There's so much to like about ABC's award-winning new sitcom 'Modern Family' that it seems almost curmudgeon-like to complain. Nevertheless, you have to wonder where in the world 'Modern Family' is located. No, not the place; it's clearly Southern California. No, it's the economy. 'Modern Family' resides in an economy unaffected by the recession. Everybody is doing well. Nobody's worried about paying the mortgage, or – God forbid – facing foreclosure. Things are going so well in 'Modern Family' world that the entire clan is heading to Hawaii for a family vacation.
Wow, remember when your family could afford to fly off for a holiday? It was probably some time around the turn of the century ... 2000. Maybe 'Modern Family' is in a time warp because they're all checking into the Four Seasons Maui. It'll be the May 12 season finale, so tune in if you want to live vicariously.
More important than the numbers, though, was the show itself. If you want to see how the recession has hit the real estate business, check out this show. Instead of flipping million dollar homes in Southern California, Jeff is now reduced to taking renovation jobs and working for other people. He's not used to having to work for others, but it's great to see it happen.
It started with a segment about singles finding love. Harmless enough. "In these tough economic times, is it possible to find love without spending a lot of money?" "Oh yes" blah blah blah. That went on for way too long talking about budget dating and how you can't judge a person for being unemployed and it's about their heart not their wallet. Okay, fair enough. But then we lead to the next segment. Cooking with Chef Boy-R-Dee or whatever and it's how to make meatballs on a budget. Because in these tough economic times who can possibly afford meat and pasta sauce?
As we all know, and are probably tired of hearing because it makes us so damned depressed, the recession is hitting everyone hard. Businesses are closing left and right, people are losing their jobs, and unemployment rates are hitting levels not seen since the days of leg warmers, headbands and tainted Tylenol. It's bad enough that even if people still have a job, their employers are taking extensive belt tightening measures to make sure they are prepared for the worst.
One of the things being eliminated from families' budgets during this belt tightening is their cable or satellite hookup. With costs that can total over $100 a month, families are just not ready to dump that kind of cash on something they feel doesn't have any value. That doesn't mean they are going without television (especially after the DTV switchover) and turning to a simpler life of canning vegetables, making quilts, and attending square dances. Rather, they are switching off their hi-def flat screens, turning on their computer flat screens, and getting their TV fix over the Internet.
It's been over two months since the WGA Strike officially ended. While most people probably assume that everything is back to normal, especially since most shows have returned with new episodes over the past few weeks, there's an interesting article over at the LA Times explaining why things aren't so great in Hollywood. Especially for TV crew members.
While the country itself seems to be spinning into a recession as necessities such as gas, milk, and eggs jump in price, many below-the-line TV crew workers (propmasters, make-up artists, electricians, and set carpenters, etc.) are experiencing their own economic crisis.
Now, anybody who has spent more than forty seconds online in the last six months can see that we are, more than likely, in the middle of a recession brought on by a downturn in the real estate market because of the current credit crisis. That said, I'd like to ask the question: would we be better off if TV simply lied to us about all of these things?
Most interesting is the observations of Barrington Research analyst James Goss: "My sense is that the layoffs extended to some high-priced and highly visible local talent with an eye toward applying some of the same return on investment-focused expense disciplines that started at the network level."
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