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Sitcom: A History in 24 Episodes from I Love Lucy to Communityby Saul Austerlitz
Synopses & Reviews
The form is so elemental, so basic, that we have difficulty imagining a time before it existed: a single set, fixed cameras, canned laughter, zany sidekicks, quirky family antics. Obsessively watched and critically ignored, sitcoms were a distraction, a gentle lullaby of a kinder, gentler America—until suddenly the artificial boundary between the world and television entertainment collapsed.
In this book we can watch the growth of the sitcom, following the path that leads from Lucy to The Phil Silvers Show; from The Dick Van Dyke Show to The Mary Tyler Moore Show; from M*A*S*H to Taxi; from Cheers to Roseanne; from Seinfeld to Curb Your Enthusiasm; and from The Larry Sanders Show to 30 Rock.
In twenty-four episodes, Sitcom surveys the history of the form, and functions as both a TV mixtape of fondly remembered shows that will guide us to notable series and larger trends, and a carefully curated guided tour through the history of one of our most treasured art forms.
Charlie Chaplin. Buster Keaton. The Marx Brothers. Billy Wilder. Woody Allen. The Coen brothers. Where would the American film be without them? Yet the cinematic genre these artists represent--comedy--has perennially received short shrift from critics, film buffs, and the Academy Awards.
Saul Austerlitzs Another Fine Mess is an attempt to right that wrong. Running the gamut of film history from City Lights to Knocked Up, Another Fine Mess retells the story of American film from the perspective of its unwanted stepbrother--the comedy. In 30 long chapters and 100 shorter entries, each devoted primarily to a single performer or director, Another Fine Mess retraces the steps of the American comedy film, filling in the gaps and following the connections that link Mae West to Doris Day, or W. C. Fields to Will Ferrell. The first book of its kind in more than a generation, Another Fine Mess is an eye-opening, entertaining, and enlightening tour of the American comedy, encompassing the masterpieces, the box-office smashes, and all the little-known gems in between.
A carefully curated tour through TV comedy series, this mixtape of fondly remembered shows surveys the genealogy of the form, the larger trends in its history, the best of what the genre has accomplished, and the most standard of its works. From I Love Lucy, The Phil Silvers Show, and M*A*S*H to Taxi, The Larry Sanders Show, and 30 Rock, this guide presents the sitcom as a capsule version of the 20th-century arts—realism giving way to modernism and then to postmodernism, all between the hours of 8 and 10pm on weeknights. Each chapter springs from an individual representative entity, including The Simpsons “22 Short Films About Springfield,” The Mary Tyler Moore Shows “Chuckles Bites the Dust,” Seinfelds “The Pitch,” and Freaks and Geeks “Dead Dogs and Gym Teachers,” where Martin Starrs nerdy Bill takes comfort in—what else—the pleasures of laughing at TV.
About the Author
Saul Austerlitz is the author of Another Fine Mess: A History of the American Film Comedy, named by Booklist as one of the ten best arts books of 2010, and Money for Nothing: A History of the Music Video from the Beatles to the White Stripes. His work has been published in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, Slate, and elsewhere.
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