Saturday, January 26, 2013


Blog post (from research) #3: Find a television program from before 1990 online (see list of suggested web sites on your syllabus), watch an episode, and think about it. Describe what you saw. What's different from the kinds of shows you watch today? Write a short paragraph (or two) about what kinds of research questions you think you could pursue.

Don't, however, give me a plot summary.  These short writing assignments are intended to demonstrate your powers of observation as well as your powers of description.

ALSO: Note where you found the program. Make it a hyperlink in your text. It's pretty easy.


  1. I chose to watch the first episode of the first season of the Twilight Zone, entitled, "Where Is Everybody?" (

    The show began in 1959 and therefore it was aired in black and white because color programming had not yet become mainstream. The first thing I noticed about the episode was the music. It was obviously performed live in a studio by a band composed of trombones, saxophones and drums. To me, the television we all watch now has songs either created by a machine, or hit songs that are popular right now. This just gave the episode the feeling of the time period it was aired in instantly.

    The second major thing I noticed was that the set did not seem like a set piece. In the episode, the main character is alone and trying to find any sign of human life so there are various scenes that he is found in. None of them seemed like a set piece to me. They all seemed to be real existing places. Whether they actually were or not, I'm not sure, but they definitely didn't feel like artificial recreations of scenery.

    The last major thing was that the content matched the time period. There was a hint of government conspiracy and the plot also reflected the urge to have someone land on the moon. Because Americans didn't do that until 1969, it was simply a dream. This was clearly reflected in the plotline. I think a lot of the television I watch today are scenarios that reflect things we are interested in today or at least signs of our time period. Overall, this was an interesting experience to say the least.

  2. Being a journalist, I'm more interested in non-fiction than fiction, so after combining that basis with my interests, I've decided to focus my research project on Julia Child and her cooking television shows, which started in 1963. For this assignment I watched an early episode of her premier series "The French Chef" on how to make french onion soup (found on PBS here

    Modern television has become a home for cooking -- whether it's through the Cooking Channel, Food Network, or cooking shows on other networks such as Bravo's "Top Chef" and the BBC's "Hell's Kitchen." Julia Child offered one of the first kinds of these shows to modern America, an example of how the television became a part of home culture and everyday life. Child has become an American icon not only because of her shows, which lasted from the 1960s to the 1990s, but also because of her personality, which clearly comes across from this episode of "The French Chef."

    The series is primitive in its production compared to today's standards -- there are only four camera angles, she is cooking in her home kitchen (not a studio set), and you can tell the episode has not been scripted or rehearsed because of the frequent blunders, silences, "umm"s and general mistakes of both the cameramen and Child. However, the show creates an atmosphere that makes the viewer love Child in spite of her imperfections. Child is unique because she is straight-forward in her delivery, gives her own personal advice or experience from her travels, and most importantly, she makes mistakes. For example, in this episode she spills cognac across the counter and laughs at herself, saying "Oh, there goes the brandy. Too bad."

    Each of these ways make Child's shows starkly contrast from the cooking shows of today, which focus on specific measurements, are based in studio kitchens, and are often scripted and rehearsed so there are no mistakes involved in the series.

    I would like to explore Child more in research. For the final project, I was hoping to use her shows as the basis of a broader examination of television in domestic home culture. My research question would look something like: Using the work of Julia Child as an example, how has broadcasting affected domestic and home culture during the second half of the twentieth century? I would like to further research how her show was different from other shows in the 1960s when it first premiered, how her shows changed over time, and how they compare to the most modern cooking shows of today. I would also not be opposed to the idea of comparing Child with other icons in the domestic television genre, such as Martha Stewart.

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  4. Stepping out of my comfort zone, I decided to watch something I never seen, nor heard before. I stumbled upon a kid’s game show called Juvenile Jury, which ran from 1947 till 1954. The show consists of child contestants ranging from 5-10 years old, and their main purpose on the show is to answer other children’s questions, all of which have been sent in by the audience. The winner receives a $50 U.S. Savings Bond and materials from whoever is the sponsor that day.

    In the episode I watched, the sponsor was Scotch tape, and they made the point that they were sponsoring the show. Unlike in today’s game shows where you have little snippets of advertisements during the broadcast, on this show they stopped the game to listen to the “Scotch girl” talk about how wonderful Scotch tape is. Although it seems like in today’s society we press on companies too much for their influence over our buying habits, back then it seems that they were deliberately and intentionally getting you to get up from the TV set and go buy some tape.

