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The Lonely Nineties

Visions of Community in Contemporary US Television

  • Puts into cultural context some of the most popular and significant US television shows of the nineties, including Seinfeld, NYPD Blue, Law & Order, The X-Files, Touched by an Angel, and The Simpsons

  • Links popular culture to key social and cultural developments of the nineties, including the rise of coffee shop culture, the Rodney King beating, the memory of the sixties, and the culture wars

  • Examines the representations of community that primetime TV offered to its American mass audiences in an increasingly fragmented national culture


About this book


This book examines the most popular American television shows of the nineties—a decade at the last gasp of network television’s cultural dominance. At a time when American culture seemed increasingly fragmented, television still offered something close to a site of national consensus. The Lonely Nineties focuses on a different set of popular nineties television shows in each chapter and provides an in-depth reading of scenes, characters or episodes that articulate the overarching “ideology” of each series. It ultimately argues that television shows such as SeinfeldFriendsLaw & Order and The Simpsons helped to shape the ways Americans thought about themselves in relation to their friends, families, localities, and nation. It demonstrates how these shows engaged with a variety of problems in American civic life, responded to the social isolation of the age, and occasionally imagined improvements for community in America. 


Television American Nineties Culture community primetime sitcom social

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.State University of New York CollegeCortlandUSA

About the authors

Paul Arras is Lecturer in Communication Studies at SUNY Cortland, USA. 

Bibliographic information


“Arras’ use of clear and focused prose suggests a text appropriate for both graduate and upper-level undergraduate television and cultural studies courses.” (Adam Christian Clark, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol. 41 (1), 2021)