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TV 100 Years on: How Formats Have Adapted to the Modern World

    Photo by Sam McGhee on Unsplash

    We’ve been watching TV shows as far back as the 1920s but these days, the shows we watch look a lot different. As we rapidly approach the 100-year anniversary of television, we wanted to take a look back at how some of our favorite TV formats have changed and adapted over the years.

    Game Shows

    TV game shows are one of the oldest types of TV shows out there, going back well over five decades. They have come in a lot of forms over the years but the most common around the country were always quiz-style shows. At some point, though, pure quizzes stopped being the fashion.

    Photo by Bruna Araujo on Unsplash
    Photo by Bruna Araujo on Unsplash

    The biggest example of the ‘new’ kind of game show is Deal or No Deal which involves no ‘skill’ in the way of earlier shows but instead relies on some luck and critical thinking. The show has a more universal public appeal thanks to a simple concept, as evidenced by how many other forms it now comes in, particularly multiple online casino versions. Those who play slots online with jackpots can find an entire set of Deal Or No Deal games that equally have that ‘simple but effective’ quality to them, and even the show format itself is reminiscent of many other casino titles.

    Crimes and Mysteries

    There was a certain quality to the mystery shows of past decades that makes them instantly recognizable today. If you look at classic detective TV shows like Columbo or Cannon, they were extremely formulaic to the point where it was near-impossible to surprise long-term viewers about what was going to happen.

    Perhaps for that reason, there was a major shift towards a more realistic, gritty, and overall more varied kind of show in the late 90s, a template that continues today. Shows like Broadchurch, True Detective, and Sherlock all focus heavily on the characters and make sure that predicting the ending is as difficult as possible.


    Saying that sitcoms have changed in the past five decades depends very much on which modern sitcoms you look at. The retro sitcoms of the past like Three’s Company or Cheers relied on a very particular formula revolving around live audience reactions or, more commonly, the famous ‘canned laughter’. Audiences for well over half a century came to expect that format with the myriad of tropes that came along with it.

    The modern sitcom, with a few exceptions, looks very different. Take the case of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, a show that premiered in 2005 and did away with every sitcom convention that had been established. No laugh track, no punchline comedy, and with far darker and more mature humor than before, it represented a new era of comedy shows and holds the record for the longest live-action sitcom ever.

    With all the upheavals and changes that things like streaming services have made to TV, we’d expect to see a lot more changes soon. Expect this list to look a lot different in a few years!

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