    The show was a lot quieter than shows today. Usually on game shows they have music to highlight the suspense or winnings, but in this show there was nothing but talking. The game itself was very dull, and considering the lack of prizes, it wasn’t surprising how short this game show lasted.

    The show itself reminded as being a mixture between Kids Say the Darndest Things and Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader? It wouldn’t surprise me if Juvenile Jury influenced these shows. In terms of research questions, it could be interesting to find out if they were in fact influenced by this show, and if so, what stirred the creators in this direction? Why didn’t they just make a remake of the show, or did they feel it wouldn’t be appealing to the audience? Also, digging deeper into research, I would like to find out why the broadcast company chose to cancel the show, and basically “rebirth” it years later.

    I found this episode on

  5. The show I decided to watch was a segment called “Casino Royale” on the mystery show “Climax!” that aired in the 1950s. I enjoy James Bond movies and never knew this television version existed until I did research. In fact, I never knew that the first on-screen James Bond was an American ( The program started with an orchestra playing while a narrator introduced the names of the cast. This gave the program a very old-time feel. After that, there is a television host sitting on top of a desk dressed in 1950s-looking attire. He gave a quick introduction to the feature to hook the audience.
    Everything about this show seemed dated. The music seems to be distorted at times, which I often hear in black and white shows or movies. It’s like the notes go up and down at times before stabilizing again. In the beginning of the show there is also a gun shot, which sounded like it was shot in a studio set rather than outside (where the scene took place, or at least wanted you to think it took place). Once the show moves inside, you see a casino. The shots are very simple. There isn’t much cutting back and forth. There is also fake noise piped in the background to make the casino seems busy. The props in this show are very easy to realize they are not real. When Bond goes into the elevator, it is just a thin painted slab of wood that slides back and forth.
    As for the content of the show, it is very conservative. There is a lot of dialogue and not much action, which is obviously not what James Bond is known for. When there is action at the end, the scenes usually feature a shot here and there, rather than the in-depth gunfights seen in today’s movies and shows. It kind of bored me to be honest, because I watched this expecting James Bond to do something heroic. I wasn’t expecting the kinds of stunts in Bond movies today, but something a little more entertaining than just sitting in a casino.
    If I were to come up with a research question based on this show, it would be something about researching violence or masculinity in television or movies. A research question I could maybe use is “What effect did violence in American entertainment have on masculinity in the 1950s, a period which was an otherwise conservative and conformist time? I would like to observe the traditions and morals of American culture during that decade and compare it to the television and silver screen heroes that men and children looked up to at that time. Was there any relation? Did one influence the other more?

  6. For this assignment I chose to watch an episode from the first season of the Twilight Zone, titled “Mr. Denton on Doomsday,” which I found on Hulu (,p0,d3,f1 ). Akin to other episodes of the Twilight Zone, a show that I have seen multiple times in an academic setting but have not watched it for pleasure, the show was filmed in black and white and had a rather simplistic set. There are numerous differences between this show and the ones I watch today, ranging from technical aspects to the physical look and feel of the show. For example, there is little use of technology that is now mainstream in television, such as graphics, shot transitions, and special effects.

    In terms of potential research questions, there are things that I wonder about in terms of historical accuracy and actual show and technical production. The original air date for this episode was October 16, 1959, so it is evident that – especially for a show that aired more than 150 episodes – the broadcast television revenue we see presently was not nearly on the same level, which could be the reason for less detailed sets and the like. I am especially curious as to how much research and detail goes in to producing a historically aspect piece, especially in the years before television permeated popular culture. I would also like to know how these shows were edited and produced before the days of computer editing software, especially in terms of cutting and splicing film together and creating graphics and shot transitions.

  7. In Season 1, Episode 1, of the Mary Tyler Moore Show, Mary and Rhoda’s parallel personalities are quickly highlighted. As a New Yorker, I immediately identified Rhoda’s heavy Bronx accent and brash tone, in contrast with Mary’s polite, Midwestern demeanor. I found it interesting that the first scene featured only women, which makes sense, because it was the middle of the day and the men were most likely at work. The characters in the rest of the show are also pretty stereotypical: the drunk, harsh newsroom men; the slimy news anchor; the disgruntled housewife, etc.

