tv History of the Sitcom CNN August 8, 2021 6:00pm-7:00pm PDT
layered portrayals. >> because, yes, we gravitate toward people who are like us, but they don't have to be exactly like us in order to create these really profound friendships and communities. i have one seat in first class and one in coach. >> oh, well, i'll take the first class. >> class has always played a role in the history of sitcoms. >> class is fascinating to us as a culture. >> i never check my bags. can't stand that waiting baggage area. >> it's good to laugh at it to get it all out on the table. >> you have to go back to your seat. >> you know, our goal should be a society without classes. >> if we didn't laugh about
social class in the united states, we would engage in class war warfare. >> do you realize people up here -- >> that is not a show about nothing. [ laughter ] so to the left we have the bar. to the right we have the bathroom. we have bathrooms upstairs, down stairs, many, many bathrooms. >> i do still believe that's all the things going on in our current society in america, you can come from anywhere and end up anyplace you want. >> immigration. >> revenue. >> i've been gutted. crazy. >> sick person. >> can you just -- >> but the american dream is not
the reality for most americans. >> i'll tell you, boys, life is crazy. all of these doors open up for you except they're not really doors. they're trap doors. >> the american sitcom is how we tell stories about class. >> you're thinking is this all i have to my life? not you kids, i love you kids but the house, it's crap. >> so when the sitcom makes its way to television, you already see that with the honeymoons. >> the honeymooners. >> what are we going to do and live on until this layoff is over? suppose it does last a month. >> well, we have to face it. we have to cut down, cut out this high living. >> "the honeymooners" was an example of the idea of class and struggle and what it was like to be a family who didn't have a lot. >> you don't know how to handle money. >> of course i don't. i never had practice. >> these were people born with blue collars, lower middle class people that could do regular
things but didn't have a lot of money. >> in the 1950s, you had a major push to move to say beush ya. >> consumers, you have these perfect family sitcoms with the housewives in it and new nice gadgets in the kitchen. >> "the honeymooners" lived in a two-room little flat. >> people were worried they couldn't afford curtains. they kept sending curtains to the sound stage. >> jackie always hoped to have the get rich quick scheme. >> two days to learn how to play golf. >> wait a minute. when ralph learns how to golf, he is hoping to ascend his social class position. >> plant your feet firmly on the ground and address the ball. >> as many of us know, golf is reserved for another class of people in america. >> what do they mean by address
the ball? >> hello, ball. >> people are struggling and they see an underdog. you're rooting for that guy. >> who is our next guest, please? mr. ralph. >> that episode is so potent. >> i intend to go straight on and forge ahead to the $99. >> i'll go on a game show and i'll have enough money to get breathing room to finally achieve my dreams. >> who is the composer of "swa ny river"? >> time is running out. >> i felt so bad when he would set up some scheme and it was about to fall apart. >> terribly sorry. no, the correct answer is steven foster but thanks so much. >> time and again, do everything possible only to be torn down to his basic frailty. >> you want to go to the moon? do you want to go to the moon? >> really. you're going to hit him? >> that's a husband trying to
rage and be the boss of his wife. he was what we would call borderline abusive. it never bothered me as a kid. >> the guy was clearly buffeted every day but things but held up by this love he had with a wonderful woman. >> i learned something tonight, too. i don't even mind growing old, as long as you and i grow old together. >> that was an american experience 100 million people could identify with. >> baby, you're the greatest. >> we like to think of ourselves as a classless society and postwar america, that was more true than ever but at the same time, there are all of these little tales. there is obviously, your job. what kind of house you live in. what kind of clothes you wear. what kind of car you drive. >> hey, boomer. >> hey. >> but one of the biggest tales for class was a southern accent.
>> can i use your hose? >> help yourself. >> what a nice spray. we do like to charge, though. >> that north, south divide became an inspiration for all of these rural sitcoms. ♪ ♪ >> the whistle theme to the "andy griffin show" coupled with andy and opie makes you think of small town america in a simpler time. >> anybody want some lunch? >> we sure are. >> "the andy griffin show" was another camp. >> you are the comfort food aspect of sitcoms. [ laughter ] >> you like pickles, don't you? >> sure, who don't? >> andy griffith was a small town sheriff. >> i'm going into these pickles.
