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October 24, 2021

Rise in sitcoms suggests economy's not fixed, after all

Want proof the economy’s still hurting? Turn to Hollywood.

Stock-photo-2944695-movie-nightIndeed, for all the consumer confidence figures and unemployment rate numbers we see tossed around, there is still one indicator that shows the downturn may not have ceased fully, after all.

According to the New York Times, one mustn’t look further than the slate of new comedies networks are ramming down viewers’ throats this season as a gauge of economic performance.

Since we chase laughter in times of financial peril, the thinking goes, the rash of New Girls  and Up All Nights  show one thing: we’re not all the way back yet.

Yes, at least by the estimation of Hollywood execs, creators and producers, there’s a genuine socio-economic measure lying within the recent success of TV sitcoms.

*Bing: What country got the worst of the recession?

By ratings data, zero of the ten most watched entertainment shows were comedies in 2006, before the recession hit. As recently as 2008, just at the downturn’s outset, only two comedies had moved into the top 10.

But comedy is thriving this season, as seven of the top ten shows are comedies – among them already-popular shows like How I Met Your Mother , up 23 per cent in the ratings this season, and Modern Family , up 25 per cent.

“Comedy thrives during economic downturns,” Chuck Lorre, the Charlie Sheen enemy and producer behind Two and a Half Men  and The Big Bang Theory , told the NYT. “You know, if you’ve had a bad day, laughter is a better remedy than watching a coroner pick shrapnel out of some poor guy’s private parts.”

Adds an NBC exec: “You’re probably sitting around the table (at night) talking about how you’re going to afford the tuition, or you’re not going to have a vacation, or you can’t afford a divorce. You need an escape from that.”

Certainly, this is a polarizing opinion, in that for every person that looks to comedy as an escape from financial problems, there may be two that feel no urge to laugh while they’re looking for a job or staring at a vacated pension.

Still, even if we throw out the above ratings numbers, there’s one big historical precedent that shows the success of comedies in times of economic turmoil.

When was one of comedy’s largest booms? That would be during the Great Depression, when Chaplin and screwball movies were all the rage in between bread lines and stock market crashes.

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...