Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



This dissertation examines the factors that led to the creation of the CBS rural comedy boom in the 1960s, as well as the reasons for its demise. For years, historians have dismissed the rural comedy craze as the networks catering to the growing number of southern viewers in the late 1950s. However, there were not enough to southern viewers to dictate a network’s entire programming schedule for the better part of a decade. Also, rural comedy was the domain of a single network, CBS. Had it really been a major thematic trend, all networks would have at least attempted to follow suit. Therefore, other political, social, and economic factors besides the rising number of southern viewers made rural comedy a natural fit for CBS in the 1960s. In the late 1940s, during the Red Scare, CBS developed a reputation as the “Communist Broadcast System.” The network spent most of the 1950s attempting to dispel that nickname through a series of quiz shows and westerns. Both genres ultimately backfired and drew negative attention for the network. When rival ABC introduced rural-themed programming to cater to the burgeoning southern market, CBS quickly joined the fray. By the mid 1960s, it had not only stolen ABC’s hold on the rural market, but also re-established itself as the “Country Broadcasting System.” CBS’ stable of rural comedies dominated the ratings throughout the 1960s, a phenomenon not entirely explained by southern viewers. Rural sitcoms brought in viewers from all over the country, indicating universality to the programs that superseded their regional appeal. This dissertation discusses the factors contributing to the appeal of rural comedy in the 1960s, and addresses the factors that led to the genre’s abrupt demise in the early 1970s. This study not only provides insight into the role that the southern image played in entertaining and reassuring Americans in the turbulent 1960s, it also demonstrates that television is not made in a vacuum. Television trends are the result of specific political, social, and economic stressors placed on the network and the larger population, and therefore provide a living time capsule into the era they were created.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Foster, Gaines M.



Included in

History Commons