    I also quickly noticed the stereotypical portrayal of women in a predominantly all-male environment. When inquiring about an available newsroom position, Mr. Grant tells Mary, “I figured I’de hire a man for it,” implying that a woman is only competent for a secretarial position. When Mary does receive the job, there is nothing for her to do and no one to speak to until Ted Baxter walks in and flirts with her. This portrayal of women as objects in the workplace is something that has improved, but that hasnt completely changed in today’s television.

    I watched this episode right after watching the most recent episode of the HBO show, Girls, and I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between the two shows. They both feature young women, looking for escape and independence in big cities, hoping to forget past loves and move on to new ones. Both shows also utilize the setting of the city apartment as an important aspect of the show, providing background to the women’s’ stories. Also, as I mentioned before, the emphasis on women being objectified at work is not all that different. I would love to to do a comparison of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Girls. Some other research questions I could pursue are: How does the Mary Tyler Moore Show portray women?; How was the Mary Tyler Moore Show a breakthrough for women in television?; How was the Mary Tyler Moore Show different from other shows airing at the time featuring women?

  8. In season 4, episode 17 of "I Love Lucy," the titular character displays the same silly antics that came to characterize her brand of comedy. The episode (found on Hulu:,p56,d0) opens with Lucy and her husband, Ricky, entering a hotel suite with their friends Ethel and Fred. They all think very highly of the place and after Ethel and Fred exit the scene, Lucy throws her arms around Ricky and tells him how proud she is. After Ricky calls the studio and breaks it to Lucy, Fred, and Ethel that they weren't invited to attend lunch with him, he tells Lucy to unpack his suitcase so he can have a clean shirt.

    I did some brief background research and found that "I Love Lucy" aired in the early 1950s, which makes the attitudes toward women understandable. While some sitcoms today (such as "King of Queens") rely on the husband/wife dynamic, it's done in a more "modern" sense--that is to say, women in these shows might be homemakers or wives, but their agency is still established through their independent thoughts and actions. Other shows, such as "Sex and the City", eschew antiquated gender norms entirely and prefer more liberated female characters. The humor on "I Love Lucy" is also different. Many popular sitcoms rely on witty one-liners and snappy comebacks, Lucy is funny because of her outrageous antics and physical facial expressions. The camera angles are also tighter--conversations between Lucy and Ricky are often filmed shot/reverse shot arrangements, with the two of them rarely appearing in the same scene. In comparison, many sitcoms with numerous characters are filmed with medium or even wide shots, which encompasses all the individuals at once. "I Love Lucy" was filmed in front of a live studio audience (I read online that this was so Lucille Ball could work off of the energy only real audience members can provide), which makes it similar to other popular shows today.

    As a broadcast student, I'm interested in the actual mechanics of how "I Love Lucy" was filmed--the types of cameras used, their setup, and the production of it. I'm also curious to further explore gender dynamics in pre-1990s television, and how it affected the humor on the show. Ricky's impatience with Lucy's various escapades would be perceived totally differently today--he might be interpreted as an insensitive husband, or unsupportive male figure in today's times. These two items are the tip of the iceberg of research questions I'd be interested in pursuing.

  9. I decided to watch the first episode of Sherlock Holmes from 1954 on Netflix. This crime solving show was different from the ones today for many reasons. For one, the show was more about the characters than it was about solving the murder. I think the murder was discussed for less than ten minutes of the 30 minute show. The body of the victim was in the scene but it was not shown other than under a blanket. I also noticed that a lot of the talking were monologues rather than a conversation. Sherlock Holmes also used a narrator at times even though the character who was narrating was in the scene. In shows like CSI and Law and Order, none of these things would happen.

    Sherlock Holmes only lasted 25 episodes. For research I am curious if this was one of the first crime-solving shows in television and if not, how many shows were on television that were similar? Did shows that were on television at this time typically last no longer than about a year? Was seeing a dead body on screen considered taboo at this time and when was the first one shown on television?

