"The Sitcom Reader: America Viewed and Skewed," published in October, is one of the first books to take a serious look at the situation comedy or sitcom, one of the oldest, most popular forms of television programming.
Edited by professors from Wake Forest University and Marist College, the book is a collection of critical essays examining the ways sitcoms depict and influence American culture. The editors are Mary Dalton, Wake Forest University associate professor of communication, and Laura Linder, Marist College associate professor of media arts.
Because the sitcom has enjoyed such popularity and longevity since it debuted on radio in the 1920s, the genre has become a barometer of American culture and warrants academic study, Dalton said.
The book's 21 chapters, all new material from different contributors including a chapter each by Dalton and Linder, cover topics including conventions of the sitcom genre, family dynamics and representations of gender, race, sexual orientation and work and social class. Chapter authors focus on shows from the earlier years of the sitcom such as "I Love Lucy," "Our Miss Brooks" and "The Andy Griffith Show," as well as contemporary programs including "Sex and the City," "South Park" and "Will and Grace."
"One chapter in the book brings up the dichotomy between Lucy Ricardo and Lucille Ball," Dalton said. "Lucy Ricardo was a woman who wanted to work outside the home, but was confined to her role as a stay-at-home wife and mother. Lucille Ball, also a wife and mother, was a business-savvy woman working outside the home. The reason Lucy Ricardo could not be more like Lucille Ball was that when 'I Love Lucy' was in production, American culture was not ready to accept a woman like Lucille Ball. She was not the norm."
"The Sitcom Reader: America Viewed and Skewed" is published by State University of New York Press and is available on the Web at http://www.sunypress.edu.