

The father on That Girl is such a controlling jerk that I can’t even watch the show. I’m surprised he didn’t have her in a chastity belt.

mike schlesinger said...

Only lip service to the B&W era? Check.
100% credit to Norman Lear, 0% to Bud Yorkin? Check.
Interviews with thoroughly inappropriate people? Check.
Heavy emphasis on shows millennials may have heard of? Check.
I'll stick with it out of morbid curiosity, but so far it's living down to my expectations.

Necco said...

For those of you using the word "woke" endlessly...it's cringe-worthy. The "foodie" of 2021. It immediately tags you (whether true or not), as a Trump supporter - someone who goes to Cracker Barrel in a red cap, and a "What Would Jesus Do?" T-shirt.

If you're bitching about CNN's politics, just what the hell do you think Fox News does, every second?

Sure, these shows are usually pointless. I'm not watching it.

Oh, I just spent the past three days, driving across half the country. My go-to, was to play "Frasier" on my iPhone, and just listen. Made the dialogue even better. I've seen the show so many times, I could easily visualize the scenes. BUT, it emphasized the script, taking it front-and-center stage. In addition, the vocal craft of the performers was highlighted.

Janet said...

Ken, your discussion about family sitcoms got me thinking about the old 70s series FAMILY.

It wasn't a sitcom, to be sure, but I was curious as to your thoughts.

I've been watching episodes on streaming, and to me, it just seemed terribly morose. There seemed to be precious little joy in that family. But maybe that's what was "edgy" in the mid 70s.

Janet

Lis Riba said...

Out of curiousity, did the LGBTQ history mention the mid-1980s Showtime sitcom Brothers?

It seems to have fallen into a memory hole.

Necco said...

@ Lis

I watched the first season of "Brothers" in 1984, and it WAS a big deal at the time. The gay community was starting to get slammed by/with AIDS, and it was huge, that a TV sitcom (Showtime, anyway) was willing to include a regular gay character.

Artie in Sin City said...

Garbage documentary so far...Like watching a BAD film in high school...So preachy and boring...And full of politics...I for one am SICK of BOTH sides of the tarnished political coin...Let's just talk sitcoms...but I should have figured that a Canadian production company showing a documentary on CNN would turn out this way...Boo, a feeling I have for all concerned with this BAD show...

Artie in Sin City said...

Garbage documentary so far...Like watching a BAD film in high school...So preachy and boring...And full of politics...I for one am SICK of BOTH sides of the tarnished political coin...Let's just talk sitcoms...but I should have figured that a Canadian production company showing a documentary on CNN would turn out this way...Boo, a feeling I have for all concerned with this BAD show...

VP81955 said...

I'm disappointed, too. No reference to "Dobie Gillis," the first prime-time series I recall watching? (I was born in 1955, and it debuted in September 1959.) Like "Leave It To Beaver," its approach was from a youth point of view (teens, not kids), though its whirlwind pace made it far different; it holds up well today.

Incidentally, LA County supervisor Sheila Kuehl is the former Sheila James, who played Zelda Gilroy on "Dobie."

Dave Samuelson said...

Nat Hiken.

Kendall Rivers said...

I also found it ironic how Fresh Off The Boat got soooo much focus yet you can't even find that show on reruns anywhere(It was only on Uptv for a year after they got syndication but somehow it disappeared from that network at the speed of light) and I don't think it's even streaming anywhere unless you count On Demand but I haven't seen it there either. Maybe they should've gave some of that super long time to actual shows that seemed to actually made their mark in pop culture longer than two seconds like Martin which got a garbage two second clip and no actual conversation about it, or shows like Dick Van Dyke, The Andy Griffith Show and The Honeymooners that somehow were completely ignored even though they're two of the most timeless, beloved and iconic sitcoms of all time with I Love Lucy.