Television: The New Class Action

In the post-Enron era, prime time rediscovers that the rich and the poor really are different

In America, rich and poor, like partisan and bad driver, are terms we reserve for people besides ourselves. Ask a banker and a burger flipper, and they will both tell you that they're middle-class. So it is too on TV. Once, prime time had populist fun with the differences between rich and poor Americans (The Beverly Hillbillies, Good Times, Dallas). But by the late 1990s, both struggling workers and scheming, zillionaire J.R. types had become fewer, replaced by the characters in middle-class soaps (Dawson's Creek) and the cappuccino-quaffing likes of Frasier, Friends and Will & Grace; we were one nation under...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!