Essay: U.S. Television Sitcoms on Emotional Behavior

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¶ … U.S. Television Sitcoms on Emotional Behavior of Young Viewers

Comedy serials are among the most favorite television programs which are largely viewed by children in the United States. (Bryant, 325) These family-oriented drama comedies are featured by characters that belong to the same family and interact in a funny way with each other. These programs are regularly viewed by children as among their most preferred television series. A study was carried out to observe the characteristics of emotional presentations in family-based sitcoms that are viewed by the majority of the children. The outcome revealed these programs prominently include child characters in the story and contained emotional situations.

The results also disclosed the fact that comedy is more frequently associated with negative emotions than positive emotions. Here is a list of American sitcoms that were aired during or after year 2000. In the beginning of 2000s 30 minutes sitcom experienced revival of the single camera shooting technique, in programs like

Curb Your Enthusiasm

Parks and Recreation

Arrested Development


It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia,


30 Rock

Malcolm in the Middle

The Office,

Modern Family

Most recently shot sitcoms involve utilization of multiple camera techniques in front of live audiences including

My Dad Says,

Gary Unmarried,

Mike & Molly

Life with Bonnie,

Rules of Engagement,

According to Jim,

The New Adventures of Old Christine,

Yes, Dear,

Two and a Half Men,

The Big Bang Theory.

There are few that are shot without presence of audience like

How I Met Your Mother

Before discussing impact of sitcom viewing on children, it is important to discuss a brief background of family portrayal in American sitcoms and TV serial. It is an important issue to keep an eye how our family and family issues are being portrayed on the television as television is a medium that is supposed to make an impression of family system in a country: how these families live, what is the concept of a perfect family, how husband and wife treat each other, how parents take care of their children, and how these families respond in case of a problem. Situation comedies and family dramas are mostly based on family issues, and they are most commonly discussed on the subject of family portrayal in media.

In era of 1950s and 1960s the comedy serials like I Love Lucy, Jewish family of The Goldbergs or Amos 'n Andy mostly represented miscellaneous family structures. However after this period, sitcoms and family dramas started to depict a traditional family structure as in Leave It to Beaver and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet that include a middle class family comprising of a set of biological parents and their kids. (Meidl and Meidl, 242) These television families were shown talking and spending quality time with one another, and parents were depicted as very helpful towards their children.

TV programs of 1970s and 1980s experienced a rise of racial diversity. TV shows of 1970s also represented few emotional portrayals, like 'Brady Bunch' showed a more problematic family relationship and in 'All in the Family' the members of a family used to disregard, withdraw, and fight with one another, together with showing support and kindness. Successful TV shows like sitcom The Cosby Show (1984 -- 1992) crafted an environment in which African-American programs came into view. (Harwood, 95) The Cosby Show is mostly acknowledged as a revival of the family situation comedy. This show gained huge popularity by representing perceptions of family portrayals with an ideal family system. In 1990s lots of African-American family programs were aired. (Berry, 264) The Cosby Show presented an optimistic and upscale image of African-American that was something different from their earlier negative image. In the past, the portrayal of minority families on television has been very discouraging like African-American were illustrated as negligent, sluggish, and the target of humor.

By the 1990s, in programs like Home Improvement and Family Matters, family affiliations were portrayed more optimistically another time. Even if divergences in family programs have increased subsequent to 1970s, these television family members solve their problems effectively more or less every time, through positive, caring and kind behaviors. (D'Alessio, Laghi and Baiocco, 411)

Together with the behavior of parents, TV programs also create an image of the interaction among siblings in a society. Sibling relationships mostly highlight efforts to resolve disagreements and to sustain positive emotional bonding. Nevertheless, significant variation in such relationships can be seen in different programs. For instance, where The Simpsons portrays more positive and kind relationship, Married with Children and Roseanne represents unfriendly sibling relationships.

Media exposure to a huge range of family oriented emotional experiences makes a child more sensitive and responsive in real life emotional situations. These TV serials make a child sad when his or her favorite TV characters feel sad due to any type of loss in the serial, and similarly they get happy when their favorite characters becomes happy and they also get upset when a character fights with his/her family members.

However, Television possesses the ability to reveal emotions in ways not possible in real life. Like utilization of special sound effects, flashbacks and editing to highlight emotions are ways not possible in everyday life. Due to the fact that television programs contain a wide range of emotions and sentimental situations, it is appropriate to say that it acts as a major source of information in relation to emotion, mainly for children who are still learning how to react in various emotional situations in real life. It also helps children in expressing different emotions, and they also get an idea what emotions are suitable to feel in specific situations (Bryant, 350). Television portrayal of family oriented emotional situations also teaches children how to control and exhibit a particular emotional response at a particular situation in real life.

One popular variety of television programs is the family-formatted situation comedy. This half-hour program comprises of several characters belonging to one family and mostly acts together in a home setting. (Earles, Alexander, Johnson, Liverpool, McGhee, 795). Family sitcoms have always been most popular among TV viewers all through the history of television. For instance, I Love Lucy show was aired for six years, Leave it to Beaver also completed six years, and My Three Sons was produced for twelve years. (Meidl and Meidl, 240)

Together with their recognition among young television viewers, family sitcoms are also approved by parents when deciding suitable viewing material for their kids. (). One survey showed that almost half of the adults questioned believed that The Cosby Show portrays the types of morals they preferably want their children to see (Bryant, 315). Undeniably, the main concept of these TV shows is that they represent prosocial and optimistic messages that parents want from their kids to learn. (Bryant, 315). Nevertheless, several critics disagree with the previous opinion; they argue that family sitcoms show an unrealistic picture of reality. (Harwood, 85). For instance, Bryant, (2000) condemned these TV shows for containing fast and easy solutions of complex problems in just half hour time. Such misrepresentations may cause serious problems due to the possibility that spectators, in particular children, may create same expectations from real life due to these family sitcoms.

Investigation shows that young viewers can in fact learn a lot by observing models on small screen (Berry, 362), and that this learning can last for several years subsequent to the viewing experience (Corrigan, 60). Research shows that children may acquire violent attitudes (Walma, and Juliette, 1772), build up prosaically attitutudes such as kindness, law obedience, and friendliness (Harwood, 85), and discover about specific emotions by watching TV shows. For instance, it was observed that young children who regularly viewed Sesame Street knew more about the kinds of emotions young children normally feel than did other children. (Earles,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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U.S. Television Sitcoms on Emotional Behavior.  (2013, February 24).  Retrieved June 16, 2019, from

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"U.S. Television Sitcoms on Emotional Behavior."  February 24, 2013.  Accessed June 16, 2019.