This television season has been kind of a letdown, and I assume I’m not alone in desperately hoping for a reset next fall (though having Game of Thrones back is helping quite a bit). So eager am I that I took a deep dive into the full list of pilots that the networks are casting for next season for The Atlantic and came away with one key observation. Hollywood’s moving on from Ponzi schemers and fraudsters to a new iteration of the recession, a widespread sense of insecurity and retrenching in the bosom of family:
This year, the networks are gearing up to try again: There are three “moving home” pilots in production, including ABC’s How to Live With Your Parents for the Rest of Your Life, in which a divorced mother moves home; an as-yet untitled CBS sitcom about a man who loses his house to foreclosure; and Fox’s El Jefe, about a man in his 30s who moves in with his former nanny, a scenario that takes the idea of raising other people’s children to a real extreme…
Housing isn’t the only thing television characters will be needing from their families in the next television season. Perhaps driven by the sense that the economy is tough and impersonal, networks are developing an unusual number of family business comedies. After her turns on medical drama A Gifted Man and as bootlegger Mags Bennett on Justified, Margo Martindale will play a woman running a diner with her sisters in ABC’s Counter Culture. Sisters are big for the network, which also has The Smart One, with Portia de Rossi as a bright, ambitious woman resentfully going to work for her beauty-queen-turned-mayor younger sister, played by Malin Ackerman. In Fox’s Must Hire, a younger man gets his father a job only to find out his dad is a problem employee. In Partners, on the same network, gay and straight business partners form a substitute family. By the networks’ calculation, we relish the idea that work could be as safe as family—it’s much harder for your father or your sister to lay you off than it is a faceless corporation.
That’s not the only thing we’re going to see, of course: there are going to be a lot of conspiracies and a large helping of paranoia, aliens and robots in the suburbs, and period dramas that leave the fifties and sixties behind. It’s not exactly morning in America, and it looks to be a fall filled with diminished expectations.