It’s 2018, and we’re officially entering the twilight zone (but not for the reasons you might already think). Two of the most influential women-led sitcoms of the ‘80s and ‘90s will be back on the air – and back in conversation — again. Murphy Brown and Roseanne were about as different as two sitcoms could be. Roseanne centered on a blue-collar, conservative family; Murphy Brown was about a liberal single WASP helming a newsroom. Despite their differences, they both significantly contributed to furthering women-led sitcoms as a genre.
In the reboots, Murphy Brown and Roseanne Conner will be in dialogue with politics that are eerily similar to the ‘80s culture wars. What has changed significantly since the shows went off the air (Roseanne in 1997, Murphy Brown in 1998) is the TV landscape. Women-led shows and sitcoms are no longer the exception — and neither are women-created sitcoms, as both Roseanne and Murphy Brown were. “It’s indisputable that some of the most exciting, innovative shows that are on the air in the last five years, certainly the last few years, have been made by women and people of color because their voices hadn’t been heard,” explained Joy Press, author of Stealing the Show: How Women Are Revolutionizing Television, to Refinery29.
The arc of women-led sitcoms splays out from Lucy Ricardo in an apron to Abbi and Ilana high, running around New York. Now, sitcoms are able to frankly explore all the issues and facets of the women experience, from periods to disappointing relationships to ambition (and the days when ambition seems too lofty a goal). Nothing’s off limits – and we have the women who came before to thank for this liberated state of sitcom. Here are a few of the most influential sitcoms along the way.
Looking for more theories, recaps, and insider info on all things TV? Join our Facebook group, Binge Club. The community is a space for you to share articles, discuss last night’s episode of your favorite show, or ask questions! Join here.