TV writers look to economy for cues to future shows

Wed Nov 26, 2008 4:30pm EST
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By Sue Zeidler

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Working class men and women may soon steal Hollywood's spotlight from the not-so-desperate housewives of upscale Wisteria Lane as U.S. television writers consider how to appeal to viewers in tough economic times.

The buzz around Hollywood is that shows portraying over-the-top wealth like ABC's flashy "Dirty Sexy Money" are on their way out. Writers believe the time is again ripe for working class comedies like 1980s sitcom "Roseanne" and 1970s blockbuster "All in the Family."

"Many TV shows portray wealthy people and opulence, and I think these kinds of shows may have a problem with viewership. I think audiences want to see characters they can relate to," said Suzan Olson Davis, who has written for cop drama "Saving Grace." Davis said she is now working on a pilot program for a series about the "lower middle class."

Paul Kagan of media research firm PK said viewers will increasingly turn to gritty crime dramas like "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," citing the wildly popular 1930s Depression-era radio classic "The Shadow," about a mysterious vigilante.

"During a time of great problems, people like to see problems solved," said Kagan. "That's why I think these crime mystery programs are so popular and will continue to be popular. Everything is always solved by the end of the hour."

Hollywood is fast approaching its "pilot season" early next year in which networks pick shows for the 2009/2010 season, and many writers see an ever-widening gap between the rarefied worlds in programs like "90210" and "Desperate Housewives," and the real world of failing banks and swelling unemployment.

"What is interesting about TV is that many of the characters are rich and white. We don't have any Roseanne Barrs or Archie Bunkers," said John Greene, executive producer of crime drama, "Law & Order: SVU."

"The next year is going to be interesting in terms of the development cycle and what we put on TV," he said.   Continued...

<p>Roseanne Barr waves to photographers at the 6th Annual TV Land Awards in Santa Monica, California, June 8, 2008. REUTERS/Chris Pizzello</p>