Watching the Sit-Coms
AMOS n’ Andy are long gone, but changing tastes, increased sophistication, and the jading plenitude that television has provided over the years seem in no way to have altered the capacity of American audiences to be held in thrall, week after week, by “shows.” The shows Americans have liked the most recently have been staples of CBS television, the Saturday-night “situation comedies,” as irrelevant a term for these programs as can have been invented. For it is not for anything as bland as the name implies that the Saturday night sitcoms have consistently drawn the highest Nielsen ratings. Comprising four half-hour segments, All in the Family, The Jeffersons, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and The Bob Newhart Show, the Saturday night sitcoms have more often than not supplied fare of a kind quite remarkable in the annals of commercial television. The departure this season of All in the Family, the most popular of them all, from Saturday night to Monday night offers as good an occasion as any for reflecting on the world of the sitcoms and their audience.
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