October 24th, 2008
10:49 AM ET

What happened to 'real' TV characters?

At a time when presidential candidates regularly take policy advice from Joe the Plumber, Dan the Drywall Guy is conspicuously silent.

Twenty years ago this week, “Roseanne,” a TV series about a working-class family facing daily challenges with a blue-collar brand of humor, premiered on ABC. Today, with the state of the economy so bleak, more and more families - like “Roseanne’s” Conner clan - are clipping coupons and forgoing luxuries, making the message of the show perhaps more relevant today than ever.

And yet today it seems as if every character on television is upscale. While wealth is not synonymous with love and security, television has all but abandoned blue-collar characters. Modern-day shows tend to mock the working class and lack the soul that "Roseanne" once expressed so exuberantly.

What happened to shows about people who don't have Birkin bags or slick luxury cars? The character of Naomi on “90210” seems to have a Chanel bag for every day of the school week. Members of the “Gossip Girl” cast can often be heard click-clacking along Manhattan sidewalks in Christian Louboutin heels.

The argument can be made, of course, that people watch TV as an escape and that they no more expect to step into a pair of Jimmy Choos than they expect snow flurries in Miami in August. Then again, there are Web sites devoted to hunting down clothing and accessories that actors wear in TV and movies. So, are everyday people looking at shows as fantasy - or are they maxing out their credit cards on Gucci sunglasses?

In some ways, the Conners were worse off than many of us. Their dishwasher-less house was a bit of a dump, with mismatched furniture and haphazard decor. They argued over relationships and money, and were fluent in sarcasm.

But the Conners were lucky in other ways. Their house may have been dumpy, but it was cozy and soulful. (Three cheers for the set decorators!) And, at the end of the day (or 30 minutes), they remained a tight-knit family, and their love and sensitivity was something that could not be bought. They didn't need a Sub-Zero refrigerator to show the world they were a force to be reckoned with. Would it be that today’s TV show characters could do the same.

- Katie McLaughlin, CNN

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  10. Decking Kits

    Friday Night Lights is a great tv series, i love the game and i love the story :.,

    December 13, 2010 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Impotence Remedy

    Everybody Hates Chris sometimes bores me because the jokes aren't so funny anymore but i still watch it all the time "**

    December 13, 2010 at 12:50 am | Report abuse |
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    October 22, 2010 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Brian Hughes

    i love football and lovestory that is why i like Friday Night Lights. "–

    July 20, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Kian Gray

    i watched Everybody Hates Chris and sometimes i find the lead actor a bit distracting.;""

    July 18, 2010 at 10:06 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Laurie

    Yes the real people are on cable. The Wire was/is one great show. And I'm proud to say David Simon is from Baltimore. See we don't just have drug dealers, we have brilliant people also.

    November 14, 2008 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
  16. Gail Duncan

    Lipstick jungle, Gossip girl........how many shows are going to come out that displays our teens as airheads and totally materialistic? What are we trying to convey here?

    Also, with the rough times ahead of us in making positive change that will take time, shouldn't we have entertainment that is helpful, educational, inspirational and more humor? People looks towards the tv when they are cutting corners, have a lot on their minds and some answers/identification with their struggles. When times are hard, there has to be a upside to turn to for strength to keep going. This also includes the music industry as well. Stop pushing the image to BUY fashion/things and show the upside to saving (this includes the planet) and helping those worse off.

    November 12, 2008 at 7:17 am | Report abuse |
  17. Traci

    Has anyone other than myself indulged in "The Big bang Theory?"

    November 6, 2008 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  18. brad

    There is almost nothing "real" about Friday Night Lights. Sorry...people don't walk on to D-1 programs in the middle of September and play football. Heck, you can't even enter most colleges once the semester has started if you were not enrolled at the beginning of the semester.

    November 3, 2008 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Erik

    Also worth pointing out that the actors on Roseanne and Grace Under Fire were also decidedly less glamorous looking than the "blue collar" TV characters today. Characters on Reba and Still Standing were perky and made up brightly and airbrushed within an inch of their lives. The only show with blue-collar/middle middle class appeal that doesn't have disgustingly attractive cast members is The Office, and the characters are completely unrealistic (Stanley? Creed? Dwight? These people don't exist!). So yes, I agree, we need more struggling-to-make-ends-meet shows.

    I think with the economy now as it is, next years crop of shows that succeed are going to be more lower-class folk, with feel good messages, and less of this self-absorbed looks-crazed money driven drivel.

    November 3, 2008 at 9:10 am | Report abuse |
  20. Jonathan

    Television. Bleh! You mean Commercialvision.

    There are no real people on TV. Reality TV should be life-or-death, not just another soap opera.

    November 2, 2008 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse |
  21. CGD

    Kris, I agree. I wish they would can the reality shows–I can't stand them. I loved Roseanne because, as others said, we could relate to her. My family worked factory and construction work, struggled to make ends meet, had not-so-thin and ordinary-looking people instead of models. I don't put the big-comedian-gets-hot-girl shows like KoQ or Raymond in the same category. Raymond is a sports writer, hardly a blue-collar, ordinary job. KoQ is a bit better–at least he drives a delivery truck.

    I also watched Dallas and Dynasty back in the day too and enjoyed Sex and the City, even though I will never own any Manolos. I like a variety of types of shows. They don't all have to be about the working/middle class, but I just like good writing. Maybe that's why I detest "reality" shows.

