The Norman conquest: the style and legacy of All in the Family
Lizotte, Bailey Frances
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The 1970s brought a change to the face of the television sitcom, particularly with the works of Norman Lear, as comedy began to shift its focus away from portrayals of the ideal nuclear family to more complicated interactions with the outside world. This thesis focuses on All in the Family and the various ways that the series broke ground in its methods of social discourse. The series’ unique representation of working-class domestic life and its various distancing techniques provided a new challenge for sitcom audiences. With other Lear series and the likes of M*A*S*H and The Mary Tyler Moore Show, the 1970s television comedy landscape provided platform for socially conscious discourse. However, this period of progressive entertainment declined toward the end of the decade, as series like Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley sought to look backward rather than forward. From the 1980s to the 2000s, with a few exceptions, the focus of the sitcom reverted back to the preservation of idealized domestic and workplace families with the likes of Family Ties and Friends. However, the 2010s bring the promise of new social relevancy in television with series like Black-ish, which negotiate 1970s relevancy with 2010 narrative and aesthetic style, and streaming, non-network programs like Orange is the New Black and Transparent that experiment with genre in new ways.
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