Celebs & Money: The recession goes Prime Time

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Do Americans want to see the recession on Prime Time, during their nightly escape to the sitcoms? The smart shows of course are already addressing current topics. The current season of 30 Rock has featured laid off ibankers interning at NBC, and Tracy Jordan sparking a War of the Worlds meltdown when he offered financial advice on the Asian Stock Market on Larry King Live. I recently queried show's star Maulik Pancholy, who assured me we can expect to see a lot of the recession parodied this season. It's a welcome relief to laugh at the depressing times.

But would we watch an entire series on the theme? ABC seems to think so. It's launching two sitcoms about laid-off bankers. The first is an untitled show starring Kelsey Grammer, a Wall Street millionaire, who after the economy crumbles, is finally forced to spend time with his family. The second show (think antidote to Entourage,) is "Canned," a pilot about a group of Gen X friends who fall from their investment banker safety nets.

Expect both series to remind us of the important things in life, and our purpose in life, once the money's all gone. Not a bad message for the Disney-owned network. But will the shows have appeal even after the economy recovers? ABC had its doubts, and even passed on the "Canned" pilot when it was first pitched. But producers believe it will have a long-lasting effect, as the basic premise is not about the recession, but about what happens when you get laid off.
Perhaps most interesting will be the product placement opportunities the series presents. According to Ad Age, the show will present numerous opportunities to poke fun at luxury brands, and the people who buy them. In the pilot episode of "Canned," the characters decide to taste what an $8,000 Clover-produced cup of coffee tastes like (the infamous purveyor of the new Starbucks machines) before unloading their machine on Craigslist. The answer: "Not that good."

The opportunities for comedy and lifestyle changes are endless. Kelsey Grammer swaps his Blackberry for a game of Guitar Hero with the kids. He replaces overnight trips to Beijing with daytrips to Six Flags. Will the Gen X characters be dining at Fried Dumpling now, instead of Per se? Will we see them swap their town car service for a bicycle? Will they hunt down the Target Go Line, instead of spending at Bendels? Will they exchange the $80 shave with a homemade haircut? What would you want to see on a sitcom about unemployment?
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