Petie and I were discussing what to watch on TV one night and realized it was getting late. Maybe we have a 30 minute show on the DVR? Then it hit us – we don’t watch any 30 minute shows. Maybe we could tape some? Uh, there ARE no more 30 minute shows. The sitcom died sometime in the last couple of years.

I know that some of the issue is that it is still early in the season – it seems that many of the sitcoms come on as the season goes on…Here is the complete listing of 30 minute shows according to the broadcast station websites. I assume all shows listed are still on and I’m not including animated series and not including other networks besides the “big 4”. Before reading on, how many sitcoms can you name?

Returning shows:
ABC: According to Jim, George Lopez
CBS: How I Met Your Mother, Two and a Half Men, King of Queens, The New Adventures of Old Christine
FOX: The War at Home
NBC: Scrubs, My Name is Earl, The Office

New shows:
ABC: Help Me Help You, Big Day, The Knights of Prosperity, In Case of Emergency, Notes from the Underbelly
CBS: The Class
FOX: ‘Til Death, Happy Hour
NBC: 30 Rock, 20 Good Years

Now that seems like a lot in a list – 10 old, 10 new for a total of 20. However, if you look back at the 1989-90 television season, 11 of the top 19 shows were 30 minute sitcoms. There are only 10 sitcoms returning this year and more than that were more or less “mainstays” for at least a couple of years in the 1989-90 season.

Fast forward to the 2005-06 television season and 1 of the top 20 shows was a 30 minute sitcom. You could call 9 of those shows “reality” shows, so maybe that’s what Americans are turning to today.

Here are a few interesting articles about this type of thing:

History Speaks to Reality’s Untimely End 2/13/2003, Media Life Magazine – discusses fads related mostly to game shows, but also with a bit about fads in sitcoms and cop shows as examples.

A History of Comedy on Television 1970 to Present – at the very end of this page the author refers to the all-time low (1950) being 11 sitcoms and the all-time high (1979) being 44 sitcoms with ups and downs in between.

Finally, Sitcoms Online allows you to keep up with what’s going on in the sitcom world.