Sitcom evolution

Jan 14, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Nov. 18, 1947
“Mary Kay and Johnny”
Premiere episode
A debate ensues over whether this 15-minute program is the first sitcom developed exclusively for television. “The Goldbergs,” which premiered Jan. 17, 1949, on CBS, was a continuation of a hit radio show that premiered in 1929.
Sept. 9, 1950
“The Hank McCune Show”
Premiere episode
This short-lived show was the first nationally televised sitcom in the United States to use a laugh track.
June 28, 1951
“Amos ‘N’ Andy”
Premiere episode
Though this show has been criticized for its stereotypical characterizations of African Americans, “Amos ‘N’ Andy” was the first television series to feature an all-black cast.
Jan. 19, 1953
“I Love Lucy”
“Lucy Goes to the Hospital”
Lucy gives birth to Ricky Jr.-the same day Lucille Ball gave birth to her second child, which paid off big in the ratings. Though censors wouldn’t allow the word “pregnant” to be said on the air-they used “expecting” instead-Lucy’s pregnancy story line was still groundbreaking in that a pregnant actress was playing a pregnant woman on television.
Oct. 1, 1955
“The Honeymooners”
“TV or Not TV”
The Honeymooners, which first appeared as a sketch on “Cavalcade of Stars” (1951) and “The Jackie Gleason Show” (1952-55), spins off as its own series.
Oct. 18, 1957
“Leave it to Beaver”
“Captain Jack”
The Cleaver clan has the dubious distinction of being the first series to show a toilet on national television.
Sept. 17, 1968
Premiere episode
Diahann Carroll became the first African American actress to star in a sitcom as a professional-she played a widowed nurse-rather than as domestic help.
Sept. 19, 1970
“The Mary Tyler Moore Show”
Premiere episode
This sitcom may be known for classic episodes such as “Chuckles Bites the Dust,” but it was also one of the first shows to feature a single-and happy-professional woman.
Jan. 12, 1971
“All in the Family”
“Meet the Bunkers”
In this premiere episode, the world was introduced to Archie Bunker and the heated family debates for which the show became known.
Feb. 19, 1972
“All in the Family”
“Sammy’s Visit”
Guest star Sammy Davis Jr. delivers one of television’s most memorable kisses.
Nov. 14 and 21, 1972

“Maude’s Dilemma”
Maude, portrayed by Bea Arthur, has prime-time television’s first legal abortion.
Sept. 13, 1977
Premiere episode
“Soap” debuted amid protests from various religious and ethnic groups for story lines dealing with such issues as transsexualism, impotence and organized crime.
Oct. 16, 1977
“All in the Family”
“Edith’s Fiftieth Birthday”
A rapist holds Edith at gunpoint in her living room.
Dec. 24, 1980
“The Facts of Life”
“Cousin Geri”
Comedian Geri Jewell became the first performer with a disability-she has cerebral palsy-to be cast in a recurring role on a prime-time network television series.
Feb. 28, 1983
“Good-bye, Farewell and Amen”
After 11 seasons, this acclaimed series signed off with a 21/2-hour special that became the most widely watched television program of all time.
Feb. 8, 1987
“The Hogan Family”
“Bad Timing”
It is believed this show is the first sitcom to use the word “condom” in a script.
Jan. 15, 1989
“Married … With Children”
“Her Cups Runneth Over”
After seeing this episode, in which Peg Bundy searches for a new bra, Michigan housewife Terry Rakolta started a letter-writing campaign urging viewers and advertisers to boycott the show. The commotion only made the series more popular.
Dec. 17, 1989
“The Simpsons”
“Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire”
After appearing as a regular feature on “The Tracey Ullman Show,” “The Simpsons” debuted in 1989 and became the first animated series since “The Flintstones” to successfully appeal to an adult audience.
May 18, 1992
“Murphy Brown”
“Birth 101”
A pregnant Murphy, who decided to be a single mother, gave birth to a son. Vice President Dan Quayle criticized the story line in a May 1992 speech addressing the lack of family values in America.
Nov. 10, 1992
“Ladies’ Choice”
When Roseanne’s friend Nancy, portrayed by Sandra Bernhard, revealed she was gay, she became the first regularly recurring lesbian character on a sitcom.
Nov. 18, 1992
“The Contest”
Jerry and friends wager on who can remain master of his-or her-domain.
Sept. 14, 1994
“All-American Girl”
Premiere episode
Comedian Margaret Cho starred in this short-lived series that was the first sitcom to focus on an Asian American family.
Dec. 7, 1995
“The Sponge”
Elaine stockpiles her favorite contraceptive after learning the Today sponge is being discontinued.
Jan. 18, 1996
“The One With the Lesbian Wedding”
When Ross’ ex-wife Carol married girlfriend Susan, two NBC affiliates, one in Texas and one in Ohio, opted not to broadcast the episode. The show also featured a cameo by Newt Gingrich’s gay sister Candace.
May 16, 1996
“The Invitations”
After George purchases cheap wedding invitations, his fiancee, Susan, dies from licking the glue as she sealed the many envelopes.
April 30, 1997
“The Puppy Episode”
Ellen Morgan comes to terms with her sexuality and becomes network television’s first openly gay lead character.
October 4, 2001
“The One with the Red Sweater”
Rachel reveals that she is pregnant with Ross’ baby and that she plans to have it and raise it alone.