tv History of the Sitcom CNN August 15, 2021 6:00pm-7:00pm PDT
i suppose to the outsider, we might seem unorthodox but what does this outsider know? how does he judge us? the whole notion of outsider is a strand that goes through most sitcoms, i think. >> take it right out of my mouth. >> outsiders happyelp us relate an audience. >> are you some kind of nerd? >> not some kind of nerd, the king of nerds. >> they are seeing everything with fresh eyes.
>> you rang. >> that dynamic is pretty awesome. it's special. >> that confidence really made people feel like they could be okay to be whoever they are. >> did i do that? >> and i think if i believe in who i am and own it, i can still be cool. >> oh, anybody in there? fly, be free. [ laughter ] ♪ ♪ >> the absolute essence of a successful sitcom is one word. and that is emotion. >> we abolished emotions a billion bleems ago. they took a vote and all in favor. >> they have a great look for alien characters struggling with the same human dilemma we all struggle with, how do we behave
by good human beings. >> yo, kate, where do you keep your casserole dishes? >> why? >> the cat won't fit in the toaster. >> aliens make for great comedy because you get the ultimate outside here can make fun of us but you also can do anything with them. and in the '60s with the space race, u.s. versus russia, it was just such a natural fit, i think, to satirize. >> you still have the suburbs but now they're being invaded by ma martians. >> you're the martian. you're supposed to be smarter than i am. >> i know. this living here on earth begins to rub off on one. >> my favorite martian hid his spaceship in the garage with a sheet. come on, man. >> uncle martin, all you have is a simple common cold.
>> all? common? simple? don't you realize i'm not the common man. i'm a martian and my system is not prepared for this ah-chew! >> "my favorite martian" only lasted a few years in the 1960s. >> you people baffle me so illogical, so emotional. earth is all right for a visit but i wouldn't want to live here. >> by the 1970s, we saw science fiction take over. ♪ ♪ >> garry marshall who was executive producer of "happy days" was a fan of "my favorite martian". >> his son scott says to his favorite father, i think there should be an alien on "happy days." that would be funny. gary writes. head of casting comes down with a young man very quiet, very shy. this young man robin williams
picks up the script and we start doing the scene. >> is he -- the finger of his. he just points it once and wam, bam. >> that fwas the last time i evr heard the script the way it was written. >> come along specimen. >> let me tell you something. you ain't taking my buddy here. you want to rumble ? >> rumble. da, da, da. let us make it a base hook. let me introduce the local sell le -- sell leashties. >> it's like the sound stage 1 was picked up off its foundation, rattled like a baby rattle and thrown back down and i realized that my job was get out of this man's way. >> because it was so free form at that time, it was different.
>> you lived a lot of that. >> huge. you go off and have people that go with it, three cameras, good luck. >> must be pretty tough. >> not a question of toughness. i'm protected by a stellar force field. watch. see. >> mork on "happy days" is a star driven performance. he was a force of nature. >> robin williams was just unique comic at the time when he came on, just had so much energy and so magnetic. >> people love the character and thus, "mork and mindy" was born. >> how do you say that in your language? >> we spit. >> the mork character was a misfit failure on his planet. they sent him to earth and said you go study that. >> you expect me to eat this slop? >> then he lived with all that complex. >> what are you doing? >> putting your bones in order.
>> ti was the best paid actress in hollywood for going, oh, mork, what did you do? >> state of depression, defunk. what seems to be the matter? >> i'm just disappointed in the mail. >> let me teach you something. it's common throughout the universe for a female species to be disappointed in the male. >> by the late '70s when "mork and mindy" became a huge success, they said let's make it about something. >> we had a lot of writers in their early 20s and there was social upheaval they tried to wake people up. >> are you sure you're in the right place? >> the night is a fascinating episode because mork unbeknownst to him is supporting this politician who happens to be part of a white supremacist group. >> i'll try this on for size. >> do you have a frankenstein
mask? >> there are no steins in here. >> mork doesn't realize what this group stand s for. >> mork, do you know what bigotry is? >> an italian force, bigotry. >> i think what made the alien character work so beautifully is his observations were pure. >> i feel strange. >> me, too. >> look. blake is black. what happened? >> i reprogrammed their genes. >> "mork and mindy" was explosive and surpassed everybody's expectations because it just felt original. >> i had never watched my favorite martian mork and mindy. i never thought i'd do sitcom but it was that captivating an
idea. four aliens came on a research mission trying to figure out how to be human. >> got ten fingers, 11 toes? >> check. >> good. i guess we're in. everyone comfortable? >> i have three holes in my fa face. >> they were looking for an actor like flynn and bugs bunny. >> in 1996 here he is displaying what turned out to be his deliciously goofy side. >> look, life forms and claiming each other. >> we were a whole school of fish out of water and i was an alien that could do anything but understood nothing. >> what is that thing on your head? >> it's beautiful. >> thank you, it's authentic. makes me feel connected to my ancestors. >> that's the traditional head dress of ancient secretaries.
