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TelevisionWeek is teaming up with TV industry veteran Marianne Paskowski. The blog will give Marianne a forum to convey her deep knowledge of the industry and pass along some of the juicy morsels she's hearing on the grapevine. Marianne has covered the TV industry from the inside out and top to bottom, and TVWeek's readers are bound to benefit from her sharp eyes, ears and wit. TVWeek.com invites readers to jump online, chime in and pick Marianne's brain on the latest industry news.

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Marianne Paskowski



TV’s New Genre: Recession Sitcoms

February 20, 2009 10:26 AM

As if primetime television wasn’t already bad enough, there are gobs of recession-related pilots awaiting the green light for this fall, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Well-paid TV executives, I guess, are trying to demonstrate their sensitivity to the victims of the recession and are shying away from “office-based shows.” They figure viewers don’t want to be reminded about their workplace, or lack of one, says the Reporter.

One dreadful-sounding pilot CBS is looking at is “Waiting to Die,” a sitcom about two guys who are happy with their lives even though they have nothing going for them. I’ll bet the house against the sitcom keeping that moniker if it gets out of the starting gate.

Another sitcom in development for Fox is “Two-Dollar Beer,” about a blue-collar couple struggling in Detroit who feel their lives have become irrelevant. Gee, why not just sit down with a dark tome from Kafka or Sartre about existentialism?

Sorry, neither show sounds funny or delivers on the promise of sitcom: pure escapism. I predict failure if either of these downers gets off the drawing board.

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Comments (14)

Marianne,

The answer will depend on the writing, and then on the marketing.

PS: I lost the bet. NBCU did not drop the Oxygen name within a year. I owe you a ten pound bag of dog food. I know where to send it. What brand shall it be?

Cory

Marianne Paskowski:

Hi Cory,
You are a gentleman, a scholar and a man of hour. I'm sucking up to you because Maizey is on Hill's C/D prescription dog food that only vets sell.

She has problems with crystals and will be on this the rest of her life, should set you back about $20!

And we'll see about the two shows mentioned above. "Waiting to Die," if it gets the green light will get a name change, too.

m

Andy S.:

So-called "downmarket" sitcoms are not exactly a new thing. Remember "Roseanne" or "Married with Children"? And of course there are two of the best sitcoms ever: "Taxi" and "All in the Family." Somehow I doubt that "Waiting To Die" and "Two-Dollar Beer" are going to be quite up to those standards.

Anyway, "recession" television is already here, and has been for a long time. It goes by the name "reality."

Marianne Paskowski:

Andy,
Not the same, Roseanne's hubs had a job, it was down market, but not recession oriented.

So did Archie Bunker in "All in the Family."

Recession TV has been here for years, you're right in the form of reality TV, just cheap fare from the networks.

Sitcoms are scripted shows, more expensive to produce and these two wannabees really sound hopelessly lame to me...m

eric:

recession-tv? i think 'lost' sounds like today's recession tv, plus no one really has a job there either! its funny, the networks bringing back warm and friendly faces of our past like kelsey grammer, patricia heaton, bob saget and al bundy himself. i know im feeling better! but where is tony danza, and ted danson. why america why?????
what we really need is more uplifting reality programming on people who have it even worse than we do!

Marianne Paskowski:

Hi Eric,
Try watching cable news for hours at a time and hear from all the subjects the nets unearth to tell how bad it is out there. That's real.

Right after 9/11, I had a drink with a famous New York art director and I asked him if he saw any fundamental shift in the arts coming as a result of that horror.

He said no, the arts, it's a stretch to call TV one, like history, take decades to digest what really happened.

And so it goes with this deep recession, although some people will try to make a buck on it with more lousy TV options.

m

Cruiser:

Yo, Blondie --

Let's call these pitiful programming attempts "sit-cries" or some shorthand as goofy as the notion of turning recession woes into a laugh track. Were TV programmers even half as smart as they think they are, they'd use the economy as the backdrop for real drama, in the spirit of "I'll Fly Away" and other series of yore that defied the vast wasteland moniker. But programmers don't even have the brains possessed by the head on that 2-dollar beer.

Cruisin not bruisin

Marianne Paskowski:

Hi Cruiser,
I like that new genre you created, sit-cries. Late last night I stayed up watching Frazier, what a breath of fresh air to see some intelligent writing and have a good laugh.

Weird show, I never really watched before, upscale tom foolery, almost vaudeville like with an edge, not bad, very creative.

Off to feed the dog, drooling on my lap...m

Marianne,

Why are you drooling on your lap?

And seaking of dog food, is this what Maizey eats:

http://www.hillspet.com/hillspet/products/productDetails.hjsp?PRODUCT%3C%3Eprd_id=845524441760518

Hill's has pages and pages of varieties; just wanting to make sure Maizey gets what Maizey wants.

Cory


Marianne Paskowski:

Hi Cory,
Yep, that's the stuff CD dry, canine, bladder health. I'm sure she loves our discussing this on line, probably does, being the center of attention.

You really don't have to do this, Oxygen changing its name was a sucker's bet, I knew they wouldn't do it
m

Hi Marianne,

Of course I have to do this. A bet's a bet. Besides, I was as sure NBCU would rebrand Oxygen as you were sure they wouldn't.

AS for Maizey being the center of attention, I'm all for it. In fact, why don't you introduce her into your blog as an ongoing character with opinions all her own (i.e. "Maizey said ABC's losing L’Oreal's sponsorship of the Academy Awards is no big deal, but then she's always been a Revlon girl." Or "Maizey told me that if Les Moonves cuts the CBS dividend this year and doesn't forgo his annual bonus she's going to stop watching Survivor."

With Maizey now a marketable element of your blog, you could have TV Week's sales team go work out a sponsorship deal between Hill's and Maizey. You know, just to add an additional revenue stream to TV Week's coffers...and yours.

Cory

Marianne Paskowski:

Corry,
Love you to pieces, that worse that the pilot "Waiting to Die."

Anyhow, I don't want to be a stage mother to a yellow lab, or as neurotic as those Westminster Dog Show owners, although I'm probably borderline.
M

I come from a different era...I won't judge it, or todays, but having worked for Norman Lear on MARY HARTMAN-MARY HARTMAN, MAUDE, ALLS FAIR, and more, I have a perspective that just might be a bit more honest from an insider's viewpoint.

The term, SIT-COM, says it all...Situation-Comedy...crazy situations that are laugh-a-ble.

During the 30's, LAUREL & HARDY, The THREE STOOGES, and more, brought great laughs to the millions who needed relief from their daily dealings with The Depression.

There are some comparisons today.

We (America) need to L A U G H !!!

Cut the sicko crap, and let's have some healthy belly-laughs.
Peter Bright

Marianne Paskowski:

Peter,
Couldn't agree more although I absolutely hated the Three Stooges as a small child. So we'll soon see more about next season with the upfronts around the corner.

Hope it isn't more of "Waiting to Die," but more of the "I Love Lucy" ilk, zany escape.

M

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