Sitcoms are more than mere entertainment, they offer an escape — even if just for a little bit — of the problems of daily life, allowing us to laugh and forget our troubles. The situation comedy has been a staple of television since shortly after the birth of the medium, and continues to endure in an age when there are more ways for the public to consume media than ever before. For this week’s Sunday Funday post, we wanted to take you behind the scenes of how sitcom classics were made by celebrating five books that present invaluable insight into the creative process. Here then are some terrific tomes that will forever alter the way you think about situation comedies:
A lively and revealing biography of Andy Griffith and Don Knotts, this “humorous, informative, and poignant book” celebrates the powerful real-life friendship behind one of America’s most iconic television programs and “shows how the magic was created” (Library Journal).
Andy Griffith and Don Knotts first met on Broadway in the 1950s. When Andy moved to Hollywood to film a TV pilot for a comedy about a small-town sheriff, Don called to ask if Andy’s sheriff could use a deputy. The friendship and comedy partnership between Sheriff Andy Taylor and Deputy Barney Fife ignited The Andy Griffith Show, elevating the folksy television sitcom into a timeless study of human friendship. Together, they created a program with a uniquely small-town dynamic that captured the hearts of Americans across the country who watched these two men rocking on the front porch, meditating about the pleasure of a bottle of pop.
But behind this sleepy charm, de Visé’s exclusive reporting “captures the complexity of both men and the intimacy of their friendship with extreme detail and sensitivity” (Publishers Weekly), from unspoken rivalries, passionate affairs, unrequited loves, struggles with the temptations of fame, and friendships lost and regained. Although Andy and Don ended their Mayberry partnership in 1965, they remained best friends for the next half-century.
Written by Don Knotts’s brother-in-law, Andy and Don is “a rewarding dual biography that is also a lively look inside the entertainment industry in the latter half of the twentieth century” (News & Observer). Entertaining and provocative, it “captures a golden moment in modern Americana. You’ll not only return again to Mayberry, you’ll feel as though you’ve never left” (Tom Shales, Pulitzer Prize–winning television critic).
Discover the fascinating behind-the-scenes stories and lasting impact of the trailblazing sketch comedy show that upended television, launched the careers of some of our biggest stars, and changed the way we talk, think, and laugh about race: In Living Color.
Few television shows revolutionized comedy as profoundly or have had such an enormous and continued impact on our culture as In Living Color. Inspired by Richard Pryor, Carol Burnett, and Eddie Murphy, Keenen Ivory Wayans created a television series unlike any that had come before it. Along the way, he introduced the world to Jamie Foxx, Jim Carrey, David Alan Grier, Rosie Perez, and Jennifer Lopez, not to mention his own brothers Damon, Marlon, and Shawn Wayans. In Living Color shaped American culture in ways both seen and unseen, and was part of a sea change that moved black comedy and hip-hop culture from the shadows into the spotlight.
Now, Homey Don’t Play That reveals the complete, captivating story of how In Living Color overcame enormous odds to become a major, zeitgeist-seizing hit. Through exclusive interviews with the cast, writers, producers, and network executives, this insightful and entertaining chronicle follows the show’s ups and downs, friendships and feuds, tragedies and triumphs, sketches and scandals, the famous and the infamous, unveiling a vital piece of history in the evolution of comedy, television, and black culture.
An authorized history of the iconic comedy group and their groundbreaking TV series, with a collection of removable ephemera
This is the story of Monty Python, one the most popular and influential forces in modern comedy—and of their TV show—told in words and images. This celebratory book includes 22 removable facsimiles of rare memorabilia from their official archives, including hand-scribbled scripts, cue sheets, character lists, posters, and animation artwork. Written with active input from the Pythons themselves, the book recounts the adventures of all six members and their TV show, from early days in the Cambridge Footlights through early appearances on the BBC, global stardom, the inevitable fights, and their triumphant reunions.
Archie Bunker, George Jefferson, Maude — the television sitcom world of the 1970s was peopled by the creations of Norman Lear. Beginning in 1971 with the premiere of All in the Family, Lear’s work gave sitcoms a new face and a new style. No longer were families perfect and lives in order. Mostly blue-collar workers and their families, Lear s characters argued, struggled, uttered sometimes shocking opinions and had no problem contributing to, or at least, acknowledging the turmoil so shunned by 1960s television.
Significantly, not only did Lear address difficult issues, but he did so through successful programming. Week after week, Americans tuned in to see the family adventures of the Bunkers, The Jeffersons, and Sanford and Son. With a thorough analysis of his sitcoms, this volume explores Norman Lear s memorable production career during the 1970s. It emphasizes how Lear s shows reflected the political and cultural milieu, and how they addressed societal issues including racism, child abuse and gun control. The casting, production and behind-the-screen difficulties of All in the Family, Sanford and Son, Maude, Good Times, The Jeffersons and One Day at a Time are discussed.
Each show is examined from inception through series finale. Interviews with some of the actors and actresses such as Rue McClanahan of Maude and Marla Gibbs from The Jeffersons are included.
Jenna Fischer’s Hollywood journey began at the age of 22 when she moved to Los Angeles from her hometown of St. Louis. With a theater degree in hand, she was determined, she was confident, she was ready to work hard. So, what could go wrong?
Uh, basically everything. The path to being a professional actor was so much more vast and competitive than she’d imagined. It would be eight long years before she landed her iconic role on The Office, nearly a decade of frustration, struggle, rejection and doubt.
If only she’d had a handbook for the aspiring actor. Or, better yet, someone to show her the way—an established actor who could educate her about the business, manage her expectations, and reassure her in those moments of despair.
Jenna wants to be that person for you.
With amusing candor and wit, Fischer spells out the nuts and bolts of getting established in the profession, based on her own memorable and hilarious experiences. She tells you how to get the right headshot, what to look for in representation, and the importance of joining forces with other like-minded artists and creating your own work—invaluable advice personally acquired from her many years of struggle. She provides helpful hints on how to be gutsy and take risks, the tricks to good auditioning and callbacks, and how not to fall for certain scams (auditions in a guy’s apartment are probably not legit—or at least not for the kind of part you’re looking for!).
Her inspiring, helpful guidance feels like a trusted friend who’s made the journey, and has now returned to walk beside you, pointing out the pitfalls as you blaze your own path towards the life of a professional actor.
Sunday Funday is a weekly feature showcasing the best in contemporary and classic movie/TV/pop culture-based toys and collectibles.