How Popular Television Predicts Urban Trends

Christopher and Lisa Leinberger present a history of popular television shows reflecting and predicting how Americans chose to live.

"There have been two crucial times over the last 60 years when TV shows switched settings, reflecting society’s shifts in the way we have invested in infrastructure and real estate. We are in the middle of the second structural shift right now, which started in the mid-1990s. TV helped to predict that change," write the Leinbergers.

The list has two criteria: "prime-time situation comedies and dramas (no daytime TV, sports, news or reality shows)" and "the built environment — walkable urban or drivable suburban — must play a significant, though generally subtle, role in the show."

Here are a couple of examples of what they came up with, among the six examples of television eras described in the article:

  • "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet" (1951-1966) for era #3: "Drivable suburban living lionized (late 1950s through the late 1960s)"
  • "The Sopranos" (1999-2007) for era #6: "Growing dysfunction in the suburbs (late 1990s to the present)"
Full Story: How TV Predicted America’s Moves From City to ‘Burbs and Back Again


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