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  11. I watched an episode of the Addams Family entitled "Gomez, the Cat Burglar" ( The most noticeable difference from today's shows was that it was black and white. The show centers around an eccentric, rich family. A lot of the laughter comes from the family's odd ways of doing certain things and their believing that it's normal. However, you always realize that no matter how strange they are, the characters are always more caring than the "normal" characters on the show who are often scheming against the family. I really liked that they put a different spin on the nuclear family sitcom.

    I used to watch marathons of this show during Halloween when I was younger and I only realized after really paying attention to the show this time around that there are no character developments like in today's comedy shows. The Addams Family members are just always kooky... I also noticed that it used a single camera format, also different from today, and used a laugh track. The laugh track was pretty obvious since the laughs would always die out quickly before another character started speaking and they always sounded the same.

    I did a little research about the show after watching it and found out that it ran around the same time as The Munsters, which was actually more popular. I want to know why The Munsters was more popular despite, arguably, similar premises. I would want to explore the themes of class in both shows as The Munsters is mainly about a working class family while the Addams Family is about an odd but rich family. I want to know if this was the reason for the difference in popularity at the time or was it just do to their time slots or the stations they were on. Also, why is it that The Munsters was more popular at the time yet The Addams Family seems to have garnered more popularity over the years with various movies and even a musical? Meanwhile, The Munsters remake was just canceled.

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  13. I chose to watch the first episode of season six of Dr. Who, The Aztecs Part 1, aired in 1964 on Netflix. I only recently watched one of the recent episodes and had heard the early seasons had even more primitive aliens and special effects, but I didn't know what else to expect.

    True to form, the first set — a quick shot of the Tardis, which looks not much different than a telephone booth — seems like it could easily fit in my hand. I was surprised to see the first scene featured two educated women with extensive knowledge about Aztec culture, but one of them quickly proves to be a little more stereotypical, pointing to some Aztec glyphs and saying, "Hey look, cartoons! They've got bubbles coming out of their mouths." I did think it was interesting though that the smarter woman was also the taller, more attractive one.

    The show is pretty subtle about what characters are thinking and who's who. You can tell certain items or people are supposed to be important plot points but you have no idea why. And even though it should have been obvious from the beginning, it took about four minutes into the 20 minute episode to figure out the time-traveling crew was actually in 16th century Mexico, not a modern day Aztec tomb. I think it was mostly because the Aztec characters had English accents.

    You definitely have to suspend a little disbelief to relax and enjoy this show — there's minimal music, no laughs, confusing dialogue and then once you figure out what's going on, a lot of cheesy costumes and fighting. They have the Aztecs mix ideas like rain gods with vocab like "supplication" and hype up incredibly slow fight scenes. But, you can tell the show has the ability to make viewers feel suspense, care about the main characters and root for them to make it through whatever outlandish situation they stumble into. It's not that surprising the show's lasted 50 years.

    I think it would interesting to research how TV shows have researched historical accuracy over the course of the show.

  14. For this assignment, I chose to watch a sitcom since I enjoy that type of television the most. I watched the first episode of the first season of “Leave it to Beaver,” which was a television situation comedy that centered on a young boy’s naïve adventures as he lived with his family in suburbia. The episode, “Beaver Gets ‘Spelled’” came from my Netflix subscription ( The show was iconic because it idealized the suburban dream of the 1950s American family.

    The first thing I noticed is that the Beaver lives a very wholesome life which includes a kind and proper teacher at school (Miss Canfield – I noticed that she is also unmarried which is typical of the time) and loving parents at home who teach respect and good morals. The episode seemed to garner chuckles from the audience when the Beaver showed exaggeration (physically or emotionally) about common, everyday issues, such as having to bring home a note from the teacher to his parents. There was no cursing or yelling responsible for the humor, but rather the Beaver’s childish anxiety over believing he was going to get expelled. Growing up in a traditional family of morals, the Beaver feared trouble, and could not even eat his dessert after dinner because he felt he did not deserve it.

    Another important aspect of the episode was the familial relationships that exist. June and Ward Cleaver were nurturing parents who wanted to raise strong-valued children. The Beaver’s relationship with his older brother, Wally, is also memorable because the Beaver looks up to his brother and seeks advice from him. In one scene they are washing themselves by the bath after dinner, and the Beaver confides in Wally about the note as a way to calm his anxieties. The characters all rely on each other and embody certain characteristics that impact the others.