>> these? >> these? >> these. >> that was like a fantasy of a world and an america in which race and class kind of didn't exist. >> jennifer, ms. clara bell. >> it was probably the whitest show on television. i mean, there are no black people in mayberry. if there are, they're passing through and if you blinked, you missed them. >> okay, paul, they all flew off okay. i guess i did a good job, huh? >> you sure did, son. >> the show immediately hit the hop ten. it rated higher in the rural parts of the country. the main producer sheldon leonard famously said you can take new york, you can take l.a. give me the corn belt. this class divide extended to the critical reception shows received in the 1960s.
"the dick van dyke show" got emmies and the "andy griffith show" got none. >> you live a different kind of life. >> that right there shows you the class divide in america. >> how can life be that much different if you're happy? this is the greatest idea you'll ever hear. okay, it's an app that compares hundreds of travel sites for hotels and cars
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this administration declares war on poverty. >> in the 1960s you seen conflict in the west and south and rich and poor and you see television using a show like the "beverly hill billies" to comment on things that happened in society. ♪ ♪ >> i remember the opening sequence to that show. ♪ then one day he was shooting at some food and up to the ground ♪ >> the premise itself was funny and smart. ♪ the first thing you know he's a millionaire, the kinfolk said jed, move away from there ♪ ♪ said california is a place to be and loaded up the truck and moved to beverly ♪ >> here we are. i hope you like this place i picked out for you.
>> like hitting the lottery, that idea that we all kind of wished life would happen for us. >> uncle jed? guess what? there is a whole other house up here. >> absolutely loved "the beverly hill billies." typical fish out of water. >> granny, when we done washing can i swim in the cement pod? >> "the beverly hill billies" is a commentary on the ability and consumers that come with it. >> finally took your advice and put some of the money in stock. >> these hill billies might come across as lower class, they're happy with the way they are living their lives. >> i couldn't believe how frustrated i was. they had a stupid old car that blew smoke and i said get a better car. >>. ♪ i'm going to cook rabbit stew ♪ >> unepisode involved granny
mistaking a giant kangaroo for a giant jack rabbit. >> she wanted to cook it. >> would you like to step into my kitchen? >> it is to this day, the highest rated half hour of television. middle america fell in love with "the beverly hill billies" and spawned another television series on cbs. ♪ ♪ green acres is the place to be ♪ ♪ farm living is the life for me ♪ ♪ you are my life, green acres we are there ♪ >> just absurd and ridiculous. >> look at that floor. that's solid oak. >> "green acres" was about a man and woman living on fifth avenue
and he decides he's going to be a farmer. >> yeah? >> there is somebody here to see you from the state department. >> i'll be right down. >> darling. >> he would have waited. you should have used the ladder. >> "green acres" is the kind of show america loves and cbs thinks we can do more of these rural characters. >> yeah, the rural comedies. really, really funny stuff but they were char aboacters of rur people. >> you're looking at people sitting in their high rise offices in new york showing the north what they thought people in the south were. >> they had high ratings and cbs was known as a country
broadcasting system. >> in the late '60s ratings and demographic tools improved significantly. networks are able to see the ages, the education level and what kinds of jobs the people viewing the shoes have. >> the more they can refine that, the more advertisers wanted young professional wealthy people. >> in 1970, cbs begins what is both affection anyally and derogatively known as the royal purge. >> they cancelled all those shows with huge ratings on cbs. >> and norman lear arrived to take their place with realistic shows about working class people and the big city. >> father lost his job today. >> there goes the old day. >> all in the family was able to deal with some stuff that was
going on in contemporary society through the lens of comedy. >> when the going gets tough, that's when the tough gets going and that's me, tough, right? >> yeah, right. >> so what's the problem? >> what are you going to do, daddy? >> that's the problem. >> a primary driver of story telling. >> this is an eviction notice. what are you going to talk about? they said they're throwing us out here today. >> we have a recession at the beginning of the '70s. the working class now more than ever before are facing the crunch of economic anxiety. >> you worked all night and all they paid you was $6? >> uh-uh, they paid me a lot more but after they got finished taking out the federal withholding, the state withholding, the unemployment compensation, you know, i work for them a few more hours, i'd end up owing them 10 bucks. >> he was doing anything he
could to work and make money to pay the rent and put food on the table. >> then in the mid '70s, things begin to shift with "the jeffersons." ♪ we're moving on up to the east side ♪ >> jefferson was ground breaking, successful black man and never really saw that. >> it was an explosive thing for norman lear to say wake up, now this? >> the both of y'all in here? >> someplace. >> i didn't know the jeffersons had a couple. >> a couple of what? >> madeid and a butler, you two >> we're talking people living above their station. >> hold it, diane. we are the jeffersons. [ lau [ laughter ] >> he's a great joker.
