Wednesday, September 30, 2009

New sitcoms set in the heartland

After years of programming focused on urban centers, two sitcoms are moving television viewers back into the heartland, reports the Los Angeles Times.
In recent years, fashionistas and other urban sophisticates have been the stars of prime-time TV. Inspired by the success of "Friends," which revolved around a circle of hip thirtysomethings and their affluent lives, the networks let loose a bull market in shows celebrating money, sex and power. Two seasons ago, just as the stock market was coming off its peak, shows such as "Cashmere Mafia," "Lipstick Jungle," "Big Shots" and "Dirty Sexy Money" were as prevalent as subprime mortgage brokers in Florida.
Advertiser preferences and demographic information provided by the Nielsen TV ratings company were critical in the movement to predominately urban-set shows. Angelo Pizzo, a former Warner Bros. executive adds:
"The feeling was that family-based shows, those set in the rural areas or the Midwest, were 'soft' and that was the last thing that advertisers would be interested in," he said.

Also working against the heartland has been the long-held Hollywood bias that anyone who lives outside of Los Angeles or New York is somehow out of fashion and a subject for satire.
Actress Patricia Heaton, who stars in one of the new sitcoms, believes that Hollywood's neglect of the heartland "borders on arrogance."

So why the renewed interest in the Midwest? In part, hard economic times:
[As] the nation sank into a recession and the unemployment rate climbed, such glamorous shows came across as phony and out of sync with the somber reality. Tougher times have inspired the networks to take another look at Midwestern sensibilities, and ABC's return to family comedies reflects the industry's shift.
The two programs, The Middle and Parks and Recreation, air on ABC and NBC, respectively.

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