The sitcom made its first appearance in January of 1949 with the introduction of television's first family, The Goldbergs. Since the advent of the sitcom, televised fictional families have reflected the changing structure of American society. The sitcom emphasized first the lives of suburban, working class European immigrants and gradually expanded to encompass the multicultural urban phenomena of the 1960s. The roles of men and women in the fictional family have similarly been adjusted to depict women's movement into the workforce and the changing identity of the father. As censorship laws became less stringent, sitcom viewers also began to be exposed to the realities of changing family dynamics in America, watching as the traditional nuclear family diverged to include single-parent, two-father, and two-mother households. From the cultural upheaval of the mid-century to the "reality" craze of the new millennium, television's families have mimicked and even influenced the changing values of American society.
This broadcast history covers more than 100 television families, from the Goldbergs to the Osbournes, who have provided entertainment and inspiration for the American public since 1949. An introduction to the cultural trends and social developments of each decade is provided prior to a summary of the significant series of that decade. Each series entry includes a description of the family, the date of the show's first and last broadcast, the broadcasting network, the day and time aired, and the cast of characters.