    October 31, 2008 at 10:20 pm | Report abuse |
  22. Kris

    I just want TV back without all of the "REALITY" shows. I want fun or serious or scary or sad or whatever the genre might be, but I do not want reality shows. They are moronic and so scripted. Bring back the actors.

    October 31, 2008 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  23. Dawn

    Good article Katie. Roseanne is timeless and still relates to the issues of the day. I would however, like to clear something up. The last season was a DREAM the Connors didn't win the lottery it was how Roseanne reacted when Dan died in Season 8. Part of the reason Season 9 went over the edge because of the ABC Network for constantly critizing Roseanne Barr and the storeylines. Good for her sticking to her guns and taking a stand and for her originality. Major Networks really need original stories...enough of ripping off Britian.

    October 31, 2008 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
  24. DaveT

    One has to simply look at the very core of the sit-com or situation comedy. Nothing much as changed since the Beaver Cleaver days. Its' all formula comedy. A set stage. 3 cameras. And unrealistic punch-line dialogue. The Office breaks that mold. Good writing and a faux documentary style set up. But Ricky Gervais created that show. So give him the kudos. Curb Your Enthusiams is another good show. Done mostly improv. Entourage, another funny comedy. My Name is Earl. Good, but not great. For all its break through comedy, All in the Family is still a classic sit-com, but it was a traditional one as well. The real break through was its writing and its topics. The traditional sitcom has seen better days. Today, it mainly stinks. Even Everybody Love's Raymond was good, but for all intensive purposes, not at all breakthrough and extremely traditional. Sienfield too was traditional in the way it was filmed. But the writing surpassed everything. Genius.
    Thankfully, the days of TGIF on ABC are gone. Erkle and Co. The diabetic inducing Full House. The reason networks have gone to Reality TV is that they don't have to hire writers. And with the way sitcoms are going today, good writers are hard to come by anyway.
    The problem with comedy writers today is that they are taught to write comedy. Some may come from the prestigious Harvard Lampoon, but many of them are not inherently funny. They have not lived. They have little experience as a human to draw upon. Comedy is truth. Comedy is derived from some emotional pain. Writers today are churned out like crap from a goose. Few have actually done stand up. Few have actually experienced life in general. So if you expect any depiction of so-called "reality" sitcoms, good luck. You get ivory tower writing.
    Or in just plain terms. Many of today's writers are just hacks.

    October 31, 2008 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
  25. Chris

    I miss the old "TGIF" block from the 90s that used to be on ABC. You had Family Matters, Step by Step, Boy Meets World, and Sabrina. Family Matters in particular dealt with "real" family issues. There might be a conflict, but by the end of the show, the characters worked past it and pulled together as a family. It was definitely better than the past 8 years of recycled "Reality" TV.

    October 30, 2008 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  26. Deb

    I had to get all the way to the bottom of the comments before I saw someone mention my new favorite sitcom "The Big Bang Theory". This show, albeit a bit cerebral, shows working class, intellegent people in a hilarious light. This is the only show that literally makes me laugh out loud. Watching Sheldon try to force a smile melts away the stresses of my real life each week! I love it!

    October 30, 2008 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  27. MO

    Friday Night Lights.

    October 30, 2008 at 9:04 am | Report abuse |
  28. Michele

    Roseanne was absolutely hilarious and real all at the same time. I wish it would have lasted even longer than it did..sigh.. we have the reruns I guess. But I do enjoy seeing Johnny Galecki and Sara Gilbert on The Big Bang Theory!!!

    October 29, 2008 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
  29. t.v. fan

    Well, a lot of those dead people on the crime shows had working class jobs - oh, they were the murders, the cops, or the cab drivers..

    October 27, 2008 at 8:21 am | Report abuse |
  30. Lin

    "Roseanne" hit the right chord 20 years ago and ever since, because middle America can identify with their plight. The Connors didn't have a disposable income–every penny was accounted for every month and then some. Dan had to work a second job to buy Roseanne a nice anniversary gift; they couldn't afford to buy Becky a car or Darlene a leather jacket; they debated whether they could afford to bring another child into the world; they never took a family vacation; and in the end Grandma and Grandpa were the ones who delivered the loot, much to Dan's dismay. Then, as if they didn't have enough mouths to feed, Jackie was always at their house mooching meals or doing her laundry, and they took in "orphaned" David and Becky and Mark after they stupidly got married. Roseanne and Dan had to deal with terminations, failed businesses, not being able to find jobs, taking out a second mortgage on their home–all issues the middle class face all too often. So why would you want to watch a show that sadly mimicked your own life? Because it was funny, and you felt that, if they could laugh at their financial woes, then you could too. And if you were a little better off than the Connors, then you could feel even better about your situation. And that was the attraction of "Roseanne."

    October 26, 2008 at 11:28 pm | Report abuse |
  31. Lauren

    You keep naming My Name is Earl and It's Always Sunny but even though I love those shows, I think it's missing the point. Yes the characters are blue-collar but they are not likable. They are funny because they are mocking and sarcastic. I don't know that the blue collar work force would want to relate with the trashy characters on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

    Speaking of NBC shows, I think The Office is a good representation of "normal" society. The main characters are not blue collar but they are certainly middle class. They wear the kind of clothes and drive the kind of cars you expect to see in most offices. And they are lovable, relate able characters. Most of them anyways.

