tv History of the Sitcom CNN July 11, 2021 9:00pm-10:00pm PDT
with -- >> i say always keep them running, all the time running -- run! run! where did you get those? >> a machine, you want one? >> no. >> you come home, turn on that television. >> i don't want it. >> what do you want? you want comedy. >> stop it. >> boom there, you go. >> situation comedy. >> there's 23 minutes of magic. >> you fell in love with these characters. >> what you talking about,
♪ >> what if we always said was the most important thing? >> breakfast. >> family. >> family, right. >> family is key to the sitcom. >> mama sk. >> it's something we can all relate to. >> you are part of the family. >> one good thing about moving here, is i have no friends and no distractions. that's why i got all -- >> grandma, what does fonzie say? >> a's. >> there are so many different dynamics at work in families. >> i love you here. it will give us a chance to get
r reacquainted. >> you realize your dynamic in there, and you think, well, their family is just as crazy as mine. >> i don't care who is wearing an outrageously inappropriate dress, we are going to get together and act like a normal family for one-tenth of a freaking sepbgd. let's go. >> you can see so much about culture throughout the years now looking back. >> you know, it was really "i love lucy" that kicked it all off. >> first off this evening -- >> it was a show about a woman that wanted to be in showbiz. >> you have ever considered acting? >> has she ever considered acting? >> she has a husband that was latin. >> i don't want my wife in
showbiz? >> why not. >> she was trying to aphapbs paeut herself. >> every time she gets the opportunity, something goes awry. >> lucille ball was fearless in her physical comedy. women were supposed to be demure, dainty and in their place. >> lucille ball was one of my favorites for timing her bits. >> what do you think you're doing. [ laughter ] >> well? >> "i love lucy" game a phen phenomenon innocently.
>> when you think what she was able to achieve, it's astounding. >> when lucy and ricky had a baby, it was, like, huge. it was the highest rated show of the series. it changed the dynamic because all of a sudden it became centered around the family unit. >> i think "i love lucy" was the big bang of the family sitcom. >> the family moved to the suburbs. >> isn't this exciting? we're in our very own home. >> that mirrored what was happening in america at the time. >> advertisers wanted to indicator towards the new suburban family that needed to buy that kitchen appliance or needed to buy that vacuum. >> after "i love lucy," there was a formula for what the american family should look like. >> "ozzy and harriet."
>> i loved everybody, actually. >> it was a happy, gentle american family of the 1950s. >> how much do you need? >> i don't mind, pop. that's okay. >> don't worry about it, you can pay me back. >> what's wrong with you, david? you got rocks in your head? >> everybody was nice to each other, and those were not real people but they entertained and delighted us. >> dinner is on. we're sitting down. >> when you get to "father's knows best," it's pay triarchal. >> i played bud. bud had a problem of truth telling on some level. >> what was that racket upstairs? >> i didn't hear anything.
"leave it to beaver" enters the sitcom realm in 1957. >> what is that? >> a hair cut, i think. >> the real key to "leave it to beaver" is it is written from a child's point of view. >> you have the character of beaver, and you have wally, who is his older brother who usually does things right. beaver is always the one that gets in trouble. >> and there were the parents to teach them, show them the right path. >> we want you to feel that you can come to me or your mother with any problem and we'll understand. >> in the 1950s, sitcoms were giving us a idealistic version of america. >> as we get into the '60s, we will see different type of family sitcoms .
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daughters on her own. >> you're my mom. i want you to know if i have sex or if i want to get high. >> it's dirty. it's funny. >> no, hide things from me. please. >> "better things" is a festinating example of the way the family sitcom adopted to the 21st century. >> where is the broom? >> what are you a witch? >> no a useless housewife from the 50s. >> i love that. >> the boundaries have been pushed back and the walls have come down. if you look back to the '50s there was a lot of confines on what family looked like and what was acceptable and what wasn't. >> hi, cat. >> the first show that deviated from the perfect pleasantville nuclear family. >> are you going to blow up the stove again? >> no, eddie. i don't think i'll make that
same mistake again. >> it was a show about a single dad. he was a widower with three boys trying to raise them in an all male household. everyone had to do something. everyone had to pitch in. we did dishing. you know, we were ironing socks. these things that you never saw in the "ozzie and harriet" show or leave it to beaver. >> when you watch a show based on losing someone, that adds a deep rooted truth to the hardness of life and then it gives comedy even more of a reason to go as crazy as you want to go. >> i think that shirt is done. >> you'll just have to wear your pants higher. >> in the '60s you see the sitcoms move away from the nuclear suburban family.
