NONFICTION

Sitcom: A History in 24 Episodes from I Love Lucy to Community

Chicago Review. Mar. 2014. 416p. photos. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781613743843. $19.95. TV
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OrangeReviewStarEarly in this book, Austerlitz (Another Fine Mess: A History of American Film Comedy) says, "Watch enough television, and sitcoms begin to talk to one another." This serves as the book's thesis, and the author is at his best when he's facilitating the conversation. Father Knows Best recalls The Honeymooners, Moe's Tavern is Springfield's answer to Cheers, and Curb Your Enthusiasm couldn't exist without Seinfeld. Extending beyond the facile comparisons, Austerlitz's chapter on Sex in the City opens with a look at The Golden Girls and leads into Entourage, while his section on Taxi reads like an introduction to TV sidekicks, spanning from The Mary Tyler Moore Show to Community. Austerlitz adheres to his history of sitcoms in 24 episodes, but isn't shackled by it, easily covering an entire run of a sitcom while drawing comparisons to a dozen other shows within a single chapter.
VERDICT A compulsively readable and often laugh-out-loud funny study of the American sitcom. While it lacks the detailed episode and cast listings scholars might desire, it's perfect for armchair readers—and is a must if that armchair resembles Archie Bunker's.

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