    October 26, 2008 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
  32. Corinne

    Katie..I for one don't agree with your depiction of "America's Family" as the 90's sitcom family The Connors on Roseanne. I have a great job, make a decent living and can provide for my family..all on Long Island! The TV show, "Roseanne", shows a low-middle classness of lazy people in the midwest. That is not the case in New York. A lot of people are doing very well for themselves despite what the economy says...Corinne from Long Island

    October 26, 2008 at 2:17 am | Report abuse |
  33. ncb252

    I'd put Joss Whedon's Firefly (2002) in the gritty, working class category. Even though it was set 500 years in the future people still have to struggle to find work ,pay for food and fuel for a spaceship that occasionally falls apart .

    October 25, 2008 at 11:06 pm | Report abuse |
  34. RODAN

    The characters on MY NAME IS EARL are not wealthy....
    The characters on ... well just about every other show is either super human, see's ghosets or wealthy, or on their way to jail... oh yeah..those are the characters they put on that are middle class...so very wrong. Everything else is a REALITY SHOW. And those characters are so un-real it's just ridiculous!.



    There are very very few shows the average person in need of some light entertainment can turn to. Now even the FCC has taken away some of the broadcast frequencies to sell to BIG BUSINESS to make more money and give the PUBLIC anything at all remotely like light entertainment. All we're left with is the super fantastic commercial money driven shows like HEROES and mind numbing vulgar cheep tawdry programs. The list is so long I won't even bother to name them. The public is being cheated out of it's rights. The change over to digital broadcasting is part of it. YOUR TELEVISION STATION WON'T TELL YOU THAT YOU CAN GET THE NEW BROADCASTS WITH ONLY A CONVERTER BOX...NO THEY WANT YOU TO HAVE CABLE. THEY DON'T WANT TO HAVE TO BRAODCAST...THE FCC IS SELLING THAT PUBLIC COMMODITY TO PRIVATE BUSINESSES. Selling the public owned airwaves to cell phone companies and other money making businesses.... THE STATE OF ENTERTAINMENT IS AT AN ALL TIME LOW BECAUSE OF GREEDY BUSINESSES... IT WILL NEVER RECOVER. I know I have not stated my case her very eloquently. But research what I've said..you'll find out it's all true.

    October 25, 2008 at 11:03 pm | Report abuse |
  35. JokerOC

    The only tv shows on are "models solve crimes." Tv blows. I gave up on it a long time ago. Reading and movies make you forget pretty quick about those useless shows on every night.

    October 25, 2008 at 10:18 pm | Report abuse |
  36. Susan In Arizona

    I don't even watch today's shows anymore. They are so boring. Roseanne was a great show because I think viewers could relate to it better. The problems were real. Today's shows aren't teaching our young people any morals what so ever. All it is teaching them is about how to get what they want by stepping over anyone they please to get it. I'll take Animal Planet, National Geographic or Turner Classic Movies anytime. And, by the way, the writer called the Connors house "dumpy". Makes me wonder what kind of upper gated community she lives in. Most of us still don't have matching furniture, expensive tile floors or even air conditioning units.

    October 25, 2008 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
  37. Tina

    What happenend to the Conner's? She's running for Vice-President. Now, would you really want Roseann Conner (oh I mean Sarah Palin) running this country?

    October 25, 2008 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  38. Prof. Pye Chartt

    As someone has already pointed out, this "commentary" compares apples to oranges and gets the whole thrust of the opinion mixed up as a result. Compare sitcoms or comedies of yesteryear with those of today. The argument then becomes weak and pointless. Things haven't changed that much. What has, however, is the material lust of younger people and the shallow pursuit of "status" by everybody with an extra dollar in their pocket. We still like to see and laugh at "regular" people. It grounds us, and gives us a sense of reality. Mind you, secretly, we all aspire to fill our lives with designer and luxury crap...in order to feel better, in a detached, superficial world that has little REAL meaning.

    October 25, 2008 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
  39. Susan

    "And, at the end of the day (or 30 minutes), they remained a tight-knit family, and their love and sensitivity was something that could not be bought."

    I'm inclined to disagree with that quote. The only two characters on that show in my opinion that had an ounce of sensitivity or love was Jackie and Dan.

    Roseanne was a biddy, the kids were snotty, disrespectful and made me want to reach through the tv screen and snatch them ball headed.

    The last show I watched was where Becky got mad at her mom, jumped up from the kitchen table, slammed her chair into the table and flounced out of the room.

    Had that been me as a kid or one of my children...I can't even imagine the consequences of such behavior.

    And we wonder why our children today are snotty, disrespectful brats with no respect for authority.

    That family gives a bad name to the blue collar family. I'm inclined to agree with some of the other posters here. The Bill Engvall show, King of Queens, and how about the comedy Rodney...which didn't last long but was like a breath of fresh air?

    October 25, 2008 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
  40. Logan

    They're all on Friday Night Lights, the best TV show that no one is watching!

    October 25, 2008 at 2:16 am | Report abuse |
  41. Ryan Conrad

    I think the writer is off base. In fact, it is funny that I was reading the EW review today of Roseanne (they did some interviews with the cast) and the beginning of it starts out just like the above article : they state at the time Roseanne came on, all the sitcoms were about upper middle or upper class families and not middle-lower class families. It appears the criticism is the same now as back then.