>> divorce, of course, had become more prevalent in the '60s and more part of normal american life. it took awhile to be reflected in sitcoms. ♪ ♪ the brady bunch ♪ >> "the brady bunch" is the story of two separate families being glued together. >> a man with three boys, a woman with three girls. the man would be a widower and the woman divorced. the divorce was a taboo topic on television so they said let's just leave it so you don't know. >> what are you yelling about? >> she stole our ball. >> i'm just trying to find out what they did with my -- >> "the brady bunch" was an evolution of "leave it to beaver." >> it was all about what children are having problems with. their appearance or school work or their friends. >> pete brady, he goes for -- >> you know, it was the, oh, you
broke the vase. it was those kinds of everyday problems. >> marsha, i'm proud to be your sister now matter how terrible you look. >> thanks, a lot. >> this is airing in the nixon era when vietnam is raging and people are losing faith in government. >> all these things were happening and the "brady bunch" was a refuge. >> watching "the brady bunch" having all these brothers and sisters was a great get away for me. >> "the brady bunch" was a huge success for abc. that led to "the partridge family" that attract the a young, hungry audience. >> hey, kids. hollywood boulevard. >> we were a musical family that would travel around doing shows. stphet ♪ ♪ >> i was for sure going to marry david cassidy.
that was definitely going to happen. >> "the partridge family" was trying to embrace this cool, hippy culture. >> what did you hit, mom? >> i think a studier baker. >> you crazy hippies, it's bad enough you don't trust anyone over 30. now you're trying to wipe us out. >> it takes this phenomenon of the counter culture and makes it very safe. >> relax, mom. just remember our whole future depends on the next few minutes. >> it was an escape from the real world for a lot of people. >> in new york, a student protest is met by construction workers and the tenth state in ohio, four students are killed. >> but some people didn't want to hide from what was happening. >> people are like now, we want to hear about the stuff and how it affecting our families. that's when shows like "all in the family" came on. >> normally at the beginning of his career was looking to find a show he could make his own and turned on to a british series called "'til death do us part ". >> about a bigoted father.
i said holy moly, that's the way i grew up and i knew i had a show. >> take one! >> they shot the pilot at abc. featured carol o'connor and gene stapleton as archie bunker. >> we don't see any evidence. >> that's right, daddy. >> i know we had a couple pink coats in the house but i didn't know we had a pair of athiests. >> it was not well received by abc. they watched it and felt there wasn't the chemistry there. >> we make it again with two different young people. >> we don't see any evidence of god, that's all. >> that's right, daddy. >> i knew we had some -- >> the network freaks out about whether people will be able to watch this show that has, like, real issues. >> everybody is nervous and there are people saying they're going to kill you. they're going to shoot you dead in the streets.
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after declined to move forward made the decision to move to cbs. >> they said yes, but you need a new set of kids. archie and edith bunker. >> same script wouldn't change a word. >> let's hear it again. what did you mean by what god? >> we just don't see any evidence of god. that's all. >> that's right, daddy. >> that's right, kid. >> i knew we had a couple pinkos in this house but i didn't know we had atheists. >> i saw the first episode and realize the ground is shaking under me. >> we reach over to each other at the table and we have arguments. >> because guys like you aren't willing to give the black man and mexican-american and minorities the rightful share of the american dream. >> that didn't happen before. we got real. political strife. inner personal issues. generation gaps.
and they're dealing with it all in the family. >> i suppose you'll tell me the black man had the same opportunity in this country as you? >> more. he's had more. i didn't have a million people marching and protesting to get me my job. >> no, his uncle got it for him. >> archie was saying things you don't say on television. >> just because a guy is sensitive and wears glasses you make him out a queer. >> i never said a guy that wears glasses is a queer. a guy who wears glasses is four eyes and a guy that does that is a queer. >> it was jaw dropping. it was funny but very challenging. and you realized norman leer is taking us into a new realm of the comedy. >> the blowback from the public
was buried by the excitement and the applause. >> the show was number one for a long time. >> it changed cbs and their brand as a network. as a result of all in the family, they turned to create more shows in the image. >> there is a person at the door. part >> played as edith's cousin in "all in the family". >> marty is here. >> and she could take on archie head-to-head. >> now you can either come to the table and eat or you can lie there and feed off your own fat. >> the story goes that by the time that episode had aired fred silverman who was in charge of cbs at the time called norman leer and said get that woman her own show .
