PERFORMING ARTS

Sitcommentary: Television Comedies That Changed America

Rowman & Littlefield. Oct. 2019. 256p. photos. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781538114193. $36; ebk. ISBN 9781538114209. TV
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Comedy has been a staple of television since its inception, with situation comedies drawing families together around an ever-expanding TV screen. Robinson (The World of Musicals) highlights 40 sitcoms that demonstrate that TV can be more than just escapist entertainment—viewers of these shows witnessed America’s evolution on social issues set to a laugh track. Organized chronologically, the book spotlights groundbreaking series: the taboos they broke, the controversies they generated, and the reception they received. Readers can easily skip to their favorite programs or dig into some of the lesser-known offerings, but those who read the volume straight through will be rewarded with a narrative that shows how we moved from The Amos ’n’ Andy Show to Black-ish, from All in the Family to Modern Family, and from One Day at a Time (1975) to One Day at a Time (2017). Robinson’s encyclopedic knowledge of television history and enthusiasm shines through but don’t prevent him from addressing problematic elements of the shows (or troubling behavior by their casts).
VERDICT A useful and readable guide to social issues as seen through sitcoms. Beyond its scholarly use, this book will be appreciated by nostalgic readers.

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