Urbanism and TV Theme Songs

MLewyn's picture

In Walkable City, Jeff Speck points out that 1990s sitcoms tend to be more urban and more pro-urban than those of the 1950s and 1960s (which tended to be set in small towns or rural areas) or even the 1970s (often set in depressing or depressed urban locations, with the exception of "Mary Tyler Moore.")

But some of the 1970s shows sent a strong pro-urban message - if not in the shows themselves (which are usually so indoors-oriented that the city is rarely a major presence in the show) at least in memorable and (to me) inspiring opening sequences.

For example, take a look at the intro to the Bob Newhart show- sending the mesage that Chicago (a) is the star of the show and (b) is pleasant enough to deserve that stardom.

A more obscure show, Angie, highlights downtown Philadelphia while singing about love, leading the viewer to associate Independence Hall with love (and why not?)

And in an anti-urban area, no show's opening is as defiantly pro-city as the Jeffersons.  It identifies city life as "moving on up... to a deluxe apartment in the sky"; rather than presenting city life as a pale echo of suburbia, sailing against the wind like Barry Goldwater in the liberal mid-sixties.  While some see good cities as just bigger versions of walkable small towns, this song says to its often-suburban viewers: A Choice, Not An Echo.  (And since, barring a last-minute disaster, I plan to move to Manhattan in a few weeks, this was exactly what I want to hear right now!) 

 

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