The beginning of the world of comedy was revolutionized upon the invention of the television: this is undeniably factual and right. Sitcom is a fundamental study for two reasons: it is among the oldest and recognizable of television form, and it has managed to establish a genre with a rich history of moralistic origins that directs how the middle class should be; thus, also representing the contemporary realities of a working class family.
Consequently, this saw the graphic generation of comedies like, I Love Lucy in the 1950s, Mary Tyler Moore in the 1970s and the most contemporary piece of comedy 30 Rock that was produced in the beginning of the 21st century. These pieces of literary work can be viewed as valuable cultural artifacts, especially relating to the time they were produced in history; and, most significantly, their ratings and industrial sustainability. This paper attempts to evaluate these comedies in terms of textual analyses, including how these texts relate to the historical moments, in which comedies were produced. Furthermore, an attempt is also made at relating how comedies were influenced by the American culture during their era. Furthermore, the questions raised by this analysis are being discussed. The issues raised include: how was feminism expressed by these three sitcoms? How industrious were the comedies during their eras? These questions guide the research done and discussed in this paper.
I Love Lucy of the 1950s
Lucille Ball, starring as Lucy Ricardo, she was considered as very charming, especially with her pranks and charades. She acted in this show alongside her real-life husband (Arnaz), who had the roles of a husband and Cuban bandleader. In one theme of the episode series, she devises all various technics to disguise with the sole intent of gaining an access to Ricky’s nightclub show. In another episode, Lucy and Ethel are employed as workers at a candy factory. At one instance, the conveyor belt is seen to move faster and faster, and, as a result, both of them cannot keep up with the speed. What follows are the moments of laughter galore as Lucy pops passing candies into her mouth. In addition, William Frawley and Vivian Vance are starring in the show as they act as her neighbors; moreover, Fred and Ethel Mertz are often recruited into many of Lucy’s scheming scenarios.
It is worth the effort to mention that the invention of the television did serve the purpose of bringing the cultural conservatism, especially during the production of the situation comedy I Love Lucy. This fact also served to facilitate the commercialization of the same comedies and, thus, improved their general industrial performance. As a direct result of this revolution, I Love Lucy episodes were shot in front of a live audience, which was the normal culture of theaters at that time. This comedy was very hilarious; especially, considering the fact that it was centered on a woman in a time, when women comic actors had no mentors. Lucy’s comic capers in the songs and dances solicited a wide acclaim. In her time, no female actress had been so willing to make a fool of herself for the mere pursuit of laughter. Her funny gestures among other comic actresses carry the most appeal. Domesticities of those ages are also subtly presented in this comedy, especially pertaining to gender issues. I Love Lucy facilitated the creation of a culture that revolved around television, sitcoms, and the values the two supported.
I Love Lucy is centered on a time in the history of America, when radical and even conservative perspectives were being evaluated as pertaining to the set standards of immigration. A new immigrant to the USA experienced numerous challenges, while integrating into the American society back then. How does a housewife integrate into the suburbs of a typical American society with its views on racism?
This has an impact of feminism ideologies on sitcoms, which also influences ideas in this comedy. For instance, Lucy is viewed like a child, who must be corrected by her husband. In at least two episodes, Lucy is spanked by her husband (Ricky) in a fete that further explains Lucy’s acts being feminist. However, the jealous feelings experienced between women are also expressed, when Lucy and Ethel tore each others dresses. This comedy also discusses social issues such as gender roles pertaining to the public space (a domain mainly run by the men) and private space (normally always given the female dominance). During Lucy’s era, comedy feminism was not as broad as it was during the 1970s. Furthermore, I Love Lucy did not represent a wide spectrum of cultural attitudes as those expressed in the sitcoms of the 1960s.
The industrial performance of this comedy cannot be overemphasized. In fact, it became the standard, by which other situation comedies concurrent to its era were to be judged. This comedy facilitated CBS to become the most highly rated network during that time. Today, this program has been published into over thirty five issues and even further syndicated into a comic strip. Furthermore, it is rumored that this show catapulted Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz to the first ever television millionaires.
