David Brooks Has Some Notions About the Programs on Your Television Machine

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Oct. 22 2010 10:42 AM

David Brooks Has Some Notions About the Programs on Your Television Machine

New York Times columnist David Brooks wants you to believe he's been watching television :

For most of television history, sitcoms have been about families. From "The Dick Van Dyke Show" to "All in the Family" to "The Cosby Show," TV shows have generally featured husbands and wives, parents and kids.

But over the past several years, things have shifted. Today's shows are often about groups of unrelated friends who have the time to lounge around apartments, coffee shops and workplaces exchanging witticisms about each other and the passing scene.

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Really he just read something by Neal Gabler and decided to run with it. Why has television comedy turned its attention away from families? Remember how everybody used to gather around the Huxtable family living room on Thursday nights? And then America would move on to the Malone family , in its basement rec room in Boston. Oh, what? They weren't related? It was just a show about people who liked to hang out and drink in a bar?

But David Brooks says TV has only just now started making shows about a "complex web of group relationships," because "something deeper" has changed in society. So Cheers was probably way ahead of its time, the exception that proves the rule, right? It's not like there was a hit sitcom where unrelated people just hung around a taxi garage . Or a police station* . Or a radio station . A TV newsroom . A night courtroom . A boarding school . A diner . The Korean War .

Saying "For most of television history, sitcoms have been about families" is like saying "In modern America, presidents have been Republicans." It's ludicrously wrong, Alessandra Stanley-grade wrong. Does David Brooks even own a TV set? Or does he while away the evenings putting on puppet shows for himself?

You know what would be a good sitcom, to take advantage of this trend? If you did one about a professional pundit, an effete dork who keeps humiliating himself by trying to pass himself off as a man of the people. (Down the hall is a mean Irish lady who talks entirely in dialogue from old movies.) The episode where he goes to Red Lobster would be priceless.

[* Link corrected; original pointed to Taxi again.]

Tom Scocca is the managing editor of Deadspin and the author of Beijing Welcomes You: Unveiling the Capital City of the Future.

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