♪ ♪ >> that was not your all american family. >> getting senile in your old age. >> thank you, darling. >> i only hope i live long enough to become a burden to you. >> she's an independent strong woman who speaks her mind. she was married to her fourth husband, walter, played by bill macy. >> i don't have time to fix your breakfast. >> loved their combative relationship. i still to this day if somebody pisses me off, i'll say god will god will get you for that wal, walter. >> god will get you for that, walter. >> she was not afraid to speak her mind at the center of a family sitcom. >> she had a made florida who was a great character. her husband made an appearance. >> i'm proud of you, florida. i just don't want you to be a made no more. >> your mother was a maid and
that's how your brothers got through school and you got to be a fireman. >> we thought let's fill out that family. ♪ >> that's the first time you ever saw a black family on television. >> look who finally got back from her honeymoon in the bathroom mirror. >> j.j., your mouth is always ahead of your think piece. >> this family ain't "ozzie and harriet." >> trying to survive with a dad who works two job situations. >> a cold world out there and we can't change it. >> maybe we can't change it, james but we sure can't let it change us. >> "good times" was not only to show the problems but show the love of a minority family. [ applause ]
>> we're staying in a used car lot of love. >> in 20 years we only turned out one clunker. >> the idea of white families seeing things on an episode of "good times "they could relate to their own experience, that is a power that cannot be duplicated with hours of conversation. >> it showed how sitcoms weren't afraid to discuss social issues that had formally been taboo. ♪ >> when you get to something like "one day at a time," the single mother in that show is divorced, and that was unusual for television. >> i have not had a happy moment since we moved to --
>> sure was different before the divorce when daddy was around. yeah, yeah, i know. you used to wrap him around your little finger. >> her parents before had been widows so television begins to catch up with who we are. >> what are you doing, mom? >> i'm circling the jobs for which it would appear i'm qualified. >> i don't see any circles. >> exactly. >> i mean, it was the '70s. women were feeling empowered to have lives of their own and still have a family. >> darling, would you like to tell me what is going on between you and chuck? >> you're going to die. >> you're going to die! >> i only did it to protect you. >> showing what a family goes through. showing what it's like to raise two daughters in a divorce. >> we'll make it. i promise. >> i love you. >> you grow up in families and we all share these experiences in one way or another. >> "one day at a time," "all in the family," "good times ,"all these family sitcoms, they just owned the top ten. ♪let's make lots of money♪ ♪you've got the brawn♪
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relevant sitcoms, and really the sitcoms started to die away. dramas had really taken over. those soaps were so big. "dynasty, dallas, magnum p.i." you saw the family sitcom strive to find a new identity. >> i can't believe you guys watch this. you look ridiculous. >> "family times" has one of the great premises in sitcom history. >> half a million people trying to stop a senseless war. you find that ridiculous? >> i'm talking about the outfits. >> these two flower children from the '60s grow up and in the '80s find themselves with this young republican son. >> how do i look? >> middle-aged. >> it was about the clashes between two generations. >> you're a young man. you shouldn't be worried about success. you should be thinking about hopping on a tramp steamers and going around the world.
