In the 1940s and 1950s, television rose as the most popular form of mass media in America. It became a tool not only for announcing public broadcast messages and news, but also for bringing families together. By the mid-1950s, a majority of homes in America had a television set. In these homes, families would gather to watch presidential speeches, nightly news programs, or their favorite TV shows. Among the most popular TV shows were sitcoms. From The Brady Bunch to All In the Family, many sitcoms depicted domestic relationships. This unit will focus on the family dynamics presented on television sitcoms and how they changed from the 1950’s to 1970’s.
On the surface, sitcoms serve as a mere form of entertainment. However, during the 1950s to 1970s they reflected American thoughts and worries. Dealing with a variety of issues including gender, race, and politics, sitcoms played a large role in American culture. The significance of family in television echoes American lifestyle in the portrayal of family relationships. While some television shows addressed important issues like race and gender, others ignored the reality of American family life.
In order to evaluate how the American sitcom family changed throughout the 1950s to 1970s, we will compare and contrast various popular sitcoms. Among them include, Leave It to Beaver, The Andy Griffith Show, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Munsters, All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Happy Days, The Brady Bunch and The Jetsons. Whereas Leave It to Beaver focused on the typical clean-cut 1950s family, The Munsters presented an unorthodox family that still held close bonds. On the other hand, All in the Family and The Jeffersons focused on race in the American family while The Jetsons placed a working-class family in a futuristic time period. In the unit, we will analyze the differences of each show and how they reflect and shaped American culture during the decade in which it aired. Furthermore, we will also consider the connecting themes and elements such as family roles, importance of close relationships and how these features display American values during the time period.