    I can think of many counter examples just in the shows I watch, many already mentioned. My Name is Earl. Sure many of the characters on there are caricatures and extreme, but his parents are not. His parents are two working class older people in a small house that raised two boys with a one salary dad and a stay at home mom. Someone mentioned Breaking Bad. Great example. The Simpsons. The King of Queens. Everybody Loves Raymond. The Office. Dexter. Okay, so Dexter is about a serial killer. But part of the story is about Dexter's girlfriend, a single parent trying to raise two kids, had a former alcholic abusive husband (now deceased). Dexter lives in apartment and on a cop salary. Friday Night Lights. Even a show like Rules of Engagement, while there are no kids involved and it doesn't focus on family life, is about very middle class people. The shows are out there. They are just more spread out than in the past.

    October 24, 2008 at 11:41 pm | Report abuse |
  42. Joe Six Pack

    And Arrested Development? Only two years removed, and it was about a family that was falling apart financially and emotionally. There are plenty of sitcoms that still don't glorify materialism and wealth.

    Do your research before writing another blog please.

    October 24, 2008 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
  43. KLee

    One of the most realistic shows on TV, ever, was "Homicide: LIfe on the Street." H:LotS was brought to TV by the same people who wrote and directed "The Wire" and "The Corner", both of which were lauded by fans and critics alike for their realistic depictions of America and urban American life.

    Homicide, though it was a cop show, did not feature "beautiful" people as cops. They had normal looking people, (except in later seasons when they tried to "pretty up" the cast, but that's another tirade altogether..) and these normal looking people had normal woes: family troubles, crappy bosses, loss, pain, medical issues, sexuality issues. This was the most diverse cast with SUCH talent, and America wasted it because they didn't WANT gritty and real at the time. They wanted crap that made their brains dissolve like jello.

    "The Wire" was just as fabulous, but even up until recently, there were not a lot of awards or critical acclaim for it. There are a lot of people who use TV as an escape, and they don't want to watch TV that shows people struggling with life like they do. They want something that takes them away from that.

    Sadly, good TV suffers because of it.

    October 24, 2008 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  44. PNBP

    Quite often I think the same way. Sometimes I wonder if the average person is so sick of their own personal reality that they would rather live vicariously watching shows that glamorize the rich yet dysfunctional people. It pretty much says what kind of society we're living in: people who aren't satisfied with what they already have. Could it be that society would rather watch shows about that and think "I may not be loaded but at least I'm not screwed up like them"? Are viewers afraid to watch characters who are nothing more than human?

    October 24, 2008 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
  45. tj

    Working families or blue collar families don't have to be poor, people. You can be a blue-collar worker and own a house...its not that far-fetched, its called the middle class...And for those quoting a bunch of "working class" shows...most of them are off the air, or on cable. The network shows are flooded with "reality shows" and "white collar" shows. There is always some alternative programming, but look in prime-time and assess what the majority of shows are about. The discussion is not about "upper class shows" being the ONLY shows on TV, its what are the MAJORITY of shows about, and when are they aired – prime-time.

    October 24, 2008 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  46. Laura

    Friday Night Lights is a great show about "real" people. Unfortunately, it is only on DirecTV until next year, but the first two seasons were awesome!

    October 24, 2008 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  47. frusty3

    What about King of Queens, Still Standing, or even Rita Rocks?

    October 24, 2008 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  48. andy

    Why is there so many cop or lawyer shows on. The cops in the shows go by their own rules and quietly believe they are superior to their bosses and almost everyone else. The lawyers, no matter if there for the defense or prosecution are smug and they always win their cases. I guess the family life shows don't bring in sell anymore.

    October 24, 2008 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  49. kim

    love and sensitivity? on the Roseanne show? what planet are you on.

    are you forgetting the way the parents disrespected the children and the children disrespected the parents?

    all of the characters on that show were basically rude, cruel, mean, unfeeling, uncaring, and if any of them showed a glimmer of kindness, it was quickly doused in sarcasm.

    if this is your idea of love and sensitivity, I think we're living in two different worlds and I like mine a whole lot more.

    I NEVER allowed my daughter to watch that show because I did not want her to think that that is the way you treat family members, and most certainly not the way you treat other people, EVER.

    October 24, 2008 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  50. Taylor

    The Wire had the the most real characters of any t.v. show EVER. It's one of many reasons why it's the BEST t.v. show EVER.

    October 24, 2008 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  51. reality check

    Its more than that. In Roseann, they were supposedly a "poor" family. And its true, the Simpsons, Macolm in the Middle, Reba, and other shows portray "poor" families, but all these cases, the families live in HOUSES. How many shows are out there that actualy show families living in apartments, unable to afford a house or a mortgage or sharing the one family car? "I Hate Chris" is about the only one I can think of. These shows are still way off base.

    October 24, 2008 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
  52. Barbara

    It is the same concept as the 1930, when none had any money, but loved the movies that showed that everyone did. They want to see what other people lives are like and dream

    October 24, 2008 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  53. Dave

    You want real people?

    How about Rescue Me or In Plain Sight?

    October 24, 2008 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  54. PS

    GEORGE LOPEZ along with the aforementioned sitcoms.

    October 24, 2008 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  55. Walt

    Craig S, remember that it turned out that the Conners winning the lottery (and most of the last season of the show) was all a delusion from the mental breakdown of Roseanne Conner over the unexpected and sudden death of her husband, Dan Conner.

    As it turned out, Dan Conner was unfaithful to Roseanne, not for having an affair with his mom's nurse, but for dying and leaving her alone.

    The death of one's life-long partner is indeed something that many people in the real word do indeed have to face.

