‘History of the Sitcom’ Producers on Carl Reiner, ‘The Cosby Show’ and What Makes a Comedy

(Variety) — The producers behind CNN’s new eight-part docuseries “History of the Sitcom” knew that trying to tell the complete 70-year history of the TV genre would be an impossible task. So they divided some of the biggest comedies of all time into specific categories — and set out to illustrate how the evolution of the sitcom mirrored real-life advancements in society.

“It was pretty apparent that given the number of sitcoms that have been out there in history that you couldn’t do some sort of comprehensive, start-to-finish history, as though you were in a college course studying it from beginning to end,” says executive producer Bill Carter. “There had to be a way to categorize them and follow them according to some grouping. We have eight episodes; we could have done at least 80.”


“History of the Sitcom,” which premieres Sunday, July 11, with two back-to-back episodes, is the follow-up to CNN’s recent “The Story of Late Night.” Both come from Cream Productions, through the CNN Original Series banner. But whereas “History of Late Night” had an obvious chronological lineage to tell the story (Steve Allen to Jack Paar to Johnny Carson, and so on), Carter and showrunner/executive producer John Ealer say it took some time to figure out the best way to tell the “History of the Sitcom.”


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