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The Mary Tyler Moore Show of the 1970s
In this comic show, Moore (she is is best known for this show) stars as Mary Richards: a woman in her thirties, who worked as a local news producer in Minneapolis. One particular characteristic about this comic show era is that it was produced during a time, when television was discovering that women were an important audience. Mary Richards is portrayed as a career woman taking a profession in a male dominated field. This show focuses on her, and, thus, she becomes the center of attention in the show. In addition, the show portrays a picture of initial experiences in the onset of single women in the workforce. Thus, because of her lifestyle she is liberated and continues to live alone in her apartment. The episodes in this show were centered mostly in the newsroom and her home, thus, earning it the name of a workplace comedy.
This show took place in a time dubbed as ‘the Golden Age of the intelligent comedy’. What was particularly innovative about these episodes was that they explored a thematic territory, the prior knowledge of which lacked in the prime-time television. The show generated themes that related to homosexuality, impotence and racial prejudice (issues that were very controversial at that time). It is also worth noting that such themes were strictly prohibited in the 1950s. Thus, the show had to employ the use of a language both extreme, but with some euphemism. Basically, the Mary Moore show revolutionized the sitcoms during its time of live broadcast.
The Moore show is very reflective of its time in history. During the 1970s, women emancipation efforts were very conspicuous at the work place, and many single women were joining the working class. Women were defining themselves more via their careers as compared to their forerunners that included their personal or domestic lives. TV sitcoms received modern audience The Mary Tyler Moore Show is a deeply rich historical and cultural medium. For instance, Mary Richards became a cultural icon of that era, and the result was that the women of her era began coping her hairstyle and clothing. The most unique aspect of her shows is that they were not threatening, that is, they did not call sexism a social evil. As a result, single women of the 1970s were mostly self-assured and confident, which was a better scenario than in the 1950s. The hilarious moments of this show subtly made this possible (she constantly generates situations, where the audience laughs at her and also laughs with her).exceptionally rare occasions of women writers. Though it generates a confusing watching for the
From the foregoing, the feminism ideologies in this comedy were are expressed subtly and avoid a hard-line that stressed sexism as an evil of society (Gourley 90). This perspective of feminism was very absent in show’s contemporaries, who developed a defined network of the social resistance. On feminism, this single working woman sitcom staple solicited comparisons with Murphy Brown (a comedy that came later) just for the mere showing of how women had prospered since the pioneering era of Mary Richards. The most conspicuous comparison shows that if Richards was the feminist icon of the 1970s, then Murphy Brown was the Postfeminist icon of the 1990s. However, the latter contains subtler themes about liberation lessons
The Mary Tyler Moore Show as an industrial product of its time made a substantial impact on the televised programs of the 1970s and even successors of the 1980s and 1990s. This show also won numerous accolades such as the Emmy awards and the Golden Globe Awards. This show changed the ratings of CBS and even transformed the earnings of sitcoms.
30 Rock of the 00’s
30 Rock (an NBC sitcom) is basically a fictional variety show, the setting of which is in 30 Rockefeller Plaza: the home of NBC Universal. The fact that the show is a sitcom depicts its resemblance to some aspects of the 1950s and 1970s shows; especially, The Mary Tyler Moore Show’s perspectives about the work place scenario. In addition, the emergence of new themes, like racism and positive discrimination, can be seen. The setting of this comedy is in the modern day USA; therefore, its hilarious gimmicks are very compelling, unlike those of The Mary Tyler Moore Show of the 1950s. However, 30 Rock should not be considered merely as a popular television comedy of the 21st century, but also as a show that unearths human life issues.