    October 24, 2008 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
  56. Clem

    Apparently no one has seen It's Always Sunny in Philadelpia. Those people are as real as it gets (i.e., unemployed, alcoholics, poor, dyslexic). That clan makes the Connors look like the Ewings on Dallas. Don't forget Yes, Dear(security guard), King of Queens (delivery driver), How I Met Your Mother (teacher, architect, lawyer, reporter), Gary Unmarried (painter), The Office. Not everyone on TV is the upper-crust. There are a few commoners out there.

    October 24, 2008 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
  57. Walt

    Don't sell the Conner's home too short.

    Each kid's bedroom had its own "en suite" bathroom. Even in middle class American, Mc Mansions rarely have such a perk for their kids.

    October 24, 2008 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
  58. Melissa

    All the 'real' TV characters were laid off last week.

    October 24, 2008 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
  59. tj

    If you look through history, the economy has been a driving force in the type of shows hollywood produces. Since the Great Depression we've seen productions about the working class and their struggle. During times of economic growth we see shows portraying the lives of the upper class. A good example...the late 1980's and into the mid 90's you got shows like Roseanne, Married with Children, Home Improvement and the Drew Carrey Show. All during a time of recession. Since that point, America has seen unimaginable growth in the economy, and suddenly shows like the OC, The Hills, Dirty Sexy Money, and Desperate Housewives dominate television.

    Why? Because while people want an escape from reality, they also want something that portrays what they can relate too. (I mean, who doesn't want to see a bunch of rich middle age women sleeping around with each other's neighbors....really hits home – to some i guess) I'm sure that next fall we will see more pilots of working class shows, and a change in the upper class shows portraying the worry that they have about the economy.

    October 24, 2008 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  60. Dianne

    Why would I want to see "average people" trying to eek out a merge life? I have enough "real" problems of my own. Bring on the Gossip Girl, The O.C., One Tree Hill or any show full of beautiful people, beautiful clothes and not a ounce of resemblance to my own life.

    October 24, 2008 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  61. officeworker

    To Rachel- Yes, in fact, I know lots of people like steve carell's character in real life. I am willing to bet most people who work in an office setting or have ever had a boss who didn't deserve to be the boss know what I mean.

    October 24, 2008 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  62. Andre

    Probably has somethign to do with shows in that vein being pretty terrible nowadays.

    October 24, 2008 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  63. noone

    WHAT?!? You mean reality TV isn't about real people?

    October 24, 2008 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  64. TimP

    Hollywood has lost touch with reality. Very little original programming comes out anymore. Everything is overblown and out of touch. 10 years from now, Roseanne will be remade, staring Britney Spears.

    October 24, 2008 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  65. Sick of the State of TV

    It seems the only non-reality shows you can get on tv now involve

    1) cops
    2) doctors
    3) people living fantasy lives

    You seem to have forgotten the extended "dream sequence" on Roseanne where they won millions of dollars in the state lottery.
    THAT was the only way they thought they could keep the show going.
    When it was revealed that it was all a fantasy coping mechanism for Roseanne after her husband had died from a heart attack, it was done at the end of the series.

    The producers figured NO ONE would continue to watch a show about a middle class woman with kids whose husband had just died.

    But people watched Good Times in the 70s, didn't they.

    October 24, 2008 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
  66. TChristian

    Army Wives and Lincoln Heights are pretty good shows where everyone is not rich. I guess I can relate more to Army Wives than the majority of the population being in the military, but Lincoln Heights is definitely a good family show that focuses on family values and real situations. They're not rich on Pushing Daisies but it's a little outthere as far as script and plot are concerned so it may not be for everyone.

    October 24, 2008 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  67. Mark Hill

    As someone who has worked in TV for 30 yr's i agree with you, i created a new sitcom "The Bigg Family" that had never been done before and they turned it down.

    Only good shows that work are when networks take a chance with somethign NEW, the people are sick of thE same stuff rehashed OVER and OVER and OVER !!!!!!

    October 24, 2008 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  68. sherylicious

    I didn't have a tv or cable for many years. I missed 'must-see tv' on Thursday nights. I missed Seinfeld, Friends and many other shows. When I finally got plugged in again, the West Wing was on, Ally McBeal was on. NYPD Blue was on ...and they were all really good shows. But West Wing started getting stupid, Bobby got killed off of NYPD Blue and Ally got cancelled.
    One night, I watched the millionaire bachelor ...or something like that. And you know what? It was interesting and funny. It wasn't great tv ....it wasn't clever or exciting. But it was entertaining and I hadn't seen anything on tv that was entertaining forever.
    that's the reality ...we just want to be entertained.

    October 24, 2008 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  69. Meri C.

    George Lopez was a great show – you can catch it on Nick at Nite now. It showed the working class and a minority group facing real issues in a comical light. I think that we create television series based on what the 14-21 demographic would like to see. Tweens and teens like "Gossip Girl, and The Hills and so on because of it catty-ness and over-endulgence. There's nothing wrong with that –don't forget we watched the original 90210, Melrose Place, and remember Dynasty and Dallas?

    October 24, 2008 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  70. Uriahheep

    What about the show "Breaking Bad" on AMC? I see it as real life. A high school science teacher diagnosed with cancer wanting to have enough money to leave his family. I can relate to the desperation when he resorts to cooking meth.

    October 24, 2008 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  71. Katran Miller

    I'm one of those odd folks who mostly avoids TV, but I submit that Americans tend to forget animation is a medium, not a genre, and that it can and is used for older target audiences than kindergarteners. So you might add King of the Hill to the list. There's probably others.

