Note on Sources
Radio and Television Programming
Broadcasting sources can be difficult to find, as they are available through a range of different vendors. For radio, some of the best sources were shows saved by hobbyists and made available through small companies or fan groups. Television shows are all available through large, commercial entities and online streaming sites. While I was able to access every episode of I Love Lucy, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, 30 Rock, and Parks and Recreation, limited numbers of radio episodes were available, as most broadcasts were not recorded.
Some episodes of The Rise of the Goldbergs and The Burns and Allen Show are available online at archive.org. More are available for purchase online on the Old Time Radio Catalog. CDs of the Burns and Allen episodes involving Gracie’s presidential run are also available for purchase online and distributed by Radio Spirits. Delta Entertainment has distributed DVDs of a few episodes of Burns and Allen television episodes, and the first television season of The Goldbergs is available on Netflix Watch Instantly.
Several episodes of I Love Lucy and The Mary Tyler Moore Show are available online on Hulu Plus. The entirety of both series are available on DVD; I Love Lucy was distributed through CBS DVD and The Mary Tyler Moore Show through 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Shows created in the last decade are all accessible online. Older seasons of 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation are available on Netflix Watch Instantly. Current seasons, along with the complete first season of The Mindy Project, are available on Hulu Plus. The entirety of Girls is available on HBOGo.
Memoirs and First-Hand Accounts
Most of the women I studied wrote memoirs, which proved invaluable in their explanation of the creation of their sitcoms. In particular, Gertrude Berg’s Molly and Me, Lucille Ball’s Love, Lucy, and Mary Tyler Moore’s After All detailed the creation of the programs as well as the development of their characters. Tina Fey’s Bossypants and Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns) did this to some extent, but focused more on comic essays, which were a pleasure to read.
Though not exactly a memoir, George Burns’s Gracie: A Love Story was also extremely helpful in better understanding the creation of the show and Gracie’s character. George’s insights are helpful, but it’s unfortunate that Gracie’s point of view was never published.
Somewhat similarly, Jess Oppenheimer’s Laughs, Luck… and Lucy: How I Came to Create the Most Popular Sitcom of All Time gave an incredible first-hand account about the creation of I Love Lucy. Oppenheimer was the producer and head writer for I Love Lucy, and his commentary on the creation of the program highlighted aspects not even considered in Ball’s memoir.
Outside biographies were useful in getting a general idea of these comedienne’s lives, and I was especially interested in volumes that detailed the lives of several women, like Cary O’Dell’s Women Pioneers in Television: Biographies of Fifteen Industry Leaders and Linda Martin and Kerry Segrave’s Women in Comedy. I enjoyed how these two were able to draw comparisons between comediennes of different eras and provide a historical context for their successes.
The only other biography I regularly used was Glenn D. Smith’s “Something on My Own:” Gertrude Berg and American Broadcasting, 1929-1956. Smith’s detailed analysis of Berg’s life and career is thorough, well-organized, and helped guide many of my discussions of Berg.
After programs and memoirs, interviews were probably the most helpful in determining how creator and character interact. Oprah’s interview with Tina Fey detailed the creation of 30 Rock and Fey’s transition from SNL, which was incredibly useful. The Paley Center for Media Studies also catalogues relevant interviews, and their “She Made It Series” allowed me to access rare interviews with George Burns, Lucille Ball, and Mary Tyler Moore. Ball in particular spoke about her character of Lucy in the “Museum of Broadcasting Seminar Series: Lucille Ball Seminar at Citibank.”
Yael Kohen’s oral history of comediennes entitled We Killed: The Rise of Women in American Comedy was extremely helpful. Kohen allowed behind-the-scenes creators like writers and producers to voice their opinions on women in comedy, which was an important addition to the comediennes’ memoirs. Kohen’s chronological approach constructs a historical understanding of the “rise” of comediennes, and allowed female comics to comment on comediennes from other eras.
News Articles and Supporting Documents
Several supporting documents helped me better understand Gracie’s presidential campaign. Elizabeth McLeod’s program guide that came with Burns & Allen: Gracie for President, as well as William Carroll’s Gracie Allen for President 1940: Vote with the Surprise Party provided incredible anecdotes of Gracie’s run, and offered helpful historical analyses to better contextualize Gracie’s political jokes.
News articles about Gracie Allen, as found on ProQuest, were also helpful. Gracie wrote an article entitled “If I Were President” for the Daily Boston Globe, which outlined her entire party platform and reiterated the expansion of her campaign beyond the radio program. Countless other news articles discussing her nomination and campaign can be found on ProQuest and proved helpful in my analysis of her campaign.
For modern shows, most secondary information was from well-known magazines and newspapers like Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, The Huffington Post, The New York Times, and Newsweek. During Leslie’s campaign and during the final season of 30 Rock, many articles discussed Poehler and Fey’s careers as well as their politics.
I was most surprised by the amount of information I used from blogs. Television summaries like AV Club and Crave Online as well as feminist critiques like Tiger Beatdown were valuable sources. Linda Holmes’s NPR Blog post entitled “The Incredible Shrinking Liz Lemon: From Woman to Little Girl” provided an important criticism of Liz’s inferiority to Jack, and sparked several relevant responses from feminist blogs and other news outlets.
Susan Douglas’s Where The Girls Are: Growing Up Female with the Mass Media and Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message that Feminism's Work is Done really guided this entire project by analyzing female characters in media and relating them back to historical contexts. Douglas’s ideas of “postwar schizophrenia” and “fantasies of power” in particular were extremely helpful in my analysis.
Scholarly monographs were also helpful in understanding the broader issues in radio. Douglas’s Listening in: Radio and the American Imagination and Michele Hilmes’s Radio Voices were crucial in framing radio in American culture. Finally, Gerd Horten’s Radio Goes to War provided a thorough analysis of radio’s involvement in wartime propaganda.
The transition to television was especially important for Berg, Allen, and Ball. Lynn Spigel’s Make Room for TV and Susan Murray’s Hitch Your Antenna to the Stars: Early Television and Radio Stardom both guided my analysis of the shift to television and TV stardom.
Feminist cultural critiques also guided my analysis of feminism in characters. Chapters from Television, History, and American Culture: Feminist Critical Essays and Feminist Television Criticism: A Reader, along with Bonnie J. Dow’s Prime-Time Feminism, helped contextualize the feminist movement and its relationship with these programs.