This show follows the adventures of Liz Lemon. Lemon faces limitations and contrasts that are associated with producing a comedy for a major corporation. Lemon is introduced as the head writer of The Girlie Show. After the death of the executive Gary, Jack Donaghy takes his place. He introduces a number of changes to The Girlie Show. For example, Donaghy adds Tracy Jordan, a movie star, and even changes the name of the entire show to TGS with Tracy Jordan. 30 Rock satirizes the legacy of Saturday Night Live, just as Saturday Night Live satirizes the rest of the television.
Although the 30 Rock show focuses on several ideas associated with television (for instance, the Saturday Night Live), today, it possesses subtle reflections and critiques that relate to the modern television and popular culture. The program itself can be considered as a rich cultural product and a vital component of the television and cultural industries. The program richly employs the parody and satire techniques in expressing its views of both culture and critique. This is typical culture of sitcom.
30 Rock represents pretty subtly and succinctly the ideas of feminism, post-feminism and Liz Lemonism (Mizejewski). Beginning the discussion on feminism, it is possible to emphasize Fey’s reputation as a woman boss and executive producer of the Saturday Night Live (the head writer). She is even connected to feminist politics in the show as it mimics the sexist media treatment of Hillary Clinton and the vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. The comedy presents feminism as a struggle instead of an achievement. For instance, the pilot episode of this comedy opens with a reference to The Mary Tyler Moore Show of the 1970s. Thus, the show mainstreams its feminism focus; for instance, Mary Richards worked as an associate producer, whereas Liz Lemon is a high-status position in NBC.
Post-feminism is also depicted in 30 Rock as a lifestyle that invites independent women to evaluate on consumerism, the girl culture and even motherhood that also experiences romance. For instance, in the fourth episode, Liz learns that a newly published book is translated in Chinese to as ‘Lesbian Yellow Sour Fruit’.
On the other hand, Liz Lemonism refers to the bad images employed by the comedy and acted by Liz. Liz’s politics, it is claimed, overlook issues of race and disability. She exemplifies a typical feminism, the main concern of which is her body image. Furthermore, the show critiques Liz’s white feminism and in the process exposes her subtle racism stunts. For instance, this racism is seen, when she is hallucinating that she is seated with Oprah Winfrey in a flight, when in reality, she is seated with a young black girl. This simply implies to Liz that all large black women look alike. In another episode, she is seen mixing up the names of the black men she happens to have an acquaintance of. Liz Lemonism can be identified as a satirical device and a political perimeter in the discourse this show apparently tries to demystify. To sum it up, the 21st century feminism is portrayed as having experienced a paradigm shift since the times of The Mary Tyler Moore and I Love Lucy shows.
As an industrial product, this show claimed its own array of awards and also general viewer trends. It can be compared to its predecessor sitcoms like I Love Lucy that transformed its actors to millionaires overnight.
In conclusion, the cultural and industrial significance of sitcoms since the 1950s to the 21st century can be epitomized by the analysis of the comedies produced in this era. Starting from I Love Lucy show in the 1950s through The Mary Tyler Moore Show in the 1970s to 30 Rock of the 2007, the issues of how this comedies spoke of and about their times in history can be evaluated. The sitcoms is a considerably influential aspect of the American televised society; thus, the evaluation of its shows serves to illustrate the American culture on various issues from politics, immigration, racism to feminism (all-rounded human life issues). It also shows the commercialization of comedies away from the theater as it was an ancient custom. These sitcom shows are the today’s cultural and historical source away from the humor and satire they present.
Even though the only comedy is discussed in each era from 1950s, these comedies serve as the epitome of comparison for most of the other comedies produced within their era. Furthermore, comedies are the most preferred by most viewers whether young and old (although those of the 1950s were mostly watched at night and predominantly by women), because of their laughter galore. They educate, but at the same time make it enjoyable due to the gimmicks and satirical stunts. Although historical comedies like I Love Lucy cannot solicit the same laughter in the contemporary audience as they did back then, they still contain some resemblances to modern day comedies like 30 Rock; especially in the themes they present, entertain about and present.