Blockbuster TV: Must-See Sitcoms in the Network Era by Janet Staiger

By Janet Staiger

Archie Bunker. Jed. Laverne and Shirley. Cliff Huxtable. in the course of the complete background of yank prime-time tv in basic terms 4 sitcoms were precise blockbusters, with Nielsen scores a long way above the second one- and third-rated courses. Weekly, thousands of american citizens of all ages have been creating a distinct attempt to show at the set to work out what Archie, Jed, Laverne, and Cliff have been doing that week. The wild acclaim for those shows--All within the Family, The Beverly Hillbillies, Laverne & Shirley (and its associate Happy Days), and The Cosby Show--left commentators bewildered by means of the tastes and personal tastes of the yankee public. How can we account for the large allure of those sitcoms, and the way does it determine into the heritage of community prime-time television?

Janet Staiger solutions those questions by means of detailing the myriad elements that move into the development of mass audiences. Treating the 4 exhibits as case experiences, she deftly balances genuine reasons (for example, the influence of VCRs and cable on community domination of television) with extra interpretative ones (for instance, the transformation of The Beverly Hillbillies from a favored convey detested by way of the critics, to a blockbuster after its elevation because the critics' darling), and juxtaposes industry-based purposes (for instance, the ways that television indicates derive good fortune from placement within the weekly programming agenda) with stylistic reasons (how, for example, sure exhibits create excitement from a repetition and edition of a formula).

Staiger concludes that due to alterations within the undefined, those indicates have been a phenomenon which may by no means be repeated. And whereas the western or the night-time cleaning soap has from time to time captured public recognition, Blockbuster TV continues that the sitcom has been THE style to draw humans to the tube, and that with out figuring out the sitcom, we won't safely comprehend the position of tv in our culture.

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9 points over its rivals, Introduction / 16 Candid Camera and The Red Skelton Show. 8, respectively. During the mid-1960s, Bonanza, like The Beverly Hillbil­ lies, did very well. C. 1 over The Lucy Show. Within the notion of “must-see TV,” Bo­ nanza (and also Dallas), like the four situation comedies that I will study, counts as a ratings buster. 2 over third-place Bonanza. 4 points over second-place Gunsmoke. The next major “blip” on the ratings chart arrived with All in the Family during the 1971–72 season.

While some programs immediately se­ cure that attachment, other programs require time and, exec­ utives might claim, a lot of fooling with scheduling. Sitcoms have advantages in this process over other genres. For one thing, they are cheap to produce. Sitcoms often use very min­ imal sets and technical requirements. Moreover, their halfhour length requires a lesser scheduling commitment than do hour-long programs, although some evidence exists that view­ ers tune in to “comedy blocks” rather than to a specific show.

Finally, The Cosby Show started in the top ten in the fall of 1984 and was first by Jan­ uary 1985. 15 It is the case, though, that all of the ratings-busting series do hit blockbuster status within one year of their premiere. S. population. Bonanza in the mid-1960s, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In in 1968–69, and Dallas in 1980–81 would count as such given their ex­ cessive numbers relative to their competitors. I have chosen to focus on the four half-hour comedies, however, because they obviously were producing a going-out-of-one’s-way Introduction / 20 activity.

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