Teen sitcom

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A teen situation comedy, or teen sitcom, is a television programming genre. Like teen dramas, this genre was also generally non-existent during the first 30 years of television. Teen sitcoms are often comedic television series targeted towards teenagers, but are also popular with young adults as well as preteens. Older adults may enjoy them for nostalgic purposes.

History[edit]

1940s-1980s[edit]

When sitcoms reached their peak in the 1950s and 1960s, they were supposed to be family-oriented. Sitcoms of the 1950s and 1960s such as Leave it to Beaver, Father Knows Best, and The Donna Reed Show were popular with teenagers along with the entire family. The teen movie genre was popular during the 1960s and led the way towards the teen sitcom genre.

The earliest ancestor of the teen sitcom was The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, a 1959-1963 CBS sitcom based on collegiate short stories by humorist Max Shulman. Dobie Gillis followed the adventures of a teenage boy and his friends through high school, the military, and college, and was the first American television program to feature teenagers (played by Dwayne Hickman and Bob Denver, actors in their twenties at the time) as its lead characters.[1][2]

In the mid 1960s, the creation of sitcoms such as The Monkees and Gidget were primarily targeted towards the teenage audience. The 1969-1974 ABC sitcom The Brady Bunch was very popular with the younger audiences, especially preteens and younger teenagers, as was its successor The Partridge Family, which premiered in 1970. These shows are very similar to the "tween" orientated shows that are aired today such as Hannah Montana. The 1970s also featured teen sitcoms such as What's Happening!!, Happy Days and Welcome Back, Kotter.

In the 1980s, television series such as The Facts of Life, Silver Spoons, Family Ties, Growing Pains, The New Leave It To Beaver, My Two Dads and Good Morning, Miss Bliss (later known as Saved By The Bell) were extremely popular especially among the younger demographic.

MTV[edit]

The creation of MTV in 1981 had gathered a majority of the teenage audience with the airing of back-to-back music videos. MTV is now a lifestyle and pop culture channel that airs a limited amount of music videos, mostly late night and early morning hours, instead focusing on reality shows, soap operas, sports, documentaries, and music-related programs. MTV aired series targeted towards teenagers such as TRL, a daily music countdown show, Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County, a reality show focused around a group or rich teenagers living in California, its spinoff The Hills which is about former cast member Lauren Conrad and her internship at Teen Vogue. During the 1990s, MTV aired the controversial animated series Beavis and Butt-head, which focused on the antics of two idiotic teenage slackers and their unsuccessful attempts at scoring with chicks, though they often displayed gross, violent and crude behavior and a spinoff about their former classmate Daria aired in 1997 which focused around a cynical, sarcastic, intelligent yet monotone teenage girl and her stereotype-infested high school. In 2010 MTV premiered its first real teen sitcom The Hard Times of RJ Berger which became an instant hit. Awkward, in 2011, is another instant hit.

NBC[edit]

In 1989, the sitcom Saved by the Bell premiered on NBC. The series quickly became a viewers' favorite and one of the most highly rated and popular teen shows of all time. Saved by the Bell had the main characters go through typical teen issues and the drama of high school, though the series was very comical and the issues were often resolved before the end of the episode. Notably Saved by the Bell featured teenage archetypes and stereotypes. Saved by the Bell kept its Saturday morning slot until 1993, when it was canceled. Saved by the Bell spawned an ill-fated spin-off Saved by the Bell: The College Years which only lasted a season, while another spin-off, Saved by the Bell: The New Class, had lasted for 7 years. The series was responsible for the creation of NBC's TNBC Saturday morning block which was targeted towards teenagers.

Nickelodeon[edit]

The children's channel Nickelodeon ("Nick") had begun their own trend of teen sitcoms such as the 1989 show Hey Dude which focused on a group of teenagers working at a dude ranch and later the 1991 show Clarissa Explains it All, starring then-unknown actress Melissa Joan Hart which focused around a young girl Clarissa who was a typical teenager who faced typical teen issues and an aggravating younger brother. This was the only sitcom on Nickelodeon to do that and still maintain a TV-Y7 (formally TV-Y) rating. Hart would later star in the 1996 sitcom Sabrina the Teenage Witch, based on the 1994 TV movie of the same name. Sabrina the Teenage Witch ran for seven years on ABC and later The WB. Sabrina focused around the eponymous main character who is a witch and tries to live a normal life as a teenager and later young adult. Nickelodeon later aired shows such as The Adventures of Pete & Pete, My Brother and Me, Noah Knows Best, Taina, Kenan & Kel, Salute Your Shorts, Cousin Skeeter,animated As Told By Ginger, Romeo! Just Jordan, Unfabulous, Drake & Josh, True Jackson, VP, Zoey 101, The Secret World of Alex Mack, Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide, All That, iCarly, Victorious, Bucket & Skinner's Epic Adventures and How to Rock. Nick currently airs Sam & Cat, Big Time Rush, and Marvin Marvin which are all targeted towards older children and teenagers, along with adults. Nickelodeon's teen sitcoms (and programs in general) are known for their allusions and pop culture references, social commentary, dark humours, surrealism and sexual innuendos. There are also general random moments, but in an often realistic environment and relatable situations to teenagers. Their popularity has led Nick to dissolve its long-running SNICK block and replace it with the TEENick block and later a separate channel, The N (now TeenNick), which is devoted to airing teen dramas and sitcoms.