>> "third rock from the sun" is looking at our society from a different perspective going my goodness, we're ridiculous, aren't we? >> in case you haven't noticed, i'm black. >> oh, of course i noticed, and all right, you are -- >> could i be any whiter? >> "third rock" was a kerrcurio. it had a certain style unlike nothing else on television. >> i'm sorry, all you people look alike to me. >> excuse me? >> oh, i'm incredibly proud of playing dick solomon. i guess it was the first time i tapped into just how important sitcom is to everybody. i guess it's because it's a shared experience. >> i just don't see why people have to divide up into these arbitrary subsets. skin color, please. you may see color but i see
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>> an outsider like kimmy is great because she's seeing the world as it is and has a lot of questions about it. >> i feel like a butterfly busting and falling from the nest. >> yeah, you need this education. i love you. don't get lice. >> the outsider is super impo important. >> it seems to be lost. it's delightful. ♪ ♪ >> back in the 60s what was going on in the country is a lot of people were having issues about who was living next door
to who. >> this was such a nice neighborhood until they moved in. >> we were of color even though it was green but we were like the family you didn't want to have move into the block. >> i saw the munsters as the bl black people and i thought, i like this. this is good. >> uncle hermann, i'd like you to meet my date. this is -- [ laughter ] >> oh, uncle hermann. what is the water with me, anyway? >> back then, the world is bubbling up for a change. i just wish the producers could have you know cast black people but they couldn't. they had to go with real monsters, which is deep in itself. ♪ ♪ >> joe and bob created "the munsters". >> they just finished "leave it to beaver" and wanted to keep this mold of the family sitcom
but marry it to something new and strange. >> maryland, take the chicken back to the kitchen. i'm afraid it's not quite done. >> looks good to me. >> the pfact of the matter remains, we were a normal family. hermann went to work and willy kept the house and cousin maryland went to college and i was a normal kid. i was perfect. >> can i try kicking one? >> sure. >> thank you. [ laughter ] >> hermann munster is a just a soft little teddy bear on the inside so it was really your first lesson of like, don't judge a book but its cover. >> i think i'll take up golf. but i'm not sure about being in the sun too much. i'd hate to lose my power. >> in a desperate effort to be one of the rest of the neighborhood, they even joined a country club.
>> when that mr. munster shows up to play golf, if he isn't our idea of a human being, i'll throw them out personally. >> at that time, country clubs were very, like, certain people weren't allowed in. certain religions. [ laughter ] >> oh, oh, oh, i made it. i made it. >> as a stand in for ethnic minorities, the munsters are striving to be accepted. >> as they say in golf, eddie, you got to play them. >> i don't think that "adams family" cares. >> the theme song was great. ♪ they're creepy and cooky, mysterious and spooky, adams family ♪
>> "the adthe adams family" ver humor. >> that doll doesn't have a head. >> it's aunt and her head was chopped off. >> "adams family" are more subversive because they're not striving to be like the typical american family. >> we have ourselves some peculiar neighbors. >> only one thing to do, get rid of them. >> i'll get rid of them. >> i haven't used this beauty since the tax man was here. >> "adams family" has a different set of values real to them that don't align with anything else in the world. >> you remember our honeymoon, gomez? >> who could forget our first night in death valley. >> moortisha and gomez have a lt of sexual tension. she does not look like a suburban mom. >> she was hot. that was my first crush. >> let's go down to the cave.
>> that's what we save for special occasions. >> you know what you do when you call me that. >> it slipped up. control yourself. >> you love it as a kid because you love wednesday, lurch is a riot. >> that's what i remember most about "adams family". >> you rang? >> cousin it, thing. all grade but i didn't get it until i was older and then could really sit back and go that's some smart clever writing in the best sense. >> darling, there is something i was hoping i wouldn't have to tell you. the other afternoon i sue pugsly playing with a bat. >> a bat. that's more like our boy. >> a baseball bat. it's a game played outdoors in the sun. [ laughter ] >> oh. >> "adams family" just like "the
munsters" only lasted two seasons. >> changing the face of the american family. like the idea american society messed up and these are the only people that understand why it's messed up. >> go ahead, fester. get another shot. >> this time get him right in the old heart. >> what's the matter with your friend? >> i don't know. weird, isn't he? it's the sound of a thousand sighs of relief and of a company watching out for you. this is the sound of low cash mode from pnc bank, giving you multiple options and at least 24 hours to help you avoid an overdraft fee. because we believe how you handle overdrafts should be in your control, not just your bank's. low cash mode on virtual wallet from pnc bank. one way we're making a difference.
