Yesterday on Twitter I made one of those jokes that is bound to become a reality at some point: I proposed developing a “Great Television Shows of the Western Tradition” sequence similar to a “Great Books” curriculum. There are a lot of questions about how one would organize it, how many classes would be included, etc., but lately I’ve been watching a lot of old sitcoms, and so mentally I’m going through how one would structure a sitcom course. Let’s assume from the outset that you have one 13-week semester to give a decent overview of the sitcom, and let’s limit it to the American sitcom just to make it more manageable (we can do British shows as an elective or something). Some shows seem non-negotiable — I Love Lucy, Dick van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, Golden Girls, The Cosby Show, Seinfeld — and there are difficult cases (e.g., do you put The Simpsons in among the sitcoms or somewhere else, perhaps in an animation course?).
Assuming one week per major show or else one week for a particular subgenre or theme, how could one structure this? What kind of readings might be assigned alongside the shows themselves? How many episodes would you assign, and on what basis?