[ laughter ] >> he's not joking, diane. >> really, aside from wardrobe and the places they lived, they were still black because no matter how much money you have, no matter where you live, blackness is its own class. >> how can you afford to live in a place like this? you ain't tall enough to be no basketball player. [ laughter ] ♪ things you start when you're 45. coaching. new workouts. and screening for colon cancer. yep. the american cancer society recommends screening
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your future isn't gloomy. you're overlooking a simple solution that isn't obvious i'm surprised you haven't thought of it yourself. >> well, child, lay it on me. >> in the 1970s, the optimism isn't rooted in america. >> tell them, helen. >> maybe you can win a lottery. >> or something. >> you're aware that the equal rights amendment still has not passed. >> i would like to know why the last associate producer before me made $50 a week more than i do. >> oh, because he was a man. >> so i think the '70s is a reality check whether or not the american dream is available for women. ♪ ♪ >> come on, you're going to be late for school. >> i haven't figured your tip
yet. >> figure 15% of nothing is nothing. good-bye, i love you. >> until alice there hadn't been a single mother in low income job. >> i know this is asking a lot but i need $10 a week extra to pay for tommy's braces. >> you know the refrigerator is on the brink and i have to come up with $800 to replace it. >> fighting for health care. fighting for benefits. >> the refrigerator comes first. because if i close down, you're going to be out of work and if you're out of work you can't buy food in which case, tommy doesn't need teeth anyway. >> there is a particular episode where mel decides he wants to hire a guy to be a waiter. >> mel is paying$2.60 an hour. >> we only get $2.35, don't we? >> that makes me good and mad. >> alice wanted to be right and strong and wanted to be the leader.
>> we work here. we do the same work. >> don't give me that women's junk. >> junk. in that case you can run it without me and flo and vera because we quit. >> he tried to run the diner without us. >> i'm going to bonnie's burger bar to get descent service. >> what about these eggs? >> and was impossible. >> on behalf of alice, vera and myself, kiss my grits. >> when i was invited to speak for the votes being taken to pass the equal rights amendment, i thought how do i do this? so it occurred to me to wear the alice uniform because they knew her and they were her. >> i hope that all of the alices that work unprotected will carry the message to their bosses that we work and have earned our economic rights.
>> in the '70s you can talk about the women's movement but in the '80s you have regan. >> government on the the solution to the problem. government is our problem. >> you have family ties like the ultimate regan fan boy. >> taxes. >> a tax is a terrible, hairy, liberal monster. the only thing that can stop the terrible tax monster is a republican. america was takeing aspirationa. >> you see a "fresh prince of bellaire." >> young kid thrown into wealth it's great for comedy and conflict. >> we promised your mother you're here to work hard,
straighten out and learn gold old fashioned american values. >> dad, i need $200. >> the '80s were really associated with excess and we wealth. >> it's a vision of upper middle class life. >> one thing that's extraordinary is it mirrors the honeymooners. it a simple show. main set is the kitchen. it's somewhat gritty and dark and has extraordinary acting.