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there it is. >> that fantasy of what if i was a genie and i could make anything come true with a snap? >> i would look like a king with a warrior's beard. >> everyone can relate to wanting that magic in their lives. >> behold. >> sitcoms about magic become really popular in the 1960s on television. >> you're really beginning to get this backlash to the shows in the '50s like "leave it to beaver" or "father knows best". >> the boomers are coming to age and they are not interested in the culture in which they grew up in. they want change.
feminism is rising. ♪ ♪ >> and "bewitched" captured that. >> i wish i had a drink. a straw. >> the premise of "bewitched" this is nerdy executive from new york city falls in love with a woman who had magic. >> you're a witch. >> that's what i've been trying to tell you. >> it could be a typical suburban family except for the fact her entire family are witches and they have one adorable little girl. amazing despite she's the
product of a mixed meed marriag >> i wanted to be invisible like her from one side of the room to the other. >> these ladies are straight up magic and their husbands want them to hide it. >> don't tell me you've forgotten how to levitate. >> of course i haven't forgotten. darrin prefers i don't do any of this stuff anymore. >> i remember that pissing me off as a little kid. i was like she's magic. >> don't! >> consider yourself lucky you're not at this moment an artichoke. >> you can watch that show as a minority of any kind and identify with how she feels like she has to hide a part of herself and you look at paul lind as uncle arthur which a lot of lgbt community say i see myself in that character. you look at agnus and you can see a lot of early touch stones for drag.
>> don't you realize you're under a spell? >> i know, dear. but when you're in love the whole world is under a spell. >> that was ground breaking. samantha wasn't defined by supernatural powers but defined but humanity. >> that picture is offensive. >> offensive? >> is that how you think i look? >> of course not. >> the real message of a witch was prejudice. >> why did you do it? >> most people think that's how witches look. >> is that any reason to discriminate against a minority group? >> what minority group? >> witches, of course. >> "bewitched" is an immediate hit and everyone is switching their nose and put them on the map. so now nbc wanted to do a witch s show. >> "i dream of geanie" he found
a bottle and rubbed it and there is a genie and boom. >> i must have went further into orbit than i thought. >> the only way to understand "i dream of genie" is the backlash. >> one egg and two slices of bacon. >> you couldn't do it today. the cultural appropriation, the mas massagny. >> please stop. >> but the '70s. >> welcome to the giant mystery that is the 1970s. >> brought a different sophistication to television. it was the days of "all in the p pfa
family." the "mary tyler moore" show. >> it brought it back in the '90s. >> it's a cauldron. >> we have something to tell you. there are two realms, the natural and supernatural and it turns out that the -- >> you're a witch. >> "sabrina the teenage witch" is your fun magical cam m comed about a girl who finds on her 16th birthday she is a witch. here she is with a magical gift and like teenagers that she didn't feel confident and empo empowered. >> apple, pineapple, very close. >> sabrina is or the of on her own. >> i'm the wrong witch to ask. they weren't lenient with me. sentenced to 100 years with a
cat. >> i love the cat and idea of a '90s club comic talking cat. >> sound of the can opener is the only thing that makes me feel truly alive. [ laughter ] >> it was my version of "bewitched." that's how i grew up. >> but if we can't make fun of geeks, who will we make fun of? >> hi, sabrina. super freak. >> you just want to see a weirdo outsider who has secret powers cut through everyone's nonsense. >> and i think that's why we had a lot of success with sabrina. seven-year run and 163 episodes, animated series and three tv movies and huge franchise interna internationally. it was crazy. it seriously hydrates to visibly replump skin and reduces wrinkles. effective for all skin tones. revitalift hyaluronic acid serum from l'oréal paris.