    Lastly, the third characteristic of the episode is the idea that the Beaver confessed to his mistake, learned that the situation was not bad to begin with, and everything ended happily ever after. There was no cliffhanger or part of the plot left unsettled. In this case, the Beaver confessed to writing a fake letter posing as his parents to the teacher. Later, he learned that the letter was not about expulsion, but rather the teacher wanted him to play a part in the school play. And after this was settled, everything went back to normal. This showed me that the general theme of the show was about living a moral life and resolving everyday issues by embracing proper values and norms.

    For research, I think it would be interesting to investigate how the portrayal of the modern family has changed through the lens of television. You could analyze “Leave it to Beaver” and one of today’s contemporary sitcoms to analyze the values of characteristics of the modern family of the that time.

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  16. For this first assignment, I watched a 1957 episode entitled “The Wheel” from the sitcom Date with the Angels starring Betty White. The sitcom was exactly as I pictured sitcoms from the 1950s – black and white film, orchestrated sound track, live studio audience (or prerecorded laughter) and a simple set consisting of two rooms: a kitchen and a living room.

    There are a few things about this show that are strikingly different from today’s sitcoms. Foremost, the show follows only one plot. Vicki (Betty White) learns that her teenage nephew will be staying with her and her husband Gus, an insurance salesman. Her nephew, Wheeler, is a spacey teenage boy who needs to brush up on his manners. The couple sets up a date (consisting of a t.v. dinner) for Wheeler and the daughter of Gus’s soon-to-be client. The date appears to be a disaster to Gus and Vickie. But in the end, the two are shocked when both kids have a great time. Each character has one line, and they never interrupt or overlap each other. It sounds very unnatural compared to today’s shows. The humor is overt and accented by the occasional sound effect.

    Some research questions I would consider would be why the only two rooms being used are the living room and kitchen; why the one plot usually surrounds entertaining of guests; what’s the purpose of having recorded audience laughter; and why the script never contains overlapping lines. Broader topics to research include the use of plot conflict in between male and female social roles, and the focus of the sitcom within the home, rather than an office or town.

    The show can be found here :

  17. For this assignment I chose to watch an old episode of SHERLOCK HOLMES, titled "The Case of the Red Headed League" (URL - from 1954.

    The show has a fairly straightforward title sequence, with plain white letters over the background of an old London road, with Holmes and Watson walking down the street at the end. At the beginning of the episode, they play with what was then a common shot in the mystery genre - a person facing the camera, followed by a tight-shot of a gun, followed by the gun firing and the victim's reaction shot. However, in this episode, it is Holmes firing the gun into a wall, and Watson acting startled because he was shaving in the next room.

    Much of the show is presented as a comedy, especially the scenes between Holmes and Watson; their dialogue occurs at a frenetic pace in a style similar to Abbott and Costello. Unlike the modern show SHERLOCK, Holmes is a more harmless kind of crazy in the classic television series - he even apologizes to his client for startling him.

    There are several editing miscues in the episode, including jumpcuts, repeated shots and lines, and black screens, but that may just be an issue of transposing it to the online medium. Because the show is in black-and-white, there are certain lines of dialogue meant to inform the viewer in ways we would not see now, such as "how much I wish I had red hair like you".

    The show also uses long, held shots much more than our current television shows too. One lengthy scene of dialogue is done without a camera change, suggesting a theater background for the actors. When they do change the camera, SHERLOCK HOLMES uses a lot of successive tight reaction shots - a choice that seems kind of silly today when you have three people gasping in a row.

    Finally, the premise of the episode is a bit ridiculous by today's standards, but that's more the fault of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. That a man would be tricked by the promises of free money because of his red hair and then be shocked to discover it was all a ruse is a tad bit ridiculous. Alas, like in the stories, the character of Sherlock makes it more than enjoyable, despite the various areas of progress we have had in television since then.

  18. For this first writing assignment, I tuned in to Nickelodian and watched an episode from the second season of Full House released in 1988. In its heyday, Full House was in the top 20 most-watched programs in the United States. While watching, I often found myself comparing it to arguably the most widely popular family-oriented sitcom of today, Modern Family. Full House offered a different set-up than the typical nuclear family at the time, with Danny Tanner as a single father and two other men raising three young girls. Modern Family takes the atypical family further, featuring homosexuality among other fairly progressives themes. Though both are considered family-friendly for their times, Full House was definitely tamer. Modern Family employs humor relating to sex and other adult themes, while Full House avoided anything verging on appropriate. The show was pure feel-good family fun, and at least within the episode I watched, never reached far into the depths of emotion or went anywhere that could make viewers uncomfortable.

