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Recession-Friendly Television

With the fall TV season underway, networks and cable channels are trying to connect with viewers on the hot topics right now. That means financial uncertainty is front and center; protagonists struggle to make ends meet and pursue new careers. And it’s no surprise that in this era of Bernie Madoff, ponzi schemers and corrupt CEOs and politicians are the villains viewers love to hate.

“Roseanne” is the ultimate example of tough times yielding huge TV hits. The show debuted in 1988 as unemployment rates were picking up, giving a comedic, but realistic take on a working class family living on a budget. It was the most watched TV show in the US from 1989 to 1990, in the top four for six of its nine seasons. A gold mine for ABC, where the show aired; now it continues to air in syndication.

Now there’s more pressure to program a Roseanne-style hit than ever. Advertiser dollars are being lured to more targeted cable programming, and ad rates are slipping. Last year the TV networks failed to find many new hits last year, in part because the the 100-day writers strike curtailed pilot season. So now, returning shows like Law and Order and NCIS weave headlines through story lines. But it's the new fall shows that make fiscally-conscious themes pivotal to plots.

Does it work? Relatable or Annoying? Read up on them and then take the poll for each show:

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1-"Hank" – ABC

Starring Kelsey Grammer, "Hank" follows a tycoon who loses his job atop a sporting goods company - pushed back by the board of directors in a hostile takeover -- and moves back home to Virginia to cope. Fish-out-of-water scenarios for the unemployed chief executive abound.

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2- “The Good Wife” — CBS

This series takes its inspiration from Eliot Spitzer's infidelities: The high-profile husband cheats on his wife, played by Julianna Margulies. The financial realities kick in when "The Good Wife" goes back to work, looking to for a second act.

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3- “Hung” – HBO

This new HBO series launched this summer is set in recession-ravaged Detroit. The star, cash-strapped, a high school coach, becomes a male prostitute to pay the bills.


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4- “The Middle” — ABC

The struggling auto industry again plays a role in "The Middle," as a Midwestern mom juggles life and work -- a job at the town's last car dealership

5- “Melrose Place” — CW

Again, tough economic times push leading characters to unsavory professions. The medical intern learns that her dad has lost job and she has to pay for her school on her own. An offer from a rich businessman gets her started selling sex.


6-“Shark Tank” – ABC

How could the TV producer who brought us the Apprentice and Survivor -- Mark Burnett -- resist upping the competitive "shark tank" of this post-financial meltdown era. Everyday entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to five multi-millionaires -- including frequent CNBC guest Barbara Corcoran -- trying to get them to invest in the business ideas.

7- "White Collar" - USA

This upcoming show aims to take us inside the mind of one of this recession's bad guys -- a better looking, younger, Madoff-in-training con-Artist. He teams up with the Feds to help catch other white-collar criminals.

So, now you've read about these shows (or maybe even watched them) tell us what do you think, are they relatable or not?

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com