>> "the roseanne show" is about a close knit family in illinois. >> are you ever sorry we got married? >> every second of my life. >> juggling three growing kids, juggling jobs. >> you little ladies enjoying your lunch? >> well, the veal is bien and how is your sword fish, sis? >> as use ual the food is to di for. >> that show is fully in regular normal midwestern life. >> phone bill. >> roseanne was reflective of the average american family. it was masterfully done. >> you're messing with my system. >> what system? you pay the ones marked final notice and throw the rest away. >> she wasn't educated, she couldn't fit in. >> i think of an episode where roseanne got a new job. >> yes, we use the tangerine three. we can do anything. >> good, maybe it can teach me
how to use a computer. >> you mean, you never worked on a computer? >> i worked on my feet at wil willman. >> i let my family down. you know it and i know it. that hurts. that hurts real bad. >> because of what's gone on with roseanne, recently, i think people tend to forget she changed the idea of what a woman could be on television. what a mom could be on television. what a wife could be on television. she changed that. >> hey. >> what? >> get a job. [ laughter ]
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we all know why i'm here. we can't be left alone for ten minutes without falling on his butt and got stuck with me. isn't that right? >> no, no, no. >> in the '90s we saw a lot of sitcoms geared towards whole family viewing and they shied away from the more political nature of the is1970s. >> every item here was carefully selected. >> but because social class is a
part of someone's identity everyone can relate to, it's a way sitcoms can reach the broadest audience. >> in here. >> the idea of a class structure and frasier was about a father that has been alienated from his sons because they were so unlike him. >> where is the tv? >> it's in that. >> it was poking fun of the social class structure. >> this from the gourmet who dumped my garden's yard cheese. >> it was covered with mold. >> it was supposed to be. >> frasier can be a snob, so could his brother, niles. >> i'd like a petite fillet, lean not that it lacks flavor. >> people would ask the question, how did these two sons come from a cop like that? >> you had martin and daphne at one level and then you had frasier and niles at this rarefied area. >> it was daphne's joke to sort
of burst their mood. >> if i gave it a french name. >> a lot of episodes focused on niles and frasier trying to get into this elite club or that elite club. >> i'm sorry, sir, you're not allowed through there. please remain in the relaxation grotto. >> once they did get into that club, did it make them happier? >> i'm determined to see where they think i don't belong. >> niles and frasier thought there was one better and open another door and there is a better room. >> take me with you. [ laughter ] >> feeling warmth and light it must be a magnificent. >> that's really the american dream about wanting more than what you have no matter where you are. >> it's beautiful. it's beautiful. yes, this is where we belong. [ laughter ] >> i think the reason people responded to frasier is he is
pompus but recognizable and people care. >> it's a party, not a shareholders meeting. >> prepare to be boarded. prepare to be boarded. >> security and exchange commission. >> in the early 2000s in the wake of 9/11 we see a stock market crash and rise in unelun unemployment and has us thinking about income inequality. >> listen to me. empty the account. >> we jumped to something darker. there was a lot that i wanted to explore about entitlement, power and fragility of the 1%. >> you have to cut back. >> southot suddenly, they have and pretend they do. >> so we don't have a car or jet? why don't we take an ad out in
i'm poor magazine. >> they always have a line. >> there is $250,000 lining the walls of the banana stand. >> what? >> cash, michael. >> another set back for the once prominent family as their frozen banana stand burns to the ground. >> it was absurd but the idea is if you can make it seem realistic enough, you can carry the audience with you. >> why didn't you tell me that? >> how much clearer can i say there is always money in the banana stand. >> don't touching. >> no touching. >> no touching. >> "arrested development" began to make fun of the rich, sort of expose them for everyone to see. >> that coat cost more than your house. oh, that's how we joke. she doesn't even have a house. >> a lot of wealthy people have gotten in their positions by stepping on people. >> we can't afford to live
lavishly anymore. chew it. >> by the 21st century, america's shaky economy begins to shrink the middle class and we see that represented in sitcoms like fox's "malcolm in the middle". >> remember last year we were saving for disneyland. >> we're going to disneyland? >> no, it's like that except this time we're just trying to keep the house. >> "malcolm in the middle" is a fascinating show in terms of class because it's about trying to give your kid as good life when you can't pay for it. >> this is genius and he does not want to be a genius. >> malcolm may not look different than the rest of us but he is very different in his brain. >> despite all that craziness going on in that house, malcolm living up to his potential was one of the greatest dreams this family had. >> i got accepted into harvard. we don't though how we'll pay for it but we got to find a way. it's my dream school. it's 2,000 miles away from mom.
