I don’t watch an exorbitant amount of television although I do have my moments — I’m talking about Bravo, Lifetime original movies, and Murder, She Wrote reurns — where I’m truly transfixed to the old idiot box. 

When I do watch, I watch carefully. Something I’ve noticed: A lack of green features — household products, appliances, furniture, etc. —  in the homes portrayed on prime-time situational comedies. These homes, both suburban and urban, are usually the center of action and can be considered just as crucial as the characters themselves. Week after week, we become more and more intimate with these backlot sets designed to trick us into thinking that, yes, that really was Jerry Seinfeld’s Upper West Side living room or Jack Tripper's very busy Santa Monica kitchen. 

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There’s plenty of green living to be had on programs airing on channels like Planet Green and Sundance, of course, but prime time, network TV-land remains a neutral color. NBC's "Green Week" programing was certainly a step in the right direction in a PSA kind of way, but it was just that, a week. And as I mentioned last week, MTV’s the Real World has gotten hip to the green movement. But generally, it seems classic sitcoms were inadvertently more green than today’s programs — consider the uptown meets off-the-grid comedic gold of Green Acres, the uber-vintage furnishings of chez Munster, and the bamboo-heavy housing on Gilligan’s Island.

The pop cultural acceptance of environmentalism is a recent development which is why I’m not disappointed that the Golden Girls didn’t spend their time lounging in lanai furniture made from repurposed plastic bottles. I’ve also excused Archie Bunker for never installing solar panels, Will & Grace's Karen Walker for not having a recycling bin exclusively for her Krug Grande Cuvée empties, and Home Improvement's Tim Taylor for failing to discuss rain barrels with Wilson during their over-the-fence dialogues.

It's safe to say we got our first real look at a TV character with modern green leanings in the form of Jena Elfman's titular character on Dharma & Greg (1997 - 2002). As lovable as she was, she was also a kook. And Dharma's parents? Total eccentrics. 

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So when will we begin seeing traces of eco-living on prime time? Or how about a full-blown, 30-minute comedy about an urban composting vegetarian couple that reside in a swank Park Avenue duplex, a reverse, modernized Green Acres, if you will? Given the taste of the general viewing public, it's safe to say we shouldn’t hold our breaths for the latter to hit the networks. I do think, however, that subtle traces wouldn’t hurt: A well-placed bottle of natural cleaner here; cork end tables there; prominent recycle bins; a stash of reusable cloth shopping bags; an obviously ENERGY STAR-approved kitchen appliance; you get the picture … baby steps.

Do you think small (or even large) doses of green housekeeping even have a place in sitcoms? Would you appreciate seeing the characters on your favorite show discuss energy audits or would you find it patronizing? Should the reality of energy efficiency, water conservation and maintaining a nontoxic home be allowed only in green reality TV-land where Ed Begley Jr. rules and canned laughter is as common as a garage full of SUVs? Whatever your opinion, I do know one thing: As long as Jessica Fletcher keeps ditching her car to bike around Cabot Cove, I'll be one happy camper. 

Photos: martinstreisand (thumbnail), Mark Donoghue (Caroll O' Connor), worldgonewild (solar panels), cerebral intoxication (Betty White), pug freak (rain barrel), 

sharetv.org (Green Acres) 

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

A Green Acres for the new millennium
On TV sitcoms, a good chunk of the action takes place in the characters’ homes. When will these prime-time domiciles get green makeovers?