22. The televised situation comedy and American life
In the 1950s television developed a new form of entertainment, based on radio programming which used a similar format. The thirty-minute situation comedy, which remains a major portion of commercial programming in the 21st century emerged. In 1952 I Love Lucy became America’s favorite sitcom. It was joined near the top of the ratings by The Honeymooners. In the 1960s The Andy Griffith Show and the fictional town of Mayberry became wildly popular, as did many other programs, including one featuring a talking horse, Mr. Ed. Yet even these shows carry in their backgrounds and sets elements of history. Lucy was the stereotypical housewife of the era, always wanting to join her husband’s show, while he wanted her at home.
Mayberry was and remains the ideal small town of its day, in part because it was representative of countless American small towns. The Honeymooners, with the scheming Ralph and the obtuse Norton, depicted the life of the working class in New York, including the men’s preferred entertainments (bowling, pool, their lodge, and poker) and their wives’ difficulties in managing the home on small budgets. Even Mr. Ed, the ridiculous concept of a talking horse with something to say, presents a window into history. Most of the vehicles which appeared on the show were Studebakers, since the company sponsored the show from 1961 to 1964. Ford took over in the final season, 1965, when Studebaker ceased auto production.