My print column in TIME this week expands on an idea I wrote about in my review of Revenge: is “class warfare” really anathema to Americans, or is TV about class conflict—done the right way—appealing and entertaining? The column (as usual subscription-only) looks at Revenge (basically, an anthology of bad things happening to evil rich people), the coverage of the Occupy Wall Street protests and the most popular new show of the season, 2 Broke Girls, which is all about the different backgrounds of street-smart Max and poor little former-rich-girl Caroline. (This week’s episode, in which Max visited Caroline’s dad’s townhouse—”You have a museum in your closet?!”—was the show’s best episode yet.)
Though 2 Broke Girls is the most prominent new example, money troubles and working-class situations have been creeping in elsewhere in primetime, in returning comedies like The Middle and Raising Hope and new ones like Work It (the awful Bosom Buddies update whose protagonists go into drag to get a job because the employment market is so rough).
If it continues, coincidence or not, it’s a step back toward the ’70s, when producers like Norman Lear made sitcoms about dockworkers (All in the Family) and even actual poor people (Good Times, Sanford and Son)—and away from TV’s demographic trend of the last couple of decades:
The rich have long populated soaps, of course; working-class people used to be the material of sitcoms, from The Honeymooners to Roseanne. But with the popularity of Friends and Frasier–and as networks and advertisers shifted their sights to upscale viewers–TV became a (George) Jeffersonian democracy: sitcom characters moved on up.