The Transformation of the Television Character

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The Transformation of the Television Character

In the early 1900s the television became a common source of entertainment and has evolved greatly since then. The early prime-time sitcoms told more life lessons than it did jokes. Characters in these television shows portrayed the ideal family; they had good values and morals, communicated with each other on every-day issues, and they learned a valuable lesson at the end of each episode. Now, decades after the television became a household item, we rarely see a television family that holds true to the values of how we once thought an American family should be. Crude and mischievous young boys belonging to dysfunctional families living in an out of the ordinary community are what currently seem to be most common. From Full House to Family Guy, there seemed to be a huge culture leap that took Americans from watching the American-dream family to the extremely offensive characters of shows such as South Park and The Simpsons.

There are so many different themes in television that it is hard to concentrate on the evolution of television shows as a whole. However, many shows are connected and there is evidence in each show to prove their relation. Throughout the creation of new shows, influence from others plays a big part. Writer Jonathan Lethem proves that all beloved and infamous works of art have been influenced in some way by a previous work in his essay “The Ecstasy of Influence.”

CNN writer Lisa Respers France brings us back to the days of Leave it to Beaver and The Brady Bunch in her article “The Evolution of the TV Family.” France points out that “the Cleavers on Leave It to Beaver gave way to the blended family on The Brady Bunch and the single-parent home on One Day at a Time.” Decades ago, Americans wanted to watch the picture-perfect life of families on television. Leave it to Beaver came out in 1957 and featured an all-American family that easily resolved their simple issues while growing closer at the same time. In 1969 came a new all-American family of television: The Brady Bunch. The Brady family’s situation was different from the perfect American family: Carol and Mike Brady were two widowed individuals who got married and brought along their three children to form one big happy family. Of course this family was still perfectly ideal, but the death of a spouse and divorce was not an ideal topic at the time.

Another stem from Leave it to Beaver was Full House which aired thirty years after Leave it to Beaver with a similar theme: a family with arising issues each episode and a lesson learned at the end of each. Similar to The Brady Bunch, this family was not quite as picture-perfect. Danny Tanner was a single father of three daughters whose wife was killed by a drunk driver and in their home also lived Danny’s best friend Joey and his brother-in-law Jesse. At this point in television history, the sitcom family had evolved into a less ideal and unique situation, however shows still featured unrealistically loving and well communicative families.

The evolution from the desirable loving family to the comedic dysfunctional family started off slowly. What quickly boosted the shift was reality television. One of the first reality TV shows to feature a real American family was aired in 1973 on PBS called An American Family. With a title like that, viewers must have thought that this was another typical series about a happy family with high morals. However, the Louds were a less than perfect family who allowed their issues to unfold on television. The honest family went through a divorce and found out their son was gay on air. This truly formed a breakthrough in fictional and reality shows: producers and writers were influenced to start creating shows about families that were more relatable to the Loud family. Today reality shows rule networks like MTV and features the lives of struggling families and individuals. Teen Mom is a reality show on MTV about single...
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