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this is life. i thought there would be more weirdos. >> the sitcom is important in american culture because it's where we work out our anxieties about society. >> where are you from? >> nigenigeria. >> wow, that's a heck of a commute, huh? >> we have class, race, gegende. all of it is here because we're a nation of people that came from somewhere else. >> you cannot run in los angeles
at night. this is where charles manson and harvey weinstein is. >> every week no matter the show, there are little pressure release valves that go off. and you see that play out throughout the history of the sitcom. at first thought you may imagine 1940s, '50s sitcoms being very white suburban. >> there were parts about becoming the american dream. >> life about an italian family, i remember mama about a norwegian b family. >> "the goldbergs" is about a jewish family in this jewish ghetto. >> those shows scertainly what america was trying to accomplish in the 40s and '50s and later when immigrant characters would
pop up in comedies, it would be for comedian effect. >> tell me something. how come i never understand a single word you say and always know what you're talking about? >> i think everybody thought that he was nuts. [speaking foreign language]. >> yeah, that must be it. >> i don't think anybody believed he was a sane individual. >> in my country, everyone shares with everyone. >> that's beautiful. >> otherwise they shoot you. >> do you know anything about bisexuals? >> yes. >> they are very popular in my country. >> they are? >> one of our favorite sports is arresting them and when they are not, we have special racks where we chain them up at night.
>> i'm not talking about bicycles, i'm talking about bise bisexuals. >> what was brilliant about "taxi" and "perfect strangers". >> am i looking up larry? >> larry appleton, that's me. >> larry! larry! larry! >> they both came from madeup countries to have the most outlandish traditions. >> which is great because nobody got insulted. >> they could have a better perspective on us. >> my cousin three times removed is a step uncle to your father and my mother eastside. >> so we're sort of related by rumor. >> the creators of "perfect strangers" were incredible.
>> had been at the long as ange olympics in '84 and love the spirit. >> he was making his way in ame america. >> isn't that something? only in america. [ laughter ] >> in meat ball we had to do that, we had to squeeze a frog. >> everybody is a fish out of water in someway. that silly ol' boy, he doesn't know anything. it allows you to see yourself. >> when i nod my head, you hit it. >> come again. >> when i nod my head, you hit it. [ laughter ] >> i can't do that. >> don't make this complicated. i'll hold the wrench. you've got the hammer. when i nod my head, you hit it. you hit it. [ laughter ] >> the blind leading the blind is often how we described it.
>> ready? >> yes. [ laughter ] >> the region era was embracing i immigrants so to get this rosie picture of what it's like being an immigrant in america made sense. >> signal! signal! >> there are people that really do feel marginalized to get the marginalized character. >> take it! take it! >> everywhere i went, every kid from the age of 2 or whatever would come over and hug me. because i was one of them. they got it and that was one of the great, great treats of that
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>> women love this. >> okay. you cut me off mid funk. >> i think being an adolescent means they turn into an outsider. >> kind of like the defining experience of being 14 and 15, 16. >> but this younger audience, they have always been so under served by prime time tv. >> but in the '90s network puts the teenager and what they want front and center. >> the time was right to tell the story about "blossom" because there was a vacuum of young girls p' points of view o television. >> my best friend six told me william zimmerman who is only slightly better looking than mel gibson is interested in me. this is so cool. but why wouldn't he be interested in me? i'm smart. i'm funny. and i've got the body of a 13-year-old. >> she was not the average girl.
maybe not the best looking girl in class, but certainly one of the brightest. >> oh my gosh. you don't suppose this means we're the girls with good personalities? >> that was one of the points of "blossom" how she made her way in life not fighting in. >> they're saying you might be a jock or popular person or cheerleader, but we're all a little different and quirky. >> "saved by the bell" is all about the kids and their world. screech is just weird. >> whatever you're doing, don't. >> with the shift towards teenage in a sitcom, you also see the invent of the nerd. >> lisa, my horoscope says we're destined to dance together. >> my horoscope says beware of dorks. >> but there is sort of this lost puppy aspect to screech that takes him from a character of just the nerd to someone that the viewer actually roots for. >> then with "fresh prince"
carlton was one of the first black nerds on screen. >> wait until we come down stairs in those tuxes. people may not think we're twins but i bet they'll think we're brothers. >> i don't think you have to worry about anyone mistaking you for a brother. >> i always loved carlton, the way he was true to himself. >> go charlton! carlton! go carlton! >> a lot of these outsider characters were a side kick of sorts but once you get into the '90 it's, geeks are becoming more and more part of the national conversation. ♪ ♪ >> "freaks and geeks" is a push back against the cookie cutter characters and the typical teen sitcoms of that era. >> sick of being called a geek. i mean, what is so geek about us anyways, we're squujust guys? >> good news.
dragons, we'll have fun friday night. >> i was handed the finished script of "freaks and geeks" and i loved it before i opened it up. i just thought that's the best title. >> there is a girl in our school. she had premarital sex. you know what she did on graduation day? died of an overdose of heroin. >> paul thought he had never seen a truthful presentation of high school on tv. the good and the really ugly. >> hey, amy. >> hey, lindsey. >> nice threads. >> nice voice. >> "freaks and geeks" is about two groups of friends, a freak group, a geek group. >> sergeant pepper, where is the rest of the group been? >> looks like you ate them. >> the people that most tv shows ignore, the nerds, the pot heads. >> i understand you've just been through puberty and you don't think anyone understands. lots of people do.