>> scholarships cover 26,000 and the fellowship, $200 scratcher your dad won. >> the fact that kid coming from that situation gets into the ivy league is beyond a dream come true. but he's working as a janitor to make his way through the school. >> i got three in the cafeteria and mopping the dorms at night. >> his brother reese tries to set off a stink bomb at malcolm's graduation. but instead, it goes off in the car. >> what's that noise? >> oh my -- oh my -- what is this? >> this is appropriate. now my life looks exactly how i feel. >> i'm sorry, malcolm. you don't get the easy path. >> malcolm really gave people i think the opportunity to think about what they were struggling with in their families. >> oh, really? >> we laugh at them and relate to that. >> you know what it's like to be poor and you know what it's like to work hard. now you're going to learn what
it's like to sweep floors and bust your ass and accomplish twice as much as the kids around you. >> and it acts as a reminder the american dream is becoming more and more elusive to so many americans. >> you'll be the only person that will ever give a crap about people like us. you look me in the eye and you tell me you can't do it. (vo) at t-mobile for business, unconventional thinking means we see things differently, so you can focus on what matters most. whether it's ensuring food arrives as fresh as when it departs. being first on the scene, when every second counts. or teaching biology without a lab. we are the leader in 5g. #1 in customer satisfaction. and a partner who includes 5g in every plan, so you get it all. without trade-offs.
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tonight, breaking news, your future, my future, tens of millions gone. >> it was a ponzi scheme. >> do i need to hear this? >> why did you have to give it all to the crook madoff? >> i don't know. >> how could you be so fiscally responsible? >> madoff. >> madoff. >> once bernie madoff goes to jail and after the great recession, sitcom characters are winking to the audience like this system is rigged. there is vast income inequality. ♪ ♪ >> if you had a chance to think of my zinger? >> it's almost thanksgiving everybody and i know what this crowd is giving thanks for,
state tax reform. [ laughter ] >> in "30 rock" this man is so rich he doesn't even understand how regular people live. >> damn, i wish this event were tonight. >> it's not tonight? when is it? >> february. >> jack is in the 1% and lives solidly middle class. >> why are you wearing a tux? >> it's after 6:00. what am i? a farmer? >> in the episode, the tux begins jack is mugged. >> my assailant is a middle-aged white man with a button down shirt and dockers, dockers on the verge of a class war. >> fears the middle class would rise up and take back what is theirs from these multibillionaires. >> my attack was a wakeup call. >> the character is super rich character that made millions and millions of dollars off movies. >> i need you to grab me some lunch. >> absolutely. what can i get for you?
>> noachos. >> from yankee stadium. >> yes, sir. >> it is about milking the utter divide from the super rich and the rest of america. >> especially in an era of really intense economic inequality. class is the great invisible force in both american culture and in the american sitcom. >> hey, dad, what are you going to do for a living? >> applied for a bunch of jobs and took every one that hired me. >> mom, how did you decide what you'd be? >> when your father decided he wasn't going to be rich, i decided to get a job. >> america likes to believe the poorest person born into the most object poverty could with enough junction become the richest person in america. >> hey, everybody. >> america is the land of opportunity. >> the idea you can pull yourself up by your boot straps
and yet, as we know not everyone is able to achieve the american dream. >> okay. by saying america is the land of opportunity you're implying everyone has the same opportunities. >> i'm not implying it. i'm saying it. if you live here and work hard, you can succeed, that's how this works. >> that's what i've always done in my comedy. i want to say it in as few words as possible, something that means a lot to me. >> fine, it's your story but it's not true for everyone. >> think that a sitcom is one of the best places to explore those difficult conversations revolving around class in an honest way. it's the greatest tool in theistry -- history of humanity to create empathy. >> "it's always sunny in philadelphia" explores american dream in a different way these characters really believe they are worthy of and entitled to so much more but don't want to work on it. >> you can't get welfare.
