class on TV

I’ve recently been watching the Starz show Party Down, largely because it’s free to stream on Netflix, and at a half-hour in length, perfect for my tremendously short attention span. It’s a sitcom about a bunch of people who work as catering waiters in LA, and are actors/screenwriters/comedians in waiting.

I find it very interesting, partly because all the time on the show is spent at the parties they are working–they never show you scenes of the actors auditioning, or the writer writing. And frankly, how many shows are there on TV these days that are about regular working stiffs trying to make it through the day?

I mean, sure there are shows about cops & doctors & nurses, but when was the last time you saw a tv show about a factory worker, or a janitor?

Landisdad and I were having a conversation with the Bee a few weeks ago about the kinds of shows that she likes to watch and how they all seem to feature some element of complete & utter unbelievability. There’s the Wizards of Waverly Place–about a magical family (which, OK, at least their parents run a restaurant, albeit one whose competitor is run by vampires). Or Hannah Montana–secret rock star. Or iCarly–two girls with a hit web show (and come on, does anyone believe Spencer can afford that apartment in Seattle?). Or Tru Jackson, VP–about a girl who gets her own line at a fashion company. It seems like the last thing anyone would do these days is make a show about some kids growing up in the ghetto–but that was the plot of at least three different shows that I could remember from my own childhood (extra credit to any commenter who guesses all three).

There was a period of time when it seemed like shows that focused on rich people were the exception, rather than the rule. Roseanne was a factory worker (later a waitress) married to a guy who did construction and worked on bikes. Of course, there was Alice–another waitress show. And when there were shows about people working in show business, it was things like The Partridge Family–who were not exactly the most successful musical act in TV history.

Why does it matter, whether the kids watch tv shows that feature people in real-life situations? Well, for one, I’d like my kids to grow up with some understanding of how incredibly privileged they are, and if all they see on TV are people who are fantastically successful & wealthy without seeming to work very hard, what does that teach them? I’d like them to see a show where every character isn’t trying to figure out how to be famous, as if just being famous is an end worthy of desiring.


May 3, 2010. the pop culture.


  1. Jody replied:

    Ack! I can’t guess any of them, I don’t think! We watched All in the Family and Good Times and MASH and Happy Days and Mork & Mindy (heaven help us) and Laverne & Shirley and the Love Boat and the Dukes of Hazard. Later on it was the Facts of Life and the Cosby Show. Only Cosby was semi-aspirational the way today’s TV is, and they had a good reason to live in a nice house. Then again Mindy (if I remember correctly) had a rather nice house in San Fransisco, and I don’t remember how she would have paid for that.

    Do you think it’s the way that TV has splintered that causes some of these problems? I have a hard time even imagining most of the Nick and Disney programming being on the air when I was a kid, because there wasn’t room on the dial for something so kid-centric. Not at night, anyway. And without a grownup audience to roll their eyes and demand some realism, the flights of fancy get out of hand fast.

  2. Jennifer (ponderosa) replied:

    We don’t watch very much TV except real-science-ish shows like Mythbusters and Top Gear, so I can’t comment on this… I have however wondered why TV is still, after all this time, so overwhelmingly white.

  3. Tweets that mention class on TV « Bumblebee Sweet Potato -- replied:

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