In April of 1998, I was in a van with three professors from
a neighboring university heading to Atlanta, Georgia from our
home state of North Carolina to make a presentation at an
academic conference. Laura R. Linder and I were in the middle set
of seats, and we passed the time pleasantly talking about our
respective research projects and creative work. When Laura started
telling me about a seminar she had developed on situation comedy
(an interest dating to her masters thesis on family sitcoms) and how
frustrating it was not to have a good reader to use as a unifying text
for the class, I thought of the phrase all young academics hope to
encounter a gap in the literature. I’m not sure where we were
when the epiphany struck. Southern North Carolina? South
Carolina? I think it probably happened after we crossed the state
line somewhere near the iconic water tower in Gaffney, South
Carolina that is shaped and painted like a giant peach. At least,
that’s the way it is written in my mind because of the comic
possibilities (I suppose after its cameo in House of Cards, we can cite
dramatic possibilities, too.) At any rate, we decided that we should
produce that book!
By the time Laura and I reached the Georgia state line, we
had fleshed out an idea for a critical reader examining the situation
comedy, “one of the oldest and most ubiquitous forms of
television programming,” and we even had settled on a title, The
Sitcom Reader: America Viewed and Skewed. I don’t know how many
times we have each taught the sitcom seminar over the years at our
respective institutions (I call my iteration of the course Culture and
the Sitcom), but many students have used the edited volume as a
text, many colleagues have used the book or chapters from it as
assigned readings, and Laura and I are especially proud of the
second edition of our anthology called The Sitcom Reader: America
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