Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Evolution of TV Sitcoms.

Paralleling two family based shows from different decades is hard. TV for the most part is a reflection of the times, sitcoms from the 50’s dealt with the issue of that decade, same way that sitcoms from the 80’s dealt with their contemporary issues. Nevertheless what we can easily do is hold up two shows and notice the similarities and differences between the two as they share a similar format, but are decades apart. The two shows we are going to be looking into are All in the Family and George Lopez.

  First let’s consider the similarities between All in the Family and George Lopez, the TV sitcom. On both shows the patriarch is the main character, they are the central figure, so much so that the title of the show has his name.

Secondly we are treated to generational conflicts, the father or “man of the house” has trouble dealing with the youngsters and clashes with the coming generation. In All in the Family, Archie often fights with his son-in-law as both try to defend their ideology, they constantly argue on the merit of the old ways versus the new way of doing things. In George Lopez, Mr. Lopez often argues with his son and daughter as he fails to understand them and as he struggles to raise them. George generally refers to his own upbringing reminding them that he grew up with nothing and worked hard for it, and frequently feels that he is too soft on them and tries to do things the old way, but Angie his wife stops him as she is more pragmatic when it comes to family issues. It is this character that brings us to focus on the differences.

In All in the Family Archie is portrayed as the sensible man in an insensible family, his wife, Edith, is often described as a “dingbat” because she is ditzy and silly. Gloria, daughter, is innocent and naïve, and his son-in-law, Michael is a meathead in his standards. Archie is depicted as being right and everybody wrong. The family could not have been together if it wasn’t for him, he is the force binding them together. In contrast, in George Lopez, although George is seen as the driving force of the narrative as we mentioned before, in this show he is the clueless character, Angie and his daughter, Carmen are depicted as strong, smart and independent women. Excluding the fact that Carmen is a teenager and logically makes a lot of mistakes seen as she still has some maturing to do, still she stands against her father and along with her mother they don’t hesitate to point out George’s mistakes. Angie is there to make things right as the kids clash with their dad.

In terms of what issues All in the Family deals with that George Lopez doesn’t or vice versa is hard to asses. For one thing, to be honest I have seen only one episode of All in the Family and a lot of episodes of George Lopez. For the similarities and differences, I’ve been formulating my response on the basis of the one episode of All in the Family that was screened and the character description you can find on Wikipedia. So it is hard for me to compare the issues these two shows dealt with if I compare one episode versus 20 episodes. But what I can say is that both shows dealt with issues concerning the very nature of family, as both shows are based on that, yet each one dealt with the topics of their times. For example in an episode of George Lopez they address issues of the vulnerability of young kids in the internet, for obvious reasons this is something that All in the Family does not cover. Similarly George Lopez does not deal with much of the issues concerning hippies and the counterculture of 1960’s.

There you have it, the times change and so TV shows but due to their format which despite the decades remains mostly untouched we still can find similarities between family based TV sitcoms.


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