By its broad reach into America’s living rooms, TV has the power to change our perceptions of the world. And in some cases, TV changed our world, either by Kennedy’s telegenic appearance in the 1960 presidential debates affecting the outcome of that election, or by watching Neil Armstrong take his first steps on the moon.
In a more light-hearted way the portrayal of TV families has changed over time. Leave it to Beaver was squeaky-clean in its portrayal of a “typical” American family where mom stayed home taking care of kids and the house and dad went off to work. Even I Love Lucy was edgy for its time, as Ricky Ricardo was Cuban and neither the Ricardos nor Fred and Ethel (their neighbors) had children. After the tumultous changes of the 1960s, TV branched out into showing different types of families, such as black families, single parent families, and even gay families.
All in the Family, a sitcom about a family was a perfect foil for the political tensions of the early 1970s. Archie Bunker, a blue collar, conservative workingman, cannot understand the changing world, especially the ultra-liberal beliefs and politics of his hippie-ish daughter and son-in-law who are living with him. That scenario was flipped in the 1980s with Family Ties. Michael J. Fox played Alex Keaton, the conservative Reagan supporting teenager who baffles his ex-hippie, free-loving parents.
The LA Times has put together a fun photo montage of 11 families that changed TV. All but two were on broadcast TV–and some still are–free to anyone with a Mohu HDTV antenna.