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The World of Sitcoms


The World of Sitcoms


Sitcoms have been one of the most long lasting television genres for decades due to their humor, interesting characters, and relatability. Since the sitcom format became popular in the United States during the mid 20th Century, various such shows have created loyal audiences throughout their runs. And over the last 30 years, sitcoms such as Seinfeld, Friends, and The Office have created cult followings. We are also seeing the revival of several sitcoms through streaming services.

On Monday January 8 at 7pm, the Livingston Public Library presents “The Greatest Sitcoms of All Time: A Funny Program About Funny Programs.”  

Award-winning author and pop culture historian Martin Gitlin hosts this fun and enlightening presentation based on his book  “The Greatest Sitcoms of All Time.”  Martin is the only author who has ranked the greatest sitcoms ever produced based on wide ranging criteria.  These include sitcoms like I Love Lucy, The Honeymooners, The Andy Griffith Show, Get Smart, All in the Family, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Cheers, The Golden Girls, Seinfeld, Frasier and The Big Bang Theory. 

In this program, Martin will show hilarious snippets from those shows and others, challenge patrons with sitcom trivia (including identifying cool theme songs!) to test and expand their knowledge, discuss the criteria he used to rank 70 years of sitcoms and talk about how they have evolved over the decades in humor, presentation and content. 

Here are some books available in the Livingston Library collection that give you an inside look into the genre and into some of your favorite shows.

big bang theory book

The Big Bang Theory : The Definitive, Inside Story of the Epic Hit Series by Jessica Radloff

This is a riveting, entertaining look at the sitcom sensation.  It’s a story of on-and-off-screen romance told in hilarious and emotional detail, of casting choices that nearly changed everything (which even some of the actors didn’t know until now), of cast members bravely powering through personal tragedies, and when it came time to announce the 12th season would be its last, the complicated reasons why it was more difficult than anyone ever let on. Through hundreds of hours of interviews with the sitcom’s major players, Radloff dives into all this and much more.

Directed by James Burrows: Five Decades of Stories From the Legendary Director of Taxi, Cheers, Frasier, Friends, Will & Grace, and More by James Burrows

From the director of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Taxi, Cheers, Frasier, Friends, and Will & Grace comes an insightful and nostalgic memoir that offers a bounty of behind-the-scenes moments from our favorite shows, peeling away the layers behind how a successful sitcom comes together–and stays that way. The legendary talent not only provides backstories into the genesis and casting of the dozens of great sitcoms he directed, Burrows also offers insight into how these memorable shows are created, how they get on the air, and how the cast and crew continue to develop and grow each season, all coupled with tales of his challenges, career victories, and defeats, as well as advice for those who aspire to direct.

The Golden Girls : A Cultural History by Bernadette Giacomazzo

A fun and meaningful examination of the beloved 1980s sitcom The Golden Girls, including how it tackled progressive social issues of its time and forever changed the way audiences view older women.

Hi Honey, I’m Homo! Sitcoms, Specials, and the Queering of American Culture by Matt Baume

 From flamboyant relatives on Bewitched to closely-guarded secrets on All in the Family , from network-censor fights over Soap to behind-the-scenes activism on the set of The Golden Girls , from Ellen ’s culture clash and Will & Grace ’s mixed reception to Modern Family ’s primetime power-couple, this is the story not only of how subversive queer comedy transformed the American sitcom, from its inception through today, but how our favorite sitcoms transformed, and continue to transform, America.

I’ll Be There for You : The One About Friends by Kelsey Miller

Today, Friends is remembered as an icon of ’90s comedy and the Must See TV years. [This book] is a deep dive into Friends history and lore, exploring all aspects of the show, from its unlikely origins to the societal conditions that amplified its success. Journalist and pop culture expert Kelsey Miller relieves the show’s most powerful moments, sheds light on its sometimes dated and problematic elements, and examines the worldwide trends that Friends catalyzed, from contemporize coffee culture to the wildly popular ’90s haircut The Rachel. Taking readers behind the scene, Miller traces the cast’s rise to fame and untangles the complex relationship between the actors and their characters. 

modern family book

Modern Family : the Untold Oral History of One of Television’s Groundbreaking Sitcoms by Marc Freeman

More than seventy people, including the entire cast, crew, and creators, detail the full history of this iconic sitcom. The cast recalls their memories of the trials and tribulations of casting. They share their impressions from the first table read through the last light turning out. Writers, directors, and performers walk readers through storylines, production and favorite episodes.  Readers get to go behind the scenes and experience the show like never before, including personal photos. 

Seinfeld : A Cultural History by Paul Arras

This book traces the history of Seinfeld’s path onto NBC’s schedule and rise up the Nielsen ratings, offering a fresh look at the episodes themselves. It pays close attention to the writers and writing of the show, carefully analyzing individual episodes to articulate exactly what was so groundbreaking and assessing its broader cultural impact.

Sitcommentary : Television Comedies that Changed America by Mark A. Robinson

From I Love Lucy to Black-ish, sitcoms have often paved the way for social change. Television comedy has long been on the frontline in how America evolves on social issues.  Robinson looks at more than three dozen programs that have tackled social issues, from the 1940s to the present. The author examines shows that frequently addressed hot-button topics throughout their runs— such as All in the Family, Maude, and Black-ish— as well as programs with special episodes that grappled with a societal concern like ageism, class, gender, race, or sexual orientation. Among the important sitcoms discussed in this volume are such beloved shows as The Brady Bunch, A Different World, The Facts of Life, The Golden Girls, Good Times, The Jeffersons, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, M*A*S*H, Modern Family, Murphy Brown, One Day at a Time, Roseanne, and Soap.  Each has broken down barriers and facilitated discussion, debate, and social evolution in America. 

The 30 Rock Book : Inside the Iconic Show, From Blerg to EGOT by Mike Roe

Through more than fifty original interviews with cast, crew, critics, and more, culture writer Mike Roe brings to life the history of the gloriously goofy show that became an all-time classic. This book has everything in it, from tales of the amazing music still stuck in our heads, to the iconic bit characters that make the show, to all the love and drama of the backstage crew . . . and the creative failures and successes along the way.

Welcome to Dunder Mifflin : the Ultimate Oral History of The Office by Brian Baumgartner

The official oral history book of The Office, featuring exclusive interviews with every major player and never-before-seen photos, pulling back the curtain on the absurdity and genius that went into creating this unstoppable force in American popular culture and why it continues to resonate with audiences today.

Archana Chiplunkar, Adult Services & Acquisitions Librarian

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