The history of the sitcom
March 9, 2017
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Sitcoms, or situational comedies, have become a huge part of cable and network TV in the last century as Americans have come to love the plots and humor provided by these shows. This type of entertainment has come a long way to get to where they are now; shows like How I Met Your Mother and The Office have raked in millions of dollars. Here is how sitcoms have evolved over time.
In 1926, the sitcom was born with the initial broadcast of Sam n‘ Henry over the radio. This fifteen minute daily program played on WGN in Chicago. As time progressed and the television was invented, one of the first TV formats to be created was the sitcom. Shows during this time aired weekly and were a half-hour in length. I’m 1951, I Love Lucy innovated the way the sitcom was filmed with a multi-camera setup. The producers and editors would have three cameras running simultaneously and would edit the best shots together to make the show.
In the 1960s a growing trend was shows surrounding the family and married couples. The expansion of this sort of “domestic comedy” became popular with the production of the Andy Griffith Show and the Brady Bunch. By the mid-60s, directors of sitcoms became interested in fantastical and eccentric characters and elements. Shows like the Munsters and The Addams Family used these elements and was considered a high-concept and complex style of production.
In 1967 the animated sitcom was born with shows like the Flintstones and the Jetsons. The Jetsons was an example of one of the first shows in the science fiction subgenre. By 1970 most shows had changed from filming on film to recording on video tape.
By the 1980s a recurring theme in TV was the starting of standup comedians in sitcoms. Notable comedians in these shows were Bill Cosby, Roseanne Barr, Gary Shandling, Jerry Seinfeld and Ray Romano. In the 1980s shows also returned back to themes of family life after shows like M*A*S*H* and shows regarding social issues made their run. By the mid-80s, the growth of cable TV enabled producers to target specific audiences. Shows like Saved by the Bell and Clarissa Explains It All targeted teens. In the 90s the animated sitcom was a reborn with the Simpsons, which is the longest running sitcom in US history. Other animated shows followed suit, such as South Park, Futurama, Family Guy, and King of the Hill.
In the 2000s the mockumentary sitcom came to life with The Office, Modern Family, and Parks and Recreation. These shows portray comedy in the form of a staged documentary. Overall, sitcoms have evolved tremendously into complex story lines with a very informative comedy, and have become a big part of the American entertainment industry.