30 October 2011
In the early days of television, American prime time provided an idealized and stereotypical view of the American woman, who was more often than not portrayed as being subservient to the man, basically as housewife and mother in service to the family. In real life, most American women could could not measure up to this idealized view. From 1950 to 1970, three lead characters are seen as groundbreaking away from this stereotype (despite two being wife and mother): Lucy Ricardo in "I Love Lucy"
(1951), Laura Petrie in "The Dick Van Dyke Show"
(1961) and Mary Richards in "Mary Tyler Moore"
(1970), who were each independent for different reasons, much of those reasons specific to the era. Other characterizations of independent women that followed owed much to these three, and were reflective of the times. They include Roseanne Connor in "Roseanne"
(1988), and the title character in "Murphy Brown"
(1988). The lack of advertising on cable opened up the role of the independent woman even more, with "Sex and the City"
(1998) being one of the earliest successes. Current examples of American prime time shows that feature independent women include "Desperate Housewives"
(2005), "Grey's Anatomy"
(2005), "Nurse Jackie"
(2009) and "The Good Wife"
(2009). Similarities between the women portrayed in these shows are that they are far from perfect but they are true to most parts of their selves.
6 November 2011
In the post WWII days of American primetime television, the depictions of men at home as being the stable breadwinner who could solve any problem that faced the family was borne out of a need for the American populace to feel safe. The counterculture movement of the 1960's made those depictions seem outmoded and unrealistic. The shows of Norman Lear
, most specifically _"All in the Family" (1968)_ , broke open that mold, where the men were shown as being independent thinkers often regardless of the needs of the family. By the mid 1980's, these two trends melded with "The Cosby Show"
(1984), where Cliff Huxtable had a very specific point of view with regard to how to raise his often defiant children. In the 1990's and beyond, the post-feminist era made the man at home more undefined, where he could be placed in almost any role, from the self-absorbed shlub (such as Ray Barone or Homer Simpson) to the self-doubting family man (such as Michael Steadman, Tony Soprano or Walter White). And different forms of the family and their associated issues are also now shown, from "Modern Family"
(2009) to "Big Love"
(2006) to "The Bernie Mac Show"
Season 1, Episode 3: The Misfit13 November 2011
The character of the misfit has long been a staple in American primetime television, especially in comedies, whose inherent nature is to pick on the odd. The audience often roots for the misfit when he doesn't crumble under the scrutiny of what are considered normal social circumstances. Shows like "The Beverly Hillbillies"
(1962) and "The Addams Family"
(1964) showed a group of misfits trying to assimilate into the world around them but not really knowing how. "Taxi"
(1978) had the extra dimensions of having the group trying to cope in their world while adding the mean character - in this case, Louie de Palma - into the mix. "Seinfeld"
(1990) turned the concept around by having the misfits existing on their own terms. "Twin Peaks"
(1990) created a surreal world in which the already misfit group moved. "Freaks and Geeks"
(1999) showed the angst faced by misfits in high school. And "The Larry Sanders Show"
(1992) showed how celebrity misfits try to achieve that love that many misfits desire. More recent trends with misfits on American primetime television are the sense of narcissism that many misfits have, and that misfits are becoming the new "normal".
20 November 2011
The character of the crusader, who always took some sort of risk to achieve the desired triumphant end, was very much the typical "white" hero in the very "black and white" characterizations of the 1950s and early 1960s. That sort of hero was most evident in the many westerns of the era. This characterization was borne out of the winning attitude of WWII, where many Americans wanted to believe their heroes - predominantly males - did no wrong. Men wanted to be like them, and women loved them. The Vietnam era ushered in a new compassionate view, reflective of a character like Hawkeye Pierce in "M*A*S*H"
(1972). The character of Andy Sipowicz in "NYPD Blue"
(1993) was one of the first characterizations where the crusader was by no means perfect, but lived by his own moral code. More recent such characterizations, which often portray the crusader choosing the greater good - in the eyes of his own moral code - over personal happiness, and/or legal or political correctness, include Frank Pembleton in "Homicide: Life on the Street"
(1993), Vic Mackey in "The Shield"
(2002), Omar Little in "The Wire"
(2002), Gregory House in "House M.D."
(2004) and Dexter Morgan in "Dexter"
(2006). Perhaps the character with who most people within recent memory have rooted for, despite his internal struggles and flaws, is Jack Bauer in "24"
(2001). In the few instances where the crusader has been a woman, she is often portrayed side by side, or even slightly subservient to the male crusader, such as Dana Scully to Fox Mulder in "The X-Files"
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