Changes in Pacing, Sound Use, Visual Complexity, and Narrative Complexity in U.S. Sitcoms 1950-present

Open Access
Bradbury, Kelsey J
Area of Honors:
Media Studies
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Matthew Paul Mcallister, Thesis Supervisor
  • Susan Mary Strohm, Honors Advisor
  • Television
  • TV
  • Sitcom
  • Situation Comedy
  • Modern Family
  • Father Knows Best
  • The Cosby Show
  • Neil Postman
Numerous theorists have argued that the manner in which television delivers information influences—and is influenced by—the information-processing preferences of its audience. Research supports a general intensity of the pace and visual complexity of several media forms in society, including television programming. Engaging with such scholarship, this thesis examines changes in content and formatting of three scripted, primetime, U.S. network domestic situation comedy television programs in three different eras of television history. Specifically, this thesis focuses on changes in pacing, sound use, visual complexity, and narrative complexity of such shows. Both quantitative content analysis and qualitative textual analysis were used to analyze episodes from Father Knows Best, The Cosby Show, and Modern Family, each of which represents a distinct era of television history in the U.S. It was found that over the past six decades, the pacing, sound use, visual complexity, and narrative complexity of television sitcoms has changed significantly. Such changes have implications for the U.S. culture as a whole, and may affect the ways viewers are influenced by newer televisual forms.