This assignment provides you the opportunity to explore some of the changes in U.S. families and reflect on the evolution of the American family as portrayed in television.
Families have been with us for a very long time. It is probably true that the family is changing faster than any other social institution (Bianchi and Spain, 1996). U.S. families are changing in response to a higher divorce rate, a fast growing blended family structure, and the desire for women to have more career options and to provide better lives for their children.
Television is a powerful medium that has continually reinvented images of the American family over the past sixty years. Arguably, television has created an idealized image of the American family and not always a realistic depiction of what the typical family structure looks like. Obviously, media is a powerful agent of socialization that often dictates what we ‘think we should be doing.’ However, as times have changed, so have the images of family on television. This assignment will explore some of those changes and ask you to reflect on the evolution of the American family as portrayed in television.
The assignment begins with “Father Knows Best” (1954-1963). Here is for this show that gives a lot of information about the show, its characters, and content. I want you to read one of the magazine articles on this website from TV Guide that was published during the time the show was syndicated. You will want to make some notes about what you learned about the show including audience reception, characters, and the content of the show.
Next, you will watch a full-length episode of the show (these can be found on or on ). You will then begin a content analysis of the show and you will do this for two other shows as well.
Here is what you will be looking for in the episode(s):
Gender roles and family structure (mother, father, children)
Parents as figures of authority
Children (manners, obedience to authority)
Content of the show (what message was the show trying to send to the audience?) How is the content reflective of the average American family at the time? (or not)
Choose one sit-com episode from the following list of sit-coms from 70s and 80s, watch in its entirety, and follow the same episode guideline questions above:
One Day at a Time
All in the Family
Married with Children
Finally, choose one of the following contemporary shows to view, following episode guideline questions:
Now, you will synthesize all of the analysis you have done from the TV Guide article and three episodes of tv from different decades into a 2-3 page paper.