How far into the reality of the recession will network television shows take viewers?
Whatever happened to good, old-fashioned escapism? You can't get away from the headlines; the recession has now hit prime time.
When “Ugly Betty’s” magazine diva Wilhelmina has to forego her midday caviar for almonds, you know the economy’s bad. But how far will network TV go? One reality show in development has workers voting on who gets laid off.
In the opulent 1980s, we had "Dynasty" and "Dallas," and when the recession hit in the late 1980s and early 1990s, we got "Roseanne" -- blue collar blues.
Baltimore Sun television critic, David Zurawik, says, "I think we'll be seeing more of (recession-based storylines), but there is a fundamental tension here. I think television will only go so far with it because, don't forget, the fundamental mission of network television, at least, ... is really to sell products,and it really does present a sort of vision or ideology in abundant America. Now, people who make television cannot possibly ignore what is going on in the country, so they do bring in sub-plots, jokes, references."
Zurawik notes that while network television may not take the imagery and storylines of a faltering economy to its worst case scenario of characters ending up homeless, cable networks like HBO may.
There are a number of network series coming with plotlines tied closely to the recession, plus a reality show from Fox called "Someone's Gotta Go," which "The Washington Post" describes as a sort of 'Lord of the Flies."
"In this series," says Zurawik,"they are going to go into companies, small companies, where the managers believe they have to downsize. They are going to give personel records, including performance reviews and salaries, to all of the employees, and let them decide who is going to be 'voted off of the island.'"
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