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Economic times are tough all over TV

It is a depressing time in television, both in the real and fictional worlds.
The latest local indication came from WNED-TV, the local PBS station, which announced salary cuts and the layoffs of a viewer service representative, a special events coordinator and a graphic artist.

Don Boswell, the president of the station, said there are no plans for a standard Guitar Festival in 2010 because of corporate sponsor cutbacks. However, the JoAnn Falletta guitar concerto competition that has been part of the festival is scheduled to go on.

WNED-TV joined all the local commercial television stations in downsizing or restructuring because of the tough economic times.
Things aren't much rosier in the fictional world, either. What's driving the plot lines of many TV shows these days? It's the economy, stupid.
The tough times have been rich resources for hit network television shows, which typically have been where viewers go to get a respite from bad news. Now television series seem to be finding creative gold in the economic crisis.
The writers of ABC's "Desperate Housewives" have done the best job taking advantage of the economic crash, packing several storylines on Wisteria Lane with monetary issues.
Mike Delfino (James Denton) is working 16-hour days as a plumber to help pay for his young son's education. Things are so bad that he tried to pawn off a $100 set of pearls as $4,000 pearls to impress his new girlfriend, Katherine Mayfair (Dana Delany).
Mike's former wife Susan Mayer (Teri Hatcher) had to take a job as a teacher's aide to help pay for their young son's education, and she only got it after begging the school's top administrator.
And poor Lynette (Felicity Huffman) and Tom Scavo (Doug Savant) are practically in the poor house because no one is buying pizza and their shop is going under.
Gaby (Eva Longoria Parker), who had been hit by the economic downturn before her friends, thought she was back in the money with hubby Carlos (Ricardo Antonio Chavira) until she was told by his new boss that no bonuses were going to be given out.
No problem. Gaby saw the boss fooling around on his wife and miraculously Carlos got his $30,000 bonus. Bribery might be the only way to get a raise these days.
At least Bree Hodge (Marcia Cross) is rolling in the dough from her cookbook, but you get the sense even that won't last.
On last week's popular CBS series "The Mentalist," a rich murder victim died after she started selling drugs to keep her husband's business alive. She was killed by another rich woman who couldn't move from her swanky neighborhood because she "under water" in her mortgage. She owed more on her house than it was worth.
In HBO's "Big Love," the home supply business of Bill Henrickson (Bill Paxton) is in such rough shape he is hoping a casino will keep him and his three wives (and a potential fourth) in the comfort in which they've become accustomed.
His first wife, Barb (Jeanne Tripplehorn), is so concerned about the family finances that two weeks ago she went to Bill's business partner, Don (Joel McKinnon Miller) and said: "I need to know what our resources are."
Don told her that the business, Home Plus, had its first full quarter in the red and was going to have a hard time making pension payments.
Then there is NBC's "30 Rock," which is set in New York City, where the economy really has been hit hard. How hard?
A couple of weeks ago, the interns at NBC on the show were investment bankers who had to find work anywhere they could find it.
"They were laid off by the economic crash that [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi caused," cracked Republican Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin).
The same crazy episode ended with sketch comedy star Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) supposedly being named to take over the failed investment bank Lehman Brothers.
I suppose the outlandish fictional character couldn't do much worse than the economic genius guy who ran it into the ground in real life.


>Oscar ratings up

The Oscar telecast on Channel 7 improved significantly on last year's record low rating for the program but the local audience still didn't approach the figure of two years ago.
Sunday's telecast had a 20.1 rating from 8:30 to 11 p.m. and a 17.3 from 11 to 11:30 p.m. when the big awards starting being given out. It finished with a 19.6 rating in the last half hour, about the time Kate Winslet, Sean Penn and "Slumdog Millionaire" won the big awards.
A year ago, the telecast averaged a 17.7 rating on Channel 7 for the first three hours and fell to a 14.1 at 11:30 p.m.
To illustrate how big the ratings decline has been, the 2007 Oscar telecast had a 26.4 until 11:30 p.m. and finished with a 20.4 at the finish.
Of course, many people DVR or tape the program to watch later when they can fast forward through the less important awards and get to the biggies.


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