The Social Impact of Television throughout the Decades Since its inception as

The Social Impact of Television
throughout the Decades
Since its inception as an integral part of American life in the 1950’s, television has both
reflected and nurtured cultural mores and values. For this assignment, you will be
assigned the 80’s decade and will identify 3 popular shows from that
decade that you feel reflect American values from that time. You will analyze what historical
events shaped the values of that decade and how the tv shows strengthened or challenged
those values.
Try to pick a range of genres such as sitcom, drama, game show, etc. Sitcoms are great
examples as the setting is usually home or work and the characters represent stereotypical
characters of American society.
a. HISTORY of the DECADE Give a general overview of the major historical events
that happened throughout the decade. Who was President? Were we at war?
Were we united as a country? How did we receive our news? Was anyone
assassinated? How was American culture evolving and were our values shifting?
What did it mean to be American at that time? Use photos/videos/news clips.
b. SHOW SLIDES (Answer these questions for each of the 3 shows)
i. THE SHOW. Describe the premise and the show’s main characters or
hosts/participants. What was the draw for people to watch the show?
Did they identify with the characters or people? Did it help them to deal
with important current events or emotional issues? Was it comforting or
controversial? Why do you think the premise of the show worked for this
ii. POPULARITY. What were the ratings and how did they change
throughout the decade? How many years did it air? Was there a spin-
off? What was the target demographic?
iii. VALUES. How would you describe the messages conveyed in the show?
Did they ever challenge their viewers thinking or touch upon heavy
subjects (AIDS, Racism, School Shootings)? How were women portrayed?
People of color?
Show an important and well-known scene from the show
iv. NETWORK What network was it on? Did the network change and if so
were there any changes in concept or character? Was it ever censored?
Were there advertisements on the show? Sponsors?
v. THEN VS. NOW Do you think this show would be popular today? Why or
why not? How does it compare to shows of the same genre today
(similar target demographic, similar values)? Does it still air or stream
and if so where? Who is the target demographic now?
c. ANALYSIS How do these 3 shows give us a glimpse into life in that decade? Why
did you pick these 3? How do they mirror American culture and strengthen or
challenge that decades views? As a group, what 3 shows do you think mirror our
current American culture and why?

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