    October 24, 2008 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  72. Scott

    Television has never been a true reflection of the times.

    And remember what the primary reason is for the existence of television – TO SELL PRODUCTS

    October 24, 2008 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  73. asg422

    To me, The Wire was the most believable show in decades. Almost looked like a documentary.

    I think The Office comes close. Sure, it's not totally 100% believable, but what 22-minute slice of life is completely believable?

    October 24, 2008 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  74. Angel

    I agree what happened to the good ole shows...Roseanne, Sanford & Son, Good Times....too many of today's shows lead our children to believe that you have to have lots of money and be an extremely skinny supermodel type to be happy in the world...what happened to teaching our kids that in order to be rich in life, you need love, compassion, and trust..NOT FAME AND FORTUNE.

    Angel, Arkansas

    October 24, 2008 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  75. Pete

    Shows like Family Matters, Full House, and Home Improvement were all shows that dealt with average family values and problems. It seems that they were the last real generation of tv shows before the shift to the type of shows that we have on today.

    October 24, 2008 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  76. kelly

    We really do lack 'real characters, except maybe in sitcoms. The Conners were great and real, so were the parents on "Still Standing". After the unreal trailer trash in "My Name is Earl", the only 'average folks after "My name is Chris" (period piece) – are the crew on "The Office" -who are also a family of sorts. They are actually very real and authentic, just broadly drawn. Cable gives us "Saving Grace" and "The Closer" – cops – but cops with real, gritty lives. We miss and need that. We need to remember substance over style...

    October 24, 2008 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  77. Taog

    If Roseanne premiered today, it would be on basic cable. By modern standards, the acting and story lines were often cheese-ball. I've flipped past the re-runs, and they're absolutely painful to watch. And this is coming from someone who enjoyed the show for a period when it was originally on.

    Now, The Simpsons...there is a timeless, highly insightful mirror of human society. Sure, it's more satirical, but the writing and acting (voicing) is leaps and bounds ahead of shows like Roseanne.

    October 24, 2008 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
  78. Butters

    What about the Office?

    October 24, 2008 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
  79. Rosie

    Look, these days with everything in the world going haywire, when I sit down to watch TV, I wanted to be something fun. I don't want to watch a show about someone else's illnesses, money problems, etc.

    October 24, 2008 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  80. BS

    corporate america jobs are not blue collar, whether it be administrative assistant or CEO. blue collars jobs are classified as manual labor (steel mill, GM factory, etc)

    I think you are missing the point of the article.

    October 24, 2008 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  81. Bubba

    But if we don't show how cool rich people are, McCain might lose the election!

    October 24, 2008 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  82. shawn

    Roseanne was an awful show, I would not like more TV like that....ever

    October 24, 2008 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
  83. Kate

    I loved the early days of Roseann, as I did Who's the Boss, Growing Pains, Full House, Family Ties, Home Improvement... I could go on. Today I do enjoy How I Met Your Mother and the Big Bang Theory is growing on me.
    I think people today want to watch pretty people who dress well... then again with all the reality tv crap, I might be wrong.

    October 24, 2008 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  84. Bob

    I am surprised. They actually have shows that interupt the commercials. What is the world coming to?

    October 24, 2008 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
  85. Luna

    What about Homer and Marge – they drive a old car, are always broke and their house looks like crap.

    October 24, 2008 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
  86. Upton Sinclair

    Craig S. hit the nail on the head...the Roseanne show was dwindling just as the last wave of overspending high credit and the housing boom was soaring. Blue-collar guys unhappy with their lot would either overleverage themselves or get paid inflated wages due to overbuilding. They didn't see themselves as working class anymore, but people who used their union cards to gain entrance to The American Dream. Shows like The Hills, etc. are aspirational, and the poor souls who buy into it would do whatever they could to emulate that existence.

    It's all part of the great mass hallucination that middle- and lower-class America bought into during the last 10 years. Hopefully, everyone is waking up and will change their habits once the hangover wears off.

    October 24, 2008 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
  87. gecko68

    What about the people on Lost? They have nothing... except an island, white sand, blue water, periodic rain for drinking water... free food drops, shelter... hey wait a minute!!!

    October 24, 2008 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  88. come on

    you have to watch the right shows, not the gossip girls and 90210s

    do some research

    October 24, 2008 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
  89. VinceCapece

    Name a drama that was like that? "Rosanne" was a sitcom and how many sitcoms are left on network TV? "Earl" and "Chris," noted above, are among the few sitcoms of any style still on network TV...and just those two seem to be a higher percentage of the total landscape then when "Rosanne" was on the air. Add in the aforementioned "It's Always Sunny..." and "Testees" and "Bill Envall" and "Rita Rocks" and these other basic cable comedies and this type of show seems to be everywhere.

    October 24, 2008 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  90. Daniel Dodds

    Any real conversation should focus less on this type of hair-splitting and more broadly on the overall mind-sludge and drivel being pumped out of tired New York and tired Hollywood. Can anyone not on life-support watch more than an hour of this TV sewage? We see the same stories over, and over again dressed up in different clothing and slightly altered sets. Of course, we have the detective shows where the agents know everything from molecular biology to metallurgy, the unbearable “reality” shows with absurd premises, and the comedies with the formula; point out obvious everyday experiences and then press the audience laughter button on the production console—like that’s a great escape. I suppose when you have a cartel running media, real art takes a distance second place to profit. NO NEW IDEAS!

