Television Programs of the 1950s
Television programs in the 1950s were by necessity experimental because visual programming brought new entertainment demands from this emerging audience. One of the highly successful genres of television programming was situation comedies or sitcoms. Shows such as “I Love Lucy" and "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet" became immensely popular and even helped ease the transition from a depression-bred psychology of scarcity to a consumer consensus. Because Americans now had more disposable income, they desired a home filled with appliances. Sitcoms showed Americans the ideal lifestyle of the perfect family, suburban neighborhood, and a loving family. The makers of situation comedies were not necessarily attempting to produce Cold War propaganda but "believed that viewers were more attracted to affluence than to poverty. Sponsors preferred their consumer products to be associated with an upbeat image of affiance that would encourage viewers to buy more goods in order to resemble people on tv" (Schwartz 345). These programs appealed to families because characters were often portrayed as an upper-middle class family and also provided antidotes of everyday life and highlighted the tribulations of parenting.
Although the programs depicted middle class families, characters often tended to be better dressed, more affluent, and more financially secure than actual middle class or working class people. These shows allowed Americans to visualize themselves as better off than citizens of communists countries who were depicted as considerable less affluent and comfortable (Schwarttz 350). Characters in these programs urged each other to buy on installment and to “live above the means—the American way,” and spend rather than save (Schwartz 351). Situation comedies validated consumerism and showed that consumption was normal and provided a means for assimilation into a seemingly classless, homogeneous, and family-centered society.