Wednesday, July 27, 2022

EP285: Family Sitcoms

The family sitcom has been a staple of television from I LOVE LUCY to MODERN FAMILY. Ken traces the evolution of this venerable genre and sprinkles in a few personal anecdotes.  

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CarolMR said...

Speaking of family sitcoms - Tony Dow of Leave it to Beaver died yesterday.

Jeff Boice said...

Thanks. Your comment about The Donna Reed Show and Shelley Fabares reminded me of the main reason I watched these shows- it featured a cute girl I had a TV crush on- though in many cases the actress playing the teenage cutie was actually in her early 20's. And what was your take on family sitcoms that made major cast changes. Thinking in particular of My Three Sons where the eldest son got married and left (never to be heard from again) and the family quickly adopted the suddenly orphaned neighbor kid Ernie so they can keep the same title and opening credits.

Anonymous said...

Don't think you got Leave it to Beaver. LITB wasn't meant to be funny in the conventional sense.
Most people lump LITB together with other 1950s suburban family sitcoms like Father Knows Best, Ozzie and Harriet, Make Room for Daddy, and My Three Sons, Nothing could be further from the truth.

While it shared the idyllic suburban neighborhood setting with those shows, that’s where the similarity ended. Those shows, while more popular, were anodyne primarily because they written from an adult’s point of view - and for adults. LITB was written from the point of view of Wally and Beaver, and that gave it a creative tension lacking in the other shows.

With the exception of their parents, Wally and Beaver considered adults to be enigmas. Neighbors, uncles, aunts, principals, teachers – were they on our side or not? Some, like their teachers, were, most others were not. The same was true of kids in the neighborhood, who were mostly opportunists, bullies or weasels – their friends nevertheless, but in truth their adversaries.

That idyllic suburban neighborhood of LITB was basically an alien universe where the boys found themselves stranded, forced to make sense of their surroundings: who to trust and who not to. In that respect, rather than a family sitcom, the contemporary show LITB most resembled was Twilight Zone. Twilight Zone was hardly a comedy but like LITB the most common theme was characters thrust into an alien universe struggling to understand their surroundings. (In the final season of LITB, the writers actually did an homage episode to Twilight Zone with reference to Rod Serling.)

Oh, and Barbara Billingsley wore pearls to hide a cleft in her neck.

Mike Barer said...

I was wondering if you were going to work, Bewitched, The Munsters, and The Adams Family into the mix.
It looks like you were focused on shows with without magic or monsters. Some shows that you could have included would be Family Affair, My Three Sons, The Partridge Family, and the Brady Bunch.
Any others?

Roger Owen Green said...

Can anyone remember a plotline for Father Knows Best or The Donna Reed Show? All I can remember is Robert Young assuring Princess, Bud, and Kitten that everything would be all right.

At least Bachelor Father (and later, Family Affair) had the dad figure out of his depths.

DwWashburn said...

When talking about extremely dull family sitcoms, you have to include My Three Sons. Probably one of the most comatase sitcoms of early television. Heck if I come across reruns of this yawn fest by TV will turn off by itself from the boredom.