From Ricky Ricardo to Liz Lemon: Sitcoms in American Culture
In this seminar, we will explore the ways American culture has been represented in popular television situation comedies from the 1950s through the present. Although we will explore multiple facets of American culture, gender will be a primary focus. We will examine popular series from various decades, as well as the scholarly analysis of situation comedies, to explore how these comedic portrayals of gender roles provide a window into each time period. We will look at sitcoms as both a genre with characteristics that have lasted over time and as a genre for which the social/historical context of the time period matters. We will ask why various shows appealed to viewers at the time of original broadcast and will examine how the changes we find in popular sitcoms over the years do or do not reflect societal change. Individual student research into popular sitcoms from various time periods will culminate in group projects, where students will use the knowledge they have gained about sitcom as a genre and about the importance of addressing social context to work together to create and pitch an idea for a new sitcom along with providing supporting evidence to explain why their show would succeed with today’s TV audience. This course also counts as GNDR 148.