    The plotline of the episode I saw involved pre-teen daughter D.J. winning tickets to a Beach Boys concert. The only conflict was D.J.’s difficulty in deciding which family member to take to the concert. Today there aren’t really shows with such high popularity that are so mild and family-friendly, unless they’re on the Disney channel and intended for younger audiences. Unlike most shows today, there weren’t multiple plot lines. Audiences back then were expected to be entertained and satisfied with less complex plots in sitcoms. In a contemporary show like Modern Family, multiple plots are developing at the same time and the episodes switch frequently between those and the different characters involved. Audiences 20 years ago likely had longer attention spans. Aside from only have one plot line, the scenes in Full House were generally longer. TV shows now are constantly changing scenes and sounds to try to keep viewers engaged. The entire last five minutes of the episode just showed the Beach Boys playing a concert that the Tanner gang attended. To give a quick recap of the ending, the Beach Boys showed up to the Tanner’s home and gave an impromptu concert before they invited the entire family to their concert—problem totally solved. There was nothing messy left at the end, nothing to feel bad or worry about. Compared to television that I’m used to, Full House felt pretty cheesy. The acting somehow feels more scripted. Acting in newer sitcoms like Modern Family seems more natural, whereas the actors in Full House say cheesy quips and punchlines, wait for the laugh track, and move on to the next cheesy line.

    An interesting research topic would be the changing portrayal of family life in television--what is acceptable now compared to back in the '50s and even Full House's time, the late '80s. It could also be interesting to research how efforts to hold viewer's attention have changed, as audiences become more accustomed to multiple plot lines and quick scene changes.

  19. I decided to watch an episode from season 4 of “The Brady Bunch” that I managed to find on YouTube. This was a show I used to watch occasionally as a kid, but I couldn’t remember much about it. The episode aired in the 1970s. The episode was very different from sitcoms today. The first thing I noticed was the laugh track. I am a huge “Friends” fan, and I’m used to genuine reactions from a live audience. In contrast, “The Brady Bunch” seemed really artificial with the laugh track. Each reaction sounded identical, which got irritating after a while.

    I also noticed that all the scenes were very short and choppy and the dialogue didn’t seem to move the plot along. In fact, there wasn’t much of a plot at all. Some scenes only lasted about ten seconds and jumped around a lot. The scenes did not flow together well. In this particular episode, the family was sightseeing in Hawaii, but not much was really happening. The comedy aspect was also very different. It was corny and the jokes were not clever or witty as they are on shows today, though this is probably because shows in the 70s were much more conservative than they are today. It also didn’t seem that the plot of the episode tied in with a larger ongoing plot throughout the season, which is different than most of today’s shows.

    Based on this episode I could pursue several research questions, such as how laugh tracks were phased out of sitcoms. I also think it would be interesting to explore how the family dynamics of “The Brady Bunch” shaped future sitcoms. Watching an episode of “The Brady Bunch” next to an episode of “Modern Family” shows how much we as a society have changed in regards to our perception of family. This would be an interesting topic to research.

  20. I watched the pilot episode of M*A*S*H for this assignment ( I had heard about the famous doctor comedy set in war time Korea but had never watched an episode. It debut in 1972 so I expected it to be full of more differences then similarities then the sitcoms on television today. The show was built on witty comments from the main characters with a laugh track giving the audience of a cue of what is supposed to be funny, something that shows still do today. I also noticed that much of what the characters talked about and the arch of the episode could have been transfered to modern day and would not have missed a beat. There was a plethora of sex jokes (the staple of todays adult sitcoms) and situations of drinking. Some of the comedy was cheesy but it definitely fit the time period, I thought the show as a whole was actually funny.

    The biggest differences were not in the content but more so in the production. There were a limited number of places the characters were during the episode, really like 3 or 4 sets. Much different then the shows today with people running all over the place.

