The Book

The Sitcom (A Routledge Television Guidebook) analyzes the genre’s position as a major media artifact within American culture and provides a historical overview of the genre as it has evolved in the US. The Sitcom examines discourses of gender, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation that are ever always at the core of humor in our culture and it interprets how those discourses are embedded in television’s relatively rigid narrative structures.

The Sitcom is principally organized around roughly chronological sub-genres through which the sitcom has cycled: for example, the rural sitcom, the workplace sitcom, the family sitcom, the “ethnic” sitcom, and so on. However, full understanding of the sitcom goes beyond its discourses and narratives. A comprehensive consideration of the genre must also address the style of its sound and image—especially in programs that derive their humor from intertextual or self-referential play. The Sitcom thus covers the mockumentary and what, after John Caldwell, might be called the “televisual” sitcom—programs that encourage the viewer to find humor in self-reflexive and intertextual gags.

The Sitcom was released by Routledge in November 2019 and is available for purchase and course adaptation. Inspection copies are available for instructors:

Table of contents:

  • Introduction: Comedy Genre, Humor Theory
  • Chapter 1. Understanding the Sitcom
  • Chapter 2. A Critical/Cultural History of the Sitcom
  • Chapter 3. Comedy, Family, and Small Towns
  • Chapter 4. Comedy, Sex, and Gender Identity
  • Chapter 5. Comedy, Race, Ethnicity, and Religion
  • Chapter 6. Comedy, Televisuality, and Convergence
  • Questions for Discussion
  • A Select Sitcom Videography
  • A Select Sitcom Bibliography