Disney Channel[edit]

During the late 1990s, the Disney Channel also tried to mimic the popularity of teen dramas and sitcoms by creating original series such as Flash Forward, The Jersey, The Famous Jett Jackson and So Weird. Jett Jackson was about a TV star trying to live as a normal teenager and So Weird was a dramatic sci-fi series that focused around a teenage girl who attracts the paranormal/occult and often has to battle potential threats to humanity. So Weird was the first Disney Channel series to focus on dark and scary topics and thus opted Disney to air a much lighter third season which was not as popular with fans. Disney Channel has aired the successful sitcoms Even Stevens, about the sibling rivalry between Ren and Louis Stevens, and Lizzie McGuire, which was about a junior high girl who has to battle puberty, popularity and other teen issues; both shows were very popular. The sitcom That's So Raven became Disney Channel's second most popular sitcom to date, after Hannah Montana, outliving previous series by 4 years and 4 seasons, as well as being the first Disney Channel original series ever to reach 100 episodes. Today, Disney Channel airs Jessie (TV series), Phineas and Ferb, Good Luck Charlie, Shake it up, A.N.T. Farm, Gravity Falls, Fish Hooks, Austin & Ally, Dog With a Blog, Liv and Maddie, Wander Over Yonder, and I Didn't Do It (TV series), which are all fairly popular with a teen audience. Hannah Montana beat out That's So Raven in 2010 in terms of popularity, though it was still short of That's So Raven's 100-episode record by two episodes. The sitcoms on Disney Channel are more targeted towards teen and preteen girls which led to the creation of the male-oriented Disney XD. Disney XD airs the sitcom Zeke and Luther, which is the most popular sitcom to date, and also airs sitcoms I'm in the Band, Kickin' It, and Pair of Kings. Wizards of Waverly Place aired its 101st episode in October 2011 and surpassed That's So Raven with the most episodes with 106 on January 6, 2012.

Fox, WB and UPN[edit]

The networks Fox, The WB, and UPN became channels targeted towards youth. Fox aired teen dramas such as Beverly Hills, 90210, and Party of Five and sitcoms such as That '70s Show, Married... with Children and Parker Lewis Can't Lose. That '70s Show was a hit success and was popular with teenage audiences and adults. It followed six teenagers living in Wisconsin between 1976 to 1979, despite the short time period it was set in, the sitcom aired for eight years on Fox.

The WB and UPN were popular destinations for teen sitcoms. The WB aired Sister, Sister a show about two teenage twins who were separated at birth and reunite in a clothing store and later get their single parents to let them all live in the same house, The WB also aired What I Like About You a sitcom about a spontaneous, wild 16-year-old girl Holly Tyler (portrayed by former Nickelodeon star Amanda Bynes) and her neurotic, uptight older sister Valerie (portrayed by former 90210 star Jennie Garth). The WB also aired dramas such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and One Tree Hill. UPN airs mostly black sitcoms such as Moesha which was about a teenage African-American girl named Moesha (portrayed by singer Brandy) and her family and friends. The sitcom One on One was about a young African-American girl named Breanna (Kyla Pratt) who goes to live with her father who is a former basketball star. Both The WB and UPN were shut down in 2006 and were combined to make The CW. However by 2008 The CW dropped sitcoms from its schedule to focus more on dramas and soap operas.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Hickman, Dwayne with Hickman, Joan Roberts (1994). Forever Dobie: The Many Lives of Dwayne Hickman. Secaucus, New Jersey:, Carol Publishing Corporation. Pgs. 104-159 ISBN 1559-72252-5
  2. ^ Interview with Sheila James Kuehl (Digital). Archive of American Television. 2013.