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Kim Stolz Headshot

On TV, Life, and Gossip Girl

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I haven't watched many episodes of Ugly Betty but I turned it on recently to find that the current plotline is right in line with life if you work at a media company. Daily questions include... Should we cut staff? Cut one of our publication? Go under? Such were the decisions being made by Meade Publications, the mock corporation on Ugly Betty that is currently, you guessed it, facing budget problems.

I work at MTV Networks, and watching that Ugly Betty episode in light of our recent layoffs got me thinking about the age-old question of whether television imitates life, life imitates television, or perhaps, or whether the answer lies in a mix of the two. I then remembered the cancellation of both Lipstick Jungle and Dirty Sexy Money, two shows that accentuate lavishness, luxury, and "the good life." Is our economic crisis undermining people's desire to watch the wealthy on television? Huh.

Yes, television is absolutely reflective of the economic downturn and fiercely threatened media climate that we are living in now -- it is no surprise that Dirty Jobs and other "blue collar"-like shows are thriving. If we turn back to the 70s, we see a similar trend. For instance, an economic recession inspired All in the Family, One Day at a Time, and others. But ratings these days don't really reflect a desire for more dramas and comedies. Rather, in recent years, most of the new hit shows on television have been reality or "faux" reality based. I wouldn't expect a comedy or drama about a financially destabilized family to emerge right now. Instead, I bet we'll see some new reality television shows that exemplify what American families are going through right now. Upon a bit of research, I found out exactly that to be true.

There's a lot of buzz right now in the entertainment industry around a new "headhunter" reality show. Kind of a brilliant idea, if you ask me. Plus, we'll definitely be seeing more DIY fashion reality shows, and of course, a plethora of shows about losing -- and subsequently, finding-- homes. Or... Remember that big time banker who worked at Lehman last year? Yeah. You'll probably see him on a reality show this fall. Nothing like a life turned upside down to bring in the ratings!! (Ok ok, I'll be watching too.)

So my question is... What happens to shows like Gossip Girl? That show certainly isn't relatable to kids who can't afford gas money to get to their job interview or kids who can't go to college because their parents are suddenly jobless... Will Gossip Girl's lure of escapism and fantasy win out? Will Blair suddenly fall for a kid who lives in the Bronx and goes to PS ____? Or will the show's ratings plummet and lose its primetime spot to a reality show based around housekeepers who've lost their jobs because Park Avenue families can't afford them anymore? Or wait! Maybe Gossip Girl's Dorota will be given a greater role?? -- She's the Waldorf housekeeper for those 7 of you not watching.

Perhaps Barack's bailout plan will save us all and none of this is cause for concern... More likely, though, we'll see an emergence of some new storylines, TV shows, and perhaps they (along with the bailout plan -- fingers crossed!!) will save their networks and our jobs.