On the occasion of yesterday’s declaration that the U.S. economy is in a recession:

daisy-duke110. “The Dukes of Hazzard” (1979 to 1985). I don’t remember the Dukes talking about it much, but I don’t think Uncle Jesse would be in the moonshine business if the family wasn’t as poor as church mice. Daisy couldn’t even afford pants.

9. “The Waltons” (1972 to 1981). Another series that looked at economic hardships in a rural setting. By the way, I really didn’t intend to clump all the rural shows together (see next entry); that’s just how it worked out.

8. “Little House on the Prairie” (1974 to 1983). I didn’t watch this show closely, but Andrew persuaded me to include it. He recalls an episode where the Ingalls were bouncing off the little house’s walls because they could afford sugar and flour after making more money than expected on their crops. Sounds pretty poor to me.

7. “Battlestar Galactica” (2004 to 2009). Go ahead and make fun of me for including a science fiction show on this list, but I can’t think of another series that’s done a better job exploring class differences. Remember, the humans on this show are survivors of genocide. We regularly see refugees wearing little more than rags. That’s real poverty, even if it is in outer space.

all-in-the-family6. “All in the Family” (1971 to 1979). Like many shows on this list, “All in the Family” portrayed working class people, but that’s as close as you’re likely to come to poverty in prime time television. Archie and Meathead were more likely to clash over social injustices than economic ones, but the Bunkers were clearly a family of modest means.

5. “The Honeymooners” (1955 to 1956). I haven’t seen a lot of this sitcom (which continued for years as a series of variety show sketches after its cancellation), but I know Ralph and Alice Kramden regularly argued about money – or their lack of it, to be more precise.

4. “Roseanne” (1988 to 1997). For many, no show better epitomizes the plight of the American working class. The Conner household always seemed one paycheck away from complete economic collapse. What I liked about “Roseanne” is how it got the smallest details right, from the open pizza boxes on the kitchen table to the no-frills afghan draping the faded sofa in the living room.

3. “Good Times” (1974 to 1979). But only the early episodes, which chronicled the struggles of James and Florida Evans to provide for their children. I can recall a scene in which neighbor Willona Woods teaches Florida her complicated system of evading bill collectors – not the kind of thing we’ve seen a lot of in prime time. “Good Times” devolved into self parody after its first season, but those early episodes were an interesting attempt to mine humor from topics like unemployment, welfare and inner city schools.

2. “The PJs” (1999 to 2001). A spiritual descendent of “Good Times,” “The PJs” was a stop-motion animated series about life in a Detroit public housing complex. The broad comedy was tempered by the economic plight of the characters, which included a crackhead and a social worker from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Perhaps one reason for the show’s short life – it ran just three seasons – is that it debuted at the height of the nation’s Internet boom, when everyone was seemingly flying high.

the-wire1. “The Wire” (2002 to 2008). The cops on this show were working class Joes (and Janes), but “The Wire” also had its fair share of honest-to-goodness poverty. The low-level drug dealers seen on this series offered a rare glimpse into the desperate choices made by the impoverished. In fact, I’d say “The Wire” demonstrated the tragic link between poverty, urban decay and the American drug trade more effectively than any documentary or feature film.

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