    October 24, 2008 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
  91. RickInPA

    What about "King of Queens"....great/funny show – realistic. A couple yrs ago a show called "Rodny" looked good but was canceled. But yes...I do agree with the point of this aricle, even though I could also think of examples of upscale comedies that were popular at the time of "Roseanne"

    October 24, 2008 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  92. yello!

    I agree. There's entirely too many shows about rich spoiled people who's biggest problem is they can't decide whether to use a drug addiction of anorexia to get mommy and daddy's attention.

    And the saddest testament about this is this is how the rest of the world sees this country.

    Talk about self fullfilling prophecy

    October 24, 2008 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  93. kim

    Ugly Betty blends the rich with the working class.

    October 24, 2008 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  94. Ben Hyde

    Great read! I wish that more people would follow suit. I am one of those people who was a huge Cosb, Full House, and Family Matters fan. Even Fresh Prince was good.

    October 24, 2008 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
  95. Sharon

    The article rings true. But, two of my favorite shows feature lower middle class folks:
    My Name Is Earl and Everybody Hates Chris.

    October 24, 2008 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
  96. Cjay79

    I agree that the writer of the blog doesn't watch enough TV to find characters like the ones mentioned by my fellow commenters, but I also think it makes a point in and of itself – in the current state of financial downturn, it makes it all the more obvious that TV is programmed, and has been programmed for a long time, with rich or richer characters. And in droves, people have lapped it up – Is there any other reason that so many American soaps and dramas are full to overflow with people who are well-endowed? Perhaps its also a political insight, that people seem to be watching less of these shows, and more "reality" – fed up of aspirational programming that teases the viewer with a life that is out of reach for far far too many people, and "spreading the wealth", and taxing the higher brackets more is becoming a favourable message. Or not, just thinking out loud.

    October 24, 2008 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
  97. Jess

    I agree– Roseanne is being compared to a primetime drama, but the other shows being brought up are nothing like Roseanne-yes they are comedies–with greatly exxagerrated storylines and characters. I love The Office and Earl but in now way are they "real life". The Conner family WAS a real family and most of the eps (up until the lottery years) were real problems and real situations. There really are not any tv shows right now that have any characters like that.

    October 24, 2008 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
  98. Stanley

    What happened to 'real' characters....welll they went away when the networks decided that it was cheaper to feed us 'reality' tv rather than hire great writers and casts to play 'real' characters....the Conners were no more 'real' than the Clampetts, but they were endearing, funny and we could relate if only a little bit. The trick is....good writing and creativity.....

    October 24, 2008 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
  99. TaranSquanderer

    It's not just about money, either. Everyone is so pretty, so handsome. It's gotten laughable. Watch Private Practice, Bones, CIS, Grey's, etc. Again, I understand it is an escape, but really it's a lame trend.

    October 24, 2008 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  100. jebhan

    The issue with today's sitcoms that depict middle- and lower-income people is that they are shown as caricatures who are made part of the joke. The genius of Roseanne is that their poverty was just a part of who they were and the jokes and humor were a separate aspect. That's what made the show much more real and relatable.

    October 24, 2008 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  101. Larry

    How about "Home Improvement" ? Yeah, it was pretty wacky at times, but it still maintained family values, and gave a pretty good representation of suburbia. I miss Wilson next door.

    October 24, 2008 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
  102. Craig S.

    Don't forget – nearing the end of the series, the Connor's had a big lottery win, and ramped up the spending and luxury. Perhaps this was the tip of the iceburg??

    October 24, 2008 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
  103. Jarrod

    i like the sentiment of this brief editorial and would liek to carry it a step forward. being one of the blue collar crew, going from paycheck to paycheck on 70 hour weeks kind of guys i wish i could just get basic t.v. channels with out having to get cable or dish or whichever network scam those companies are running. i would love to plug in my television and throw up the bunny ears and catch some quality entertainment. I don't watch t.v. that often but when i do i wish the network channels weren't bogged down with reality shows or the mellow drama they normally are. anyone else remember what it was like to turn on the tv and watch the home town base ball team play a saturday night game or catch the sunday afternoon NFL game. some day our excess and desire for more and more will catch up with us, cable tv is out of hand.

    October 24, 2008 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  104. jeff

    THE OFFICE is filled with middle class and blue collar people and it is one of the most popular, critically acclaimed comedies on TV.

    October 24, 2008 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  105. Roseann fan

    I loved Roseann. I still watch it. I feel like she is living my life. I can relate to her totally. I agree it totally jumped the shark when they won the lottery though. I hate the so called reallity tv, or the stupid rich kid dramas.

    October 24, 2008 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
  106. Louie

    I guess the writer didn't figure that her lack of research would be called out.

    October 24, 2008 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
  107. Joe Michalski

    An excellent article.

    The state of the economy can be traced back to an audience that really believes you can live like the unreal characters in a TV show. Some people do realize its fantasy but looking at the mismanagement of money by the majority of Americans, I would say most think they can or try to live like a TV character. What a shallow life.

    October 24, 2008 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
  108. Katya

    Too bad CBS canceled Jericho. Realist people in small town America just trying to survive.

    October 24, 2008 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
  109. julie

    Friday Night Lights is an amazing show that features "real" people. Almost all of the characters live in dumpy houses, drive clunkers and wear normal clothes. More people need to watch it (now on DirectTV until NBC airs it in early 2009)!!