they don't give it to any jacksass that walks in here. >> bicycle helmet. >> it's about four friends who run a shitty, shitty bar in philadelphia and they are four of the worst human beings you've witnessed. >> i'm a recovering crack head and this is my retarded sister i take care of. i want welfare, please. >> the stories are pointing out the united states is maybe not all it's cracked up to be. >> sorry about that. can i help you? >> yeah, dude, checking in for the pool. >> in the episode "white trash" there is a heat wave and the gang tries to get into a country club. >> i'm sorry to tell you, fellas, membership is currently attica capacity. >> we're in the middle of a terrible heat wave and you are attica capacity for us. >> when they can't. they behave like deagain rids. >> we have to go. >> so charlie and mack go to
their old childhood pool. >> there she is. this is what i'm talking about, bro. >> man -- >> but it was drained and empty. >> i say we fix up this pool. >> one, two, three! >> hey! >> and then we can't get out of the pool. >> shit. are we stuck in here? i think we're stuck. >> help! >> we thought it would be interesting from a metaphor standpoint to suggest that maybe just maybe there are people out there who don't even have boot straps. >> hey! >> hey! you guys order a pizza? >> why don't you toss down that hose and pull us up. >> every time they try to go up the ladder, someone rips it away from them. >> dude. >> or as many times as they put the ladder up, the ladder falls down. >> you ready, bro?
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hey, thanks, we could not have held this without you. >> this is why i am here. >> one of the things i love about sitcom is it is necessarily a reflection of the atmosphere in which it is made. so leaving aside roseanne's repugnant view as an individual person. the show rebooted by abc is about how do you make end's meet in the 21st century. >> i hope everyone is enjoying the movie. i am having a blast sitting on this chair stolen from hometown bu buffet. >> one of the reasons "the con connors" work in 2010 because income disparity is a bigger deal. >> i am unprepared to have a baby. >> i am screwed. >> the connors are dealing with the same issue. >> a blue collar family living
smacked inside the american dream. >> look at how much money you are saving by not drinking while you are pregnant. >> they're not cognizant and i think people can appreciate that these characters are being honest about what is they're going through. >> this is ridiculous. these people are trying to have a better life. >> he was here illegally. >> i don't have a problem of what's happening? >> i like the guy my daughter is about to have his baby and he maybe dragged out of the country. you think i want that? >> sitcom became aware of all the horrible inequalities that society was built at the top. >> familiar, right? >> i will find a way. >> some of these shows have got
back the idea of racism in class. >> it is friday night. come on, let's go. >> the meat was heavily discounted so i need to cook it before it turns. >> you start to see the working class sitcom reemerge one day at a time. a good chunk of america lives below the poverty line. >> i got to be there for my kids. >> my dad was no good so he made me do messed up stuff back in the day. >> back in the day? you did some [ bleep ] this morning. >> "the last og" deals with class. and through the lens of this person who was incarcerated and now back into this ginger fried neighborhood. >> damn. "the last og" is in brooklyn,
born and raise d. >> i used to be just like y'all. >> tracy morgan is blue collar, old school but all the things he considered normal are now completely different. >> sorry, we are just waiting for our friends. >> oh, let's go to brunch -- >> what happened to brooklyn? >> brooklyn. >> the struggle israel. that's what these shows, every fools coming through that door, they found out the hood is gone. >> we got to help one another. rolling -- >> oh, you are the mayor we are supposed to meet. >> that's right, i am the mayor.
>> the premise is a wealthy family that lost everything. this is a town that my dad's character bought as a joke. excuse me, i don't think any sheets have been cleaned. they smell like cigarette. >> no, that's the way it smells. >> on our way here we drove through a town, called -- >> in an episode where a couple from johnny passed meet them for dinner and they run into rolling and jocelyn. >> you start to see the judgment that upper class has on lower class. >> roll en is the mayor of our town. >> schitteville, i hope.
>> you wrote a soft song. not a phone call. not a nickel. rolling and jocelyn here could not have been more generous of what little they had. we are going to stick up for the town we live ichb and own circumstance. that town you passed through is not called -- it is called schitte's creek, it is where we live. >> overtime it acknowledges that class is not a permanent divide. >> oh my god. >> oh my god. okay, this is not okay. what are you guys doing here? >> tonight we are dancing as a family. >> what's happening? >> we never wanted the town to be the butt of the joke but in
fact that's why we made this town so accepting. the town is the goal, it is the family that had a lot to learn. ♪ jerusalem is the universe city, the chosen city, the holy city. that's its blessing but it also gives its danger and it is ugliness, too. because it means people must possess it absolutely. >> the conflic