Vox's Todd VanDerWerff has a nice interview with 92-year-old television producer Norman Lear, who created All in the Family, Maude, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, and other landmark series in the 1970s. As VanDerWerff writes, Lear "took a medium that seemed stuck on avoiding the perils of the present and dragged it, kicking and screaming, toward confrontation with the important political and social issues of the day."
For years, I've been defending the three-camera, live-studio-audience sitcom format (as have VanDerWerff and other TV critics like Jaime Weinman), so I liked this quote from Lear:
When you look at those shows, you see those immense closeups of Maude, or of Archie, or Edith, and the camera's hovering there, while the actor is—the best way of being able to put it—riding the emotions of the audience. The audience is laughing longer than expected. The actor is holding onto that. He's got a nose twitch where there wasn't a nose twitch, because they weren't laughing that long. And they're laughing a little bit more to that nose twitch. It's something that can only happen between a live audience and the onstage performer. I think that's why the shows feel so different, because they were made where the audience and the actors were working together.
That view is not shared by many people under 40. Now audiences want comedies that move fast and aim for unpredictability rather than emotional resonance.