even mr. alice cooper. >> at the time it was very unusual to have an hour-long comedy. do you know this song? ♪ ♪ i'm 18 i get confused every day ♪ ♪ 18 i just don't know what to say sf♪ >> i thought it would catch on. i thought there has to be a hunger that is kwquality like this. >> everyone can relate to being an outsider in someway or another. >> i can't believe she's going to hang out with us. >> what if i'm asleep right now and this is just a dream and any moment maureen and i will make love. >> eww. >> what are we doing here? >> in 1999 it was a different world and there was just enoughed out after one season. >> lindsey, lindsey, wait, wait, wait. >> i've got something for you. it's chocolates for a sweet
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if you don't come out of there, i am going to have to drag you out. >> you can try but you will never catch me. >> bezinga. we live in an page now where being nerdy and geeky about something is cool. >> that's not your logo is it? that looks like a guy sucking your [ bleep ]. >> that was not the case decades ago and i think the sitcom had a large part in pushing geek culture to the forefront. >> hi mr. winslow, i am steve
urkel. >> it is about the winslows family. >> they have this really annoying neighbor, steve urkele. >> when i went to audition for steve urkele, i was supposed to be a day player, i brought the glasses, they belong to my father. >> i hear you can't get a date for the dance. >> so you want to go with me? >> she rather eat worms. >> okay, some other time then. he was so quirky and odds. >> he loves poker and cheese. >> you got any cheese. >> and the dancing and "did i do that?"
did i do that? he really sort of took over the series. >> a lot of people feel awkward. in the weirdest way, he instill self-pride in other people. hey, that guy can be awkward, going after the girl of his dreams and share what he's about with others. >> what did you invent this time? well, you will see. >> you had to be a tough guy when you are outside your house, this was a character that you get to be when you are with family members and friends and you can be your goofy self and dance around. steve urkele made a statement that you can be whatever you want. i played bruce lee and i played elvis, albert einstein. >> the evolution of the nerd in
sitcom is an interesting one to watch. we went from urkele and screech of the joke characters where you have a group of nerds were the stars of the show, of "the big bang theory." >> just in conceivably brilliant guys who can figure pie to 80 decimals but very child-like. >> smell that? that's the smell of a newcomb i c comic book. >> sheldon is played so well by parsons. >> sheldon, what the hell are you doing? >> the same thing i have been doing three days, trying to figure out why electronics have
no mass when traveling through a gravelling sheet. >> with marbles? >> these characters want to be included and there is the beautiful penny who lives across the hall from sheldon and leonard. >> oh, welcome to the building. >> oh, maybe we can have coffee sometimes. >> oh, great. >> great. >> she's funny but they show her as having a fraction of their iq. >> cal tech department, you are maybe familiar with some of my work. it is orbiting -- taking high resolution photographs but then they bring in bernadette and amy and suddenly there is a bunch of women and the show felt more balance. >> i am amy and you are cooper. >> she became sheldon's love interest and that opens up a
whole pandora's box. >> may i ask you a question before i give it to you? >> of course. >> why are we saying give it to you like that? >> the beginning of sheldon is outcast and intellectual and by the end, he found his soul mate and he found friends and he won a nobel prize. i have been tolerated not only by my wife but by the greatest group of friends i ever had. >> you have "big bang theory," it is huge, they are nerds. >> we started seeing caarticles about young people going into stem field because "the big bang theory" made it looked cool.
>> i need to get to here. the earliest estimate of the s singularity. so you are upset from being some freak robot. >> by this much. >> it used to be geek to be normal and regular. but, now it is very chic to be an outsider. >> the outsider is this odd ball character that comes in. fish out of water works. because everybody really does feel out of place part of their lives. >> what's going on? >> i don't know. >> i looked around the room and i saw all the faces and presents. it was too much. it is in the nature of comedy that you provide an audience and object of identification. >> there is a time i would never be friends with someone like you and now you are one of my favorite people. if what you need is to spend your birthday in a bathroom, i
am happy to do it with you. >> and you make people laugh, not only at you but themselves. >> but everyone will think i am weird. jerusalem is the universe city, the chosen city, the holy city. that's its blessing but it also gives its danger and its uglugl ugliness, too. it means that people must believe they possess it absolutely. th
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