>> the '60s are over, dad. >> thanks for the tip. >> "family ties" is a reversal in many ways of "all in the family" except you have the liberal appearance and conservative child. >> i found a copy of "the "wall street journal"" under his bed. >> you think he was switched at birth with the rockefellers and they have our kid? >> michael was just wonderful. he was young and energetic. and he had such good timing. >> who did this? [ laughter ] >> we started rather slowly. nbc was moving us around a little bit trying to find the right place for us. >> "family ties" pumped a little life into the family sitcom but the sitcom in general had been pronounced dead. there were very few on the air and then all of a sudden comes the cosby show in '84. >> dad, can i have an advanced on my allowance? >> son, you're already backed up until your 50th birthday. >> "the cosby show" was a game changer for me.
this is a family i adored. present history has tainted that a little bit. that didn't stop the fact that was a ground-breaking experience. >> they had an ideal family. claire was a lawyer. he was a doctor. >> there was a very natural chemistry between cliff huxtable and claire and her children that wasn't cliche black poverty. >> son, your mother asked me to come up here and kill you. how do you expect to get into college with grades like this? >> no problem. >> there is a much more conservative paradigm that is driving "the cosby show". >> instead of acting disappointed because i'm not like you, maybe you can just accept who i am and love me anyway. >> you know, in any other sitcom that would be the moment where the music would start and the father would embrace the son and say something, you know, really encouraging.
>> theo, that's the dumbest thing i've ever heard in my life. >> and you could hear the audience gasp because like, this is a strong father who is going to say to his son as he said, you know -- >> i brought you in this world and i'll take you out. >> the audience cheered because it was like the parents are saying yes, we're taking back the house. >> i just want you to do the best you can. that's all. >> there was such a love and comradery in the huxtable family that i think you had a universal audience. >> we got super bold ratings every single week and they're tuning in because everyone wants to be a huxtable. >> "the cosby show" revitalized the sitcom. >> all right. then let's put "cosby" at 8:00, and let's put "family ties" at 8:30.
and "family ties" went thump in a huge way. that great thursday nightlineup, "cosby, family ties, cheers, night court ". >> nbc really created this idea of must see tv. you're talking about 20 and 30 and 40 million people tuning in. >> people say you were one of america's most successful fathers. i said, no, that was bill cosby. cosby was number one. >> with respect to what has happened of late, it's like hugely disappointing to all of us. but he set the standard for what a family sitcom was. >> "the cosby show" had proven that the family sitcom was a viable genre again. >> by the late '80s family sitcoms were popular among the big three networks. there was this incredible resurgence. >> this is great. we should be mothers. >> oh, yeah. >> families tuned into these tv shows to see an aspirational version of what family can be. >> did i do that?
>> "silver spoons" and "growing pains" is constantly hugging and learning, right? >> with the family sitcom at the height of its popularity, fox started moving into the television arena. >> fox was new building their network. they were one of the last majors to build in that work. >> they decided they would use the family sitcom to do that and compete against the big three. >> al, look at our little girl. we don't really have to go to a recital, do we? >> they wound up going in a completely opposite direction, sort of the anti in a way, anti family sitcom. >> bud, apologize to your sister. >> no. >> okay. >> "married with children" is full of trash people that do horrible things and say horrible things. >> quiet you morons. >> you're always aware there
were wise guys zinging each other. >> peg, how could you sell the family playboy? >> looking back at it now, i don't know how that show stayed on air. >> i haven't worn it since grandma's funeral. >> it helped put fox on the map. >> this idea of a darker family presentation spoke to people. >> who were bored with what the main family sitcoms were offering at the time. >> family, before you go, would you bring ole daddy's shotgun and stand close together? [ laughter ]
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you just sit there and drink your beer. i'll fix this myself. >> the hell you will. >> we saw the big networks start to experiment with the family sitcom. some sitcoms were very edgy like "roseanne" and "married with children." >> talk is cheap, mr. fix it. >> on the other hand, you had shows going back to a more wholesome storytelling you see on abc's "home improvement." >> in a broad stroke "home improvement" made a stable family and loving family. >> no running in the house. >> hold the ball with both hands so you don't fumble.
