This is the first anthology that examines the TV sitcom in terms of its treatment of gender, family, class, race, and ethnic issues. The selections range from early shows such as I Remember Mama (George Lipsitz’s “Why Remember Mama? The Changing Face of a Woman’s Narrative”) to the more recent Roseanne (Kathleen Rowe Karlyn’s “Roseanne: Unruly Woman as a Domestic Goddess”). The volume also looks unflinchingly at major controversies; for example, the NAACP boycott of the stereotypical yet wildly popular Amos ‘n’ Andy and the queer reading of Laverne and Shirley.
These diverse essays constitute a veritable history of postwar American mores. Some are classic, some forgotten, but all indicate the importance of considering text and subtext (social, historic, industrial) in the critical study of television. A final chapter by Joanne Morreale bids sitcoms adieu with the “cultural spectacle of Seinfeld’s last episode.”
Joanne Morreale is associate professor in the Communications Studies Department at Northeastern University. She is the author of The Presidential Campaign Film: A Critical History and A New Beginning: A Textual Frame Analysis of the Political Campaign Film.