    As far as research questions, I looked into the background of the show and found out that the first season was based on accounts from real MASH doctors and I was wondering about who they contacted and why they only followed that model for the first season. Also, another question I had was, because it was so similar to modern day sitcoms, did M*A*S*H directly effect any shows of today. Also, the progression of money for the production of television shows from 1972 to the shows last episode and up till today's standards.

  21. For this assignment, I watched the 1966 series finale of The Dick Van Dyke Show, titled “The Last Chapter.” The episode is comprised of a series of flashbacks, as wife Laura reads her husband Rob’s newly finished autobiography and reminisces on their proposal, marriage and the birth of their son.

    It took a while to get into the episode, mainly because I had to approach it like I would approach a theatrical production. Today’s sitcoms use elaborate sets and varied camera angles and mic the actors in a way that makes them easy to understand. When I watch How I Met Your Mother or Modern Family, I forget that our generation of actors has access to tools that allow them to be funny in a more subtle way. Directors’ shoot individual scenes over and over again until comedic timing, camera angle and sound quality (including music) is perfect.

    I approached “The Last Chapter,” like a theatrical production because that’s essentially what it (along with a lot of early sitcoms) was. Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore needed to be over the top and slapstick, use vocal variety and pause for laughs in order to help the audience understand what’s going on. Without tight shots, nuanced comedic expression is difficult to achieve.

    Technical differences aside, I was also particularly taken with the cultural differences in the 1960s. The Dick Van Dyke show is highly approachable for the audience of its time. Nothing I saw in “The Last Chapter” rocked the cultural boat. Mary Tyler Moore plays the exact role that was expected of a married woman of her time. Dick Van Dyke is loving, but dominant and very clearly in control of the relationship. Race is joked about in the episode, but in a way that focuses on interracial friendships, not the interracial relationships that were working their way to the public consciousness of the time.

    Overall I really enjoyed the episode. Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore had clearly perfected both their stage acting techniques and on screen chemistry, by the last episode. “The Last Chapter” is funny, fast-paced and fun to watch almost fifty years after its original airdate.

    Watch "The Last Chapter" at

  22. For this assignment I chose to watch an episode of “Death Valley Days,” a series from the golden age of Westerns on TV in the 50’s, found on Daily Motion ( Similar to videos focused on Westerners, the characters where majority men with the exception of a female protagonist, who is usually the interest to surrounding men as I’ve notice in order films. There are a variety of differences between this show and shows that I watch today, including the visual and technical aspects and soundtrack. For example, the film is in black-and-white, as expected, with poor production quality compared to contemporary television.

    For potential research questions, I would like to know if the series were film today what would be the changes? and/or differences? Because this series focus on Westerners, would the settings, plot change if the series was recorded today?

  23. I chose to watch the Season 1, Episode 2 of "The Wonder Years," which originally aired in 1988. The show won an Emmy for Best Comedy Series in 1988 after only six episodes aired in the first season. I remember tuning into the show when I was younger when it had aired on Nickelodeon's "Nick at Nite." Although the sitcom was released only three years before my birth, I distinctly remember the quaint feeling it elicited. Centered around late 1960's family culture, the setting for a typical scene might include the dinner table, physical education class, or a conversation with a cynical older brother scoffing at his prepubescent sibling's tenuous grasp of the birds and the bees.

    In this episode, the sitcom's protagonist, 11-year-old Kevin (Fred Savage), grapples with a concept of adulthood that comes in the form of sex education in school. This issue is compounded by a related and equally alienating personal situation, a burgeoning young romance with a neighborhood girl. Sexual humor is increasingly abundant in modern day television, but the manner in which it is approached has clearly shifted in the past 20 years. It's hard to deny that the use of innuendo is more pronounced these days, and overt and crude references have supplanted the understated awkward humor used in The Wonder Years. Kevin narrates his internal thoughts as he proceeds through the show, and his boyish struggles engender a more understated, "I remember being a raging, hormonal adolescent" sort of amusement. I find it more palatable than your modern day phallic reference-laden programming.

    The use of irony is well-executed here, in my opinion, highlighting a shift in our values and perceptions as we age. During a scene, Kevin references "a fire" in his friend's Paul's eyes as they attempt to buy a book about sex at the store. Kevin is telling us of an inquisitive sexual passion burning within his friend, but to the observer he simply looks like a bewildered young child.

