Spotlight on Primetime TV Roles

Men and women's roles on TV have changed dramatically over the past 50 years.
3:00 | 11/04/11

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Transcript for Spotlight on Primetime TV Roles
The question of who wears the pants in the family might just be answered by classic prime -- TV shows is that -- think or Roseanne. Madman or the Desperate Housewives in modern TV land perhaps it should be mother knows best. Here to get to the bottom of it is ABC's Chris Connolly with a look at the PBS series America in prime time. When I first was a young mother and we just sent home watching television when my kids and I was just -- -- Asian I had the fashion like a lot of people -- man got -- chance. -- -- -- -- What do you know let's not that I'm happy -- -- I'm sorry we didn't tell myself -- a break and take your brother and sister were. Parents may admonish their children for watching too much of it. But in recent years television has offered substantially more sophisticated and insightful for trails -- men and women. And the endless variety of their relationships. Yet as America in primetime shows. Wasn't always that way. -- it's happening every yeah. For me it's like I grew -- knowing that would never be successful. Wife and mother the way that -- had been portrayed on TV doesn't mean a great Donna Reed is so beautiful and mrs. -- such a great -- and I will be a failure. It was a less complicated time health and there was more it was more idealized and aspiration home when -- portrayed the family -- -- Either in the contaminants -- -- father -- home puts his briefcase down its mark. -- everybody speaks to each other very respectfully. The medium swung from serving up the -- domestic -- of the past. The showcasing hyper vivid and six of housewives desperate and other ones. What I liked about -- -- it gave voice to and I felt. Where their difficulties and challenges of motherhood how about you. Word home to -- way. -- -- -- Just asked. I'm really wanted to show -- -- three different no. -- -- -- And hasn't Khamese we re unemployed. Kids and perhaps if someone -- songs you have honesty and integrity and some measurement intelligence. It's all okay. -- just off limits at this point doesn't seem like -- if you tonight within the realm of experience. And I can people I know -- had underwriters ahead from. And it's all -- TV's becoming literature it's a new page and the unions -- our sense of what we need for a show. Television now has taken on the role that movies have. That actually being. We're challenging more psychologically -- student. Shows that once represented the pinnacle of mass culture come across today as ironically enjoyable curious -- and bound by the standards of the -- -- -- era. -- If you are in the same bed at least one foot has to be on the floor. -- they gave me every reason in the world. People don't make love people don't screw. Television comedy was born. Looking at nuclear analysts and yet even in the early -- is diffuse the situation comedies that were -- families. The dads were kind of weekend Obama -- and a long conference. Bill Cosby. You couldn't do it because I'd -- so. I am your father I brought you in this world and I'll take you out. Finally a dad who had some -- Other shows learned that it imperfect. -- for the perfect sitcom character it never occurs to him that his kids should. Come first and anything -- com are weak cash and half price caps. It and it -- volatility. Take on some level we'd like to be on -- -- being selfish blogs. I army's senior -- CE. Exaggerated version of you were or any other guys and homer Simpson's and Subaru is under version of ray -- is all should go -- work -- kids should be all. Yes and what are you -- all day I'm sorry. -- saying yeah. The real role of man of the house and has changed in a lot of -- and fixed. We want TV and know that he's still have to find ways are reflected in prices like it feels like. So something's not relatable and he -- yeah. On TV few characters represented a more rarefied form of complexity. The mad men's Don Draper modeling a father knows better front. Atop a ticking time bomb of sex. And secrets and -- Nostalgia literally means. Really for the first time in six -- that time period in a very honest way. And has shown -- -- greedy Wang whom. Sad -- and Sweeney Sharon and it wasn't. All. -- Once well behind the stage and the big screen when it comes to social realists. Television has become the pre -- -- and we see ourselves. Worked so no I'm Chris Connolly for Nightline in Los Angeles.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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