>> tim. >> i also wanted to find out what made men tick. >> there is nothing like a ride and cool steel hanging under your hips. >> tim the tool man taylor has a show called "tool time". >> we want a job done quick and right what do we need? >> more power! >> more power was my saying my whole life plus the grunting and blowing stuff up. >> he's like this supposed man's man. >> and then he comes home to a woman who is a feminist and under no circumstances do you ever treat the female sex as though they are housekeepers put here to wait on you hand and foot. >> honey, want to pop that in the washer for me? >> what was great about our family was that even though we disagreed, i think i just pop on out of here. we loved each other and always made up. >> "home improvement" was proof a traditional family sitcom
would be a hit but through the '90s we saw the families change. we saw people having children later in life and the family sitcom reflected that. >> in "mad about you" the marriage itself was the premise of the show. >> a strong woman character against the strong male character and so the fireworks just kept happening. >> watching how two people try to love each other over time. >> it doesn't bother you that we haven't had sex in five days? >> hello. >> you know the feeling you go to a party and you and your wife are having fun and say good night and get into the car. the minute that car door closes, that's the show. >> what's going on with us? >> what's going on is we're married five months and the sexual part is over. [ laughter ] >> see, i thought you understood that. i'm sorry. that's what happens. i play checkers in the park and you start arguing with buses.
come on. >> that's not funny. >> they are two people that can voice their own opinions about fear and be awful and apologize and hit a dry spell in the marriage and find the heat between them again. people were feeling probably that combination of i relate to it and aspire to it. that made it very much its own. >> early on season one the network said you should have a kid. no, no, no that's too soon. season two, time for a kid. the network was like annoying in laws. so when are you guys going to try? i'll let you know. in "raymond" you never saw the kids. >> i saw your car pull up. you didn't call. [ laughter ] >> we really wanted to focus on the marriage and their relationship with the parents. >> hi. i'm ray and i live here in long island with my wife debra.
>> the very first season ray says in the opening credits. >> it's not really about the kids. >> it's not about the kids. >> i say that for every year you're over 40, you should add an inch to the hem line of your dress. >> well, then you should be dragging around a persian rug. >> we all had parents who despite our best efforts reject all of our kindness and it backfires. >> i don't understand why you would use bleach on these towels. >> they just seemed a little yellow. >> yes, they are yellow towels. >> we all come into a family. we need a family, love them or hate them, that's who, you know, we were given. >> the success of cosby resurrected the sitcom. because of that ushered in a lot of other great storytelling. when "the cosby show" went off the air we had other black
sitcoms to fill the void, which was "fresh prince" was aspirational black family wealth. >> i didn't know there were so many brothers living in this neighborhood. we doing all right, huh? >> fox was one of the first networks that really took risk with black sitcoms with minority people very much part of the writing and creation of it. >> i think it's vital that people of color write their own stories because that's where the authenticity comes from. >> he's probably tired. >> he should be. he kept us up all night. we should be the ones crying. >> we saw black family sitcoms like "martin." like "the bernie mack show." those sitcoms showed parenting to be difficult. >> uncle bernie is too old to play house. can we play something else? >> which was not something you saw on a show like "the cosby show". >> chris! get in the bathroom and wipe the pee off the toilet seat. disgusting.
>> fox network had come on and done well with black sitcoms so the wb and upn at the time were coming on and they started to diversify and grow that audience. >> they are able to snatch up this audience that the other networks were really ignoring up until that point. >> so these shows kind of set the stage for the diversity in the family sitcom that can be seen on television today. >> welcome. welcome, juans, i'm rick. the length and depth of my bow expresses my deep appreciation. >> that's more of a japanese thing but thank you, rick. challenges. and a few surprises. but wherever you are on your journey.
