Comedy of the Commonplace: The Sitcom Genius of Peg Lynch

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An exhibition in the Knight Library, spring-summer 2019 Exhibit poster for

Peg Lynch was the first woman to create, write, star in, and solely own a sitcom series. Her show Ethel and Albert enjoyed a long and enormously successful run on radio and, beginning in 1944, television. Lynch developed her own brand of gentle, domestic comedy that won the hearts of viewers across the country and was applauded by critics as well. New York Times critic Jack Gould wrote that Peg Lynch on television “has lost none of her uncanny knack for catching the small situation in married life and developing it into a gem of quiet humor. The charm of Ethel and Albert is that they could be man and wife off the screen.”

Over the course of her career, Lynch would write and produce over 11,000 scipts that drew humor from everyday life. In her own words, “I’ve never written a script that wasn’t based on something that happened to me or Al [Alan Bunce, who played Albert] or someone I know. The way people talk and act is funny enough . . . I don’t like plots. Things at home do not have a beginning, a middle, and an end.” Later, writers and fans would compare her comedy, favorably, to that of Seinfeld, which purported to be about “nothing.”

Ethel and Albert aired for the final time on television on May 25, 1956. Like most series of that era, it had been dependent on a single commercial sponsorship that could end for various reasons. Because Peg Lynch owned the program, however, she was not tied to one network, and she had been able to switch networks and sponsors several times. For three years beginning in 1957, the show had a revival on radio asThe Couple Next Door, and other, shorter-lived radio programs followed. Into her late age, Peg Lynch continued to correspond with fans and play the role of Ethel at Old Time Radio and Television Conventions around the nation.

Lynch's papers, the cornerstone of this exhibit, are held by UO Libraries' Special Collections and University Archives.