The 25 Sitcoms That Changed Television
Turning Points in American Culture
by Laura Westengard and Aaron Barlow, Editors
December 2017, 366pp, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-3886-6
$95, £74, 83€, A131
Please contact your preferred distributor for pricing.
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-3887-3
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Few things are as synonymous with American culture as television sitcoms—programs that for decades have captured, shaped, and challenged our nation’s values and beliefs.

This book spotlights the 25 most important sitcoms to ever air on American television—shows that made generations laugh, challenged our ideas regarding gender, family, race, marital roles, and sexual identity, and now serve as time capsules of U.S. history.

What was the role of The Jeffersons in changing views regarding race and equality in America in the 1970s? How did The Golden Girls affect how society views older people? Was The Office an accurate (if exaggerated) depiction of the idiosyncrasies of being employees in a modern workplace? How did the writers of The Simpsons make it acceptable to air political satire through the vehicle of an animated cartoon ostensibly for kids?

Readers of this book will see how television situation comedies have consistently held up a mirror for American audiences to see themselves—and the reflections have not always been positive or purely comedic. The introduction discusses the history of sitcoms in America, identifying their origins in radio shows and explaining how sitcom programming evolved to influence the social and cultural norms of our society. The shows are addressed chronologically, in sections delineated by decade. Each entry presents background information on the show, including the dates it aired, key cast members, and the network; explains why the show represents a notable turning point in American television; and provides an analysis of each sitcom that considers how the content was received by the American public and the lasting effects on the family unit, gender roles, culture for young adults, and minority and LGBT rights.

The book also draws connections between important sitcoms and other shows that were influenced by or strikingly similar to these trendsetting programs. Lastly, a section of selections for further reading points readers to additional resources.


  • Identifies the reason each show was a turning point in American television and provides analysis of the issues and themes present in each sitcom, how the content was received by the American public, and the lasting effects of the program
  • Covers a time period of more than half a century, from I Love Lucy to Modern Family
  • Clearly demonstrates how television as well as American ideals and values have changed dramatically over a fairly short period of time
Laura Westengard is assistant professor of English at New York City College of Technology, City University of New York. She was previously an instructor in the University Writing Program in the English Department at the
University of California, Riverside.

Aaron Barlow is associate professor of English at New York City College of Technology, City University of New York. His most recent books are Greenwood's The Depression Era: A Historical Exploration of Literature and Praeger's The Cult of Individualism: A History of an Enduring American Myth. He is also faculty editor of Academe, the magazine of the American Association of University Professors.


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