Desperate times bring desperate men to television

Wed Aug 12, 2009 3:02pm EDT
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Television audiences who thought the ladies of "Desperate Housewives" were troubled haven't seen anything yet.

When ABC premieres its new sitcom "Hank" during the season that starts in September, the show's out-of-work CEO joins a growing list of American male characters taking extreme measures to cope with recession, unemployment, housing troubles and soaring medical costs.

"Leading characters are doing things that a generation ago would never have been the activities of the protagonist of a TV show," said Robert Thompson, professor of television and popular culture at Syracuse University.

"You could argue that when you have lost your job, the last thing in the world you want is to watch TV about people losing their jobs. But as it's a recession, TV executives think people want to see stuff about relevant issues, so they develop these kind of shows," Thompson said.

On "Hank," Wall Street big shot Hank Pryor (Kelsey Grammer) loses his job, sells his fancy New York apartment, moves to Virginia and must learn to make his own toast.

He follows in the footsteps of high school basketball coach Ray Drecker on HBO's new series "Hung," who finds himself divorced, broke and homeless, so he reluctantly decides to market himself as a gigolo to keep from having to live in a small tent on the grounds of his burned-down house.

And then there is chemistry teacher Walt White in critics' darling "Breaking Bad" on AMC, who suffers from terminal cancer and faces massive medical bills, so he uses his chemistry skills to cook up and sell the drug crystal meth.


<p>Cast members Melinda McGraw (L) and Kelsey Grammer from the show "Hank" attend the Disney and ABC Television Group panels at the Television Critics Association summer press tour in Pasadena, California August 8, 2009. REUTERS/Phil McCarten</p>