    October 24, 2008 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
  110. Rachel

    The characters on "The Office" and "My Name is Earl" are caricatures. Do you really know anyone like Steve Carell's character in real life? Come on! They are all exaggerated. The characters on Roseanne were real people. I completely agree with Katie.

    October 24, 2008 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
  111. T. Giasomo

    Television sitcoms and movies have rarely reflected reality. From Stu Erwin and Ozzie and Harriet to any of today's shows, reality is a rarity. Reality TV is not "real". How many everyday Joes race around the world for a million dollars or compete on a Japanese game show? Television is not about reality and it is a rare show where we as middle class Americans feel we can relate on a socio-economic level with the characters on television. Is that bad? No. As the article states, we mostly watch television for escape or entertainment. If we are not watching for escape or entertainment, we are looking for information. There may be other reasons, but whatever they are, except for the daily news, television is not a device which people espouse in search of reality.

    October 24, 2008 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
  112. Susan

    What about "Malcolm in the Middle"? They were always juggling bills, their yard was a mess, they drove older vehicles and ate pot-luck dinners. Lots of folks can identify with that.

    October 24, 2008 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
  113. Don

    Think before you jump to any conclusions when I suggest The Simpsons. It's the anti-Brady Bunch/Cleaver family. They often have to worry about finances, Homer's career is hardly where it should be, you don't have a family of kids who are all honor roll AND student body president AND varsity lettermen, etc. Homer's weaknesses are obvious, Marge isn't thrilled with them they remain committed to their marriage. The cast and town is ethnicnally and socially diverse covering races and sexual preference, including one Marge's own sisters coming out of the closet and trying to marry. Notice their cars, with their damage, hardly the minivan/Prius family, the TV with rabbit ears on top, Krusty, everyone's favorite celebrity who has had enough addictions to open his own wing at Betty Ford's, schoolyard bullies, and its underfunded, underperforming public school with its freaks and geeks. The show may not be what America wants to wave up there with the American flag, but it's closer to home than anyone may think.

    October 24, 2008 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
  114. Joe Schmoe

    Thank God Roseanne Barr is gone. That woman was a flithy mouthed nasty slob. It didn't take long for that show to degenerate into depressing lesbian rites and teen sex topics either. Just lovely fair for evening family television.
    Who stays up to watch shows anymore anyway.

    October 24, 2008 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
  115. Louie

    Shows about excess were doing well because a lot of people had a little extra to spend. People loved finding out what was popular and then be able to brag that they had the same thing. Right now it is in a transition phase. Also, it doesn't help that most shows are horrible now.

    In the Office most of the characters do not have a lot of money and when they do spend it for luxuries it is usually ridiculous, like the 7 inch High Def TV.

    So there are some regular Characters and you can't have everyone on TV struggle for the sake of struggling because then people won't buy it as real.

    October 24, 2008 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
  116. Michele

    I don't think those guys from The Office make much either. In fact, didn't we learn that the warehouse guy makes more than Michael, the boss?

    October 24, 2008 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
  117. johnniebgoode

    i miss roseann(the early years)...after they won the lottery it got really
    out there and i stopped watching......

    October 24, 2008 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
  118. Brian

    Don't forget Friday Night Lights! As real as it gets.

    October 24, 2008 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
  119. matt

    Hey, this is America. Land of the free, home of the Caddy.

    October 24, 2008 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
  120. Matt

    Actually, I'm having trouble thinking of any modern sitcoms that aren't about lower- or middle-class folks. Your comparing Roseanne to primetime dramas, not sitcoms. Just take a look at the NBC lineup. My Name Is Earl is about a community of people living in motels and trailer parks. The Office is about lowly office workers in blue-collar America. They don't make many sitcoms like Roseanne anymore (i.e. with laughtracks) but those recent final greats of that era were also about the same low-end demographic – such as King of Queens and Everybody Loves Raymond. What sitcoms are you watching?

    October 24, 2008 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
  121. Anita

    Well, Katie, I've been trying to pitch a "real" character to the networks for some time now but they're just not interested. The novel, The Unexpected and Fictional Career Change of Jim Kearns, by David Munroe is a funny and poignant story about a "real", average, middle-income, North American family which would translate wonderfully to TV.

    October 24, 2008 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
  122. JJ Jones

    Television watchers are uninterested in seeing real people. They want to see people that are in a position they will never be at. How else can you explain the success of shows like The Hills?

    October 24, 2008 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
  123. Joelio

    I agree that mainstream shows lack lower-class characters, but one of my favorite shows is "It's always sunny in philadelphia." Charlie, one of the main characters on that show, would find the prospect of even having mismatched furniture, and a working bathroom, a dream come true. And from comment boards on sites that review the show, Charlie is the character most people would love to hang out with.

    October 24, 2008 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  124. Palaba

    They were all on HBO's The Wire! 'Real' drama, too 'real' for America, yet really about 'real' America.

    October 24, 2008 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
  125. madlogic

    Well, there's:

    -My Name Is Earl
    -Everybody Hates Chris
    -Bill Engvall's Show

    I also want to say "According To Jim" and maybe "Reba," but since I've never watched them it would just be speculation.

    October 24, 2008 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
  126. G

    I totally agreee! Thank you, Katie!

    October 24, 2008 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
  127. JT

    There are some characters on TV wih only five digits in their salaries. The Prison Break guys, Parkman from Heroes, the Reaper gang, most of My Name Is Earl... um... The Bill Engvall Show?

    October 24, 2008 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |

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