    Family life is clearly a more central aspect in the show, and it evokes a sort of nostalgia that makes me miss sitting down at the dinner table or getting scolded for minor offenses. Like I said before, it's quaint, but the entertainment value here is that each episode ends with an endearing, heartwarming tone. I find this more rare in modern television. It's also nostalgic simply because of the time period it's placed in. The setting was 20 years before the date the show was aired. Another popular sitcom from times past, Happy Days, is set in a time prior. By the mid 1990's popular shows such as Saved By The Bell were already contemporaneous.

    Research questions that I would have might include delving further into the viewership of the show. The show was set in 1968, which would be perfect for a 25-35 year old viewer to relive their golden days, which is something we can glean from the show's title. However, it seems like sitcoms since the mid-90's have older subjects, and have humor that seems to fit those who are similar in age. I love the soundtrack of the show, and would be interested in discussing how music is used to evoke mood, moreso than simply transitioning between scenes.

    1. Source: Netflix Instant.

  24. I found an episode of the Carol Burnett Show, specifically the one with Ben Vereen. This episode aired Febuary 26 1977. I was initially drawn to this show because of the similarities it has with SNL. It is filmed in front of a live audience, there is an opener, and several skits throughout the show, as well as a performance by the guest. Very similarly to Saturday Night Live the topics used during the sketches are present day topics. This episode in particular opened with a sketch that discussed the Vietnam war, something that would be common during the 70's but is not as common today.

    While I was watching, I found that the humor was a little different from what I am used to today.
    One aspect of the show that I found strange was how long the sketches were. To fill the entire show (which was an hour) there were about 5 sketches, compared to the modern show SNL which shares the same format but has many more sketches. In the Carol Burnett show each skit was about 15 minutes. An interesting research point surrounding this topic would be to see if people today would sit through a 15 minute skit, or if they'd prefer a 2 to 5 minute one. I personally found it difficult to watch the skits because they were so long.

    I also think it could be interesting to research the effects of a live audience on a television show in both present day and the past. ( I watched the episode

  25. Take two.

    I chose to watch the pilot episode of "Bewitched." There's no real good reason as to why I picked this show, but I remember watching Sabrina the Teenage Witch growing up so I thought maybe I would enjoy this as well (Kind of a stretch but lets go with it). Full disclosure, I did not realize this was the pilot until after I watched and then did some research, but I was able to figure it out on my own and it made sense looking back and reflecting.

    The episode focused primarily on Darrin and Samantha, introducing them to the viewers and establishing their personalities. There were a few secondary characters, including Samantha's mom, but for the most part we were introduced to the relationship and "magical" connection the two protagonists shared.

    I actually thought the show was pretty funny and I laughed out loud during a few spots. The humor was more modern than I expected (I was ready for Jeepers and Golly gee), plus there were multiple slightly suggestive scenes. Overall, I enjoyed the show and as far as a research question I'm curious as to how much of a new idea this show was as far as doing pre production work to make the magic scenes happen. Of course a lot of shows were done live so I'm curious if this started a bit of a change or was already in the midst of creative, transcribed television shows.,p0,d0

  26. For this assignment, I decided to watch an episode of ‘The Twilight Zone.’ It was the second episode of the first season. The episode was entitled, ‘One for the Angels.’

    As Rene and Jeremy pointed out in their posts about ‘The Twilight Zone,’ the show does not really have a set. The episode I watched began with a salesman on the steps of a courthouse and also featured the inside of his apartment. It is a black and white show. It first premiered in 1959 and ran for five seasons on CBS.

    The episode dealt with the timeless subject matter of death. It was predictable and enjoyable. The guy who played death was suave.

    The music was one aspect of the show that brought out the 1950s flavor. The show begins with a voice over. It is Rod Serling’s voice. The sound of bells and chimes is played under the sound of the narrator's voice. The stars twinkle. The Twilight Zone appears on the screen.

    The pacing was much different than the shows I watch today. The dialogue less delivered in a less rapid-fire way than shows today. The director gave the scenes room to breathe. The episode ran 25:12 from start to finish. It began with Rod Serling’s voice and ended with the voice of the actor who played death. It was formulaic, but creative. I liked it a lot.

    Robert Parrish directed the episode. His IMDB page is listed at the bottom.

    I found the episode on Hulu.,p0,d0