Lifestyles of the not so rich: Television industry reacts to hard economic times


January 08, 1991|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Sun Television Critic

Los Angeles - The hard economic times many Americans are facing have started to affect the television shows they'll be seeing this spring.

Producers and stars here are saying that because of the recession, the fictional lives of television characters are being scaled down and stripped of glitz, while more made-for-TV movies about past and present economic crises are being scheduled.

"The Reagans are out of the White House, and John [Forsythe] and Joan [Collins] are out of the mansion," Douglas Cramer said at a press conference here, referring to "Dynasty," a show he helped produce. "You only have to look at the papers to see where we are in terms of the recession and the homeless. I don't think the audience wants to see . . . a Rolls Royce and a house in Bel Air."

Cramer is the executive producer of "Danielle Steel's Changes," a made-for-TV movie with Cheryl Ladd, which NBC is using to counterprogram the finals of the NCAA Basketball Tournament this spring. Cramer said the circumstances of the heroine and the look of the film were toned down in direct response to the economy.

"We have gone out of our way to not have people [looking] too rich, living too elegantly," he said.

Cramer said that the heroine in Steel's book, a TV anchorwoman, gets in a salary battle with management. The producer said that NBC Entertainment Chairman Brandon Tartikoff asked him to change the nature of the woman's struggle so it would be about something other than large amounts of money -- "something more human."

On Feb. 4, NBC will offer a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie about the Great Depression called "Long Road Home." It stars Mark Harmon, who said he thinks the film is being brought to television now because of the similarities between the Depression and today.

"There are all kinds of correlations between the very same things we're talking about in 1938 America and the things that are going on now," Harmon said yesterday.

"I think that we are very definitely going into a very difficult period for America economically," John Korty, the Emmy- and Academy Award-winning director of the film said. "This is a movie that tries to go back into the last period of economic difficulty and say, look, it's bad, but it's not the end of the world. . . . And I think that's very important to bring back."

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