The Industrial Revolution radically transformed American labour in the general direction of regulation and securing workers rights, propelled along the way by the direct actions and legal challenges mobilized in response to atrocities and massacres against workers. In his chapter on ‘ethnic’ working-class sit-coms, George Lipsitz marks the 1930s and 1940s as an era during which widespread labour organizing led to major victories that improved the standard of living for the average worker. One of the crowning achievements of 30s-40s labour organizing was the institution of the 8-hour day and the 40-hour workweek, enshrined by Congress in 1940. For Lipsitz, TV became capital’s antidote to the threat of sustained postwar class consciousness into the Cold War, redirecting potentially revolutionary energy towards the seductive commodity. While the 40-hour workweek structured the temporality of public working life in the contours of 9-to-5, TV registered this absence in the domestic sphere and broadcast programming directed towards women accordingly. As Patricia Mellencamp notes, the Cold War policy of containment was also aimed at containing women to the domestic sphere.
The 40-hour work week also contained work time from leisure time. However, as Tania Modleski reminds us in her article on daytime television and ‘women’s work,’ this containment of work-time to a 9-to-5 window was never extended uniformly to all workers. She observes that gendered domestic labour resembles the televisual concept of flow, entailing repetition yet versatility in endless continuity, distinctly different from the product-oriented goals of 9-to-5 labour—at least, in traditional blue collar jobs. However, it strikes me that post-Fordist labour in general has come to increasingly resemble the condition of flow. The 40-hour workweek is rapidly eroding due to shifts in corporate culture and a stagnant minimum wage. Just as streaming has severed televisual viewing practices from the temporal regulation of broadcast, new communications technologies have transformed the workweek, demanding that workers be available around the clock. I’m not only referring to the perpetual white collar connectivity ushered in by the BlackBerry revolution (is that just a Canadian thing?), but also the neoliberal trends of casualization and deregulation that rupture the containment of work time from leisure time for the most precarious workers. This leakage is staged, for instance, in the bizarre direct address product placement that opens The Goldbergs and epitomizes flow’s attempt at seamless suturing. Despite Lynn Spiegel’s suggestion that this ritual’s cinematography and mise-en-scene clearly distinguish between ‘nonfictional’ ad and fictional narrative, it seems clear to me that the ad invites commercial life into the domestic space. To elaborate Lipsitz’s argument, this advertising tactic also deploys Molly Goldberg’s ethnic working class authenticity as capital—a sophisticated (if perverse) maneuver that seems right at home in neoliberal capitalism.
You can probably tell that this is a string of nascent arguments to which I have no conclusion; I’m pretty sure I know where the coherent unifying argument can be found — bringing gender, TV, and 40-hour-labour together — however, I haven’t actually seen the show, so someone is gonna have to help me out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LwDMFOLIHxU.