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if hailey never wakes up on a beach in florida half naked, i've done my job. >> our job. >> right. i've done our job. >> in the late '90s, early 2000s, you see the popularity of reality television, and that had a huge impact on the family sitcom. >> everything was reality shows back then. the sitcom was pronounced dead again. so chris lloyd and i said, what's a new way to do a family show? then we said, what if we shoot it documentary style? ♪ and instead of focusing on one family, what if we focused on
multiple families? >> dad. >> what happened? >> luke just shot me. >> what we want to do is portray these characters as real. >> i didn't mean to. >> are you okay? >> no. the little bitch shot me. >> language. >> but the network said you can't have a kid swear like that. and i said, that line came from my daughter. my attitude about it is telling stories from our own lives and not being afraid of those stories, that's what people can relate to. >> hi, i'm gloria pritchett, manny's mother. >> oh, this must be your dad. >> actually, no. i'm her husband. don't be fooled by the -- give me a second here. >> none of these people looked like they would be a family, but they are. >> what the hell is that? >> i had andre do it while we were gone. >> is that us with wings? >> i was just really taken by the portrayal of a gay couple as part of an equal part of the cast. >> he was a bit of a drama queen. >> no, stop. you come into my house, and you
insult me and my boyfriend, who, by the way, is not that dramatic. ♪ >> so when he actually reveals lily, it's to the theme song from "lion king." ♪ the circle of life ♪ >> we adopted a baby. >> this loving gay couple who were just adopting a child, this was the most progressive thing on broadcast television at that particular moment. >> in this family, do we kick and punch each other, or do we love each other? >> love each other. >> that's right. i'll be in the den. >> "modern family" took this genre that seemed kind of played out, updated it, and breathed life back into the family sitcom. after that, we start to see more perspectives, new perspectives, fresh perspectives. >> you're going to love orlando. i've grown to love it like the daughter we wish evan had been. ♪
>> in "fresh off the boat," an asian-american story centers the narrative as opposed to being like the butt of the joke. >> class, i'd like you to give a warm welcome to hongi -- >> yeah. call me eddie. >> thank god. >> it's about an asian-american family that moved from a multicultural city to a very white suburban town. >> hi. welcome to the neighborhood. i'm deirdre. this is amanda. this is samantha. >> it was a really good window into how mainstream culture could feel strange to somebody else. >> "fresh off the boat" made a major impact in proving to the industry that a show like this can be successful. >> still to this day, i get people on the street who come up to me in tears saying how meaningful it was seeing themselves represented and feeling like you are a part of america. >> it's a part of a progression of representation in tv.
>> okay. so i'm just your standard regular old incredibly handsome, unbelievably charismatic black dude. this mixed race woman is my wife. >> "black-ish" is a family sitcom that is interested in talking about topics of racial identity in ways that television sometimes is uncomfortable about discussing. >> you're not serious about naming our kid devonte, are you? >> i want a strong black name. >> oh, boy. >> because we've given our kids white names, and they've all ended up "black-ish." >> the father feels like his family is losing touch with their roots, and he wants them to sort of know their heritage. >> i want at least one of my kids to end up being black so i could love it. >> whereas the cosby show was a safe kind of here's us living every day, the "black-ish" family is very unapologetic about their blackness in ways that really hadn't been seen like on prime time television
before. >> so next saturday when you turn 13, you're becoming a man too. a black man because i'm throwing you an african rites of passage ceremony. >> that does not sound as fun. >> no, it does not. >> "black-ish" was a show that was really good at talking about individual social issues in a way we hadn't really seen since norman loear. >> i get it. we're cuban. >> it follows three generations of latinas. everything that we would get into as a normal family, but then it also tackles a lot of things going on in the world that normally are seen as taboo, like queer issues. >> where are we with the idea of telling him? >> who thinks it's a good idea to greet my latino veteran dad with, hey, i like girls. >> you'll finally have something in common. >> there's ptsd with the mom.
there's anxiety and depression. >> what did he call you, stupid, dummy, goober. >> he saw me and yelled build the wall. >> i think it allows ouaudience to have those conversations in their own living rooms. >> you and your brother are of different shades. >> yes. >> if you put something in your show that's shocking and radical, the hope is in five years' time, it's going to become more normal. >> who even decides what latinx looks like? i look latinx. >> of course you do. you're beautiful. i always thought you looked like anne hathaway. >> oh, no, no, no! >> the future of the family sitcom to me is most present in shows like "one day at a time," telling stories about an america you don't always see on television in ways that are funny and fresh and invigorating. and if you look at the best family sitcoms on tv right now, that's what they're doing.
>> if anybody else wants to know what's up, this latin american family is headed to their american home. >> that is so cool. anne hathaway just totally stood up for this mexican. i'm not obsessed with sex. i can't stop thinking about it. >> sexuality has come a long way in sitcom history. >> can you donate a penis to a person who's transitioning? >> laughter is a great way to deal with a tricky world. >> daddy horny, michael. >> sitcoms talk about sex. >> my underwear. >> and about relationships. >> i'm breaking with him tonight. >> these shows changed the way that we think about sexuality. >> for