(KGET) — There have been network television comedies dealing with those at the upper end of the economic scale as in the case of “Frasier.” There also have been shows looking at those at the lower end of the money as well with “The Connors.” Multiple series have been set in the financial middle.
The new ABC comedy, “Home Economics,” deals with those living in all three levels of the money strata. Three adult siblings include one in the upper one percent, one who is middle class and one barely holding. The series stars Topher Grace as Tom, Caitlin McGee as Sarah, Jimmy Tatro as Connor, Karla Souza as Marina and Sasheer Zamata as Denise.
Inspiration for “Home Economics” came from the real‑life experience of Michael Colton, who created the series with John Aboud. They came up with the idea at a time when both were going through a very tough period where they could not get writing jobs.
Colton saw the money differences when he was collecting unemployment at the same time his twin brother was selling a company for $7 million. His sister had a job in social work but never seemed to have enough money.
Colton says, “It was just all of these feelings of anxiety mixed with pride, mixed with jealousy and insecurity. We realized this has the makings of a show. And so many shows focus on rich families or blue‑collar families, but we haven’t really seen one where you saw all of these different levels within one family.”
Colton and Aboud had previously worked together as writers on a variety of projects including the television series “Leverage” and the film “Penguins of Madagascar.” During their years as a writing team they had talked about trying to come up with the next great family situation comedy.
They knew they wanted to use their lives as fodder for the show. That was coupled with the pair being huge fans of “Modern Family” and the blueprint for “Home Economics” was created.
Aboud says, “We’ve been fans of ‘Modern Family’ forever. But when you look at those three families and how those stories intersect, you look at their houses, all of those guys are rich. They are not dealing with any financial troubles on there. They are set.
“So we wanted to do a family where there were different levels.”
Helping tell their tri-level story is Topher Grace who not only stars in the series but is an executive producer. This is the first starring role in a network comedy for Grace since “That ‘70s Show” ended in 2006.
Grace was willing to jump back into a comedy series only if the idea was right and the team behind the show felt like a good fit. He found both with Colton and Aboud. Once he agreed to be part of the show, the team spent a year putting the right cast together and getting the show ready.
All of the work was important for Grace because he had a fear of going back to network television.
“It’s not something I necessarily thought I would do, and my agent did a tricky thing, which he sent me the pilot without the cover page on it,” Grace says. “I just read it, and I thought, this is great. And then, when I looked back, I said, ‘Oh, I guess there aren’t any swears in that.’
“But I really fell in love with the characters and the writers.”
The nervousness for Grace lasted about 48 hours. What calmed him down was the cast he describes as a “dream team.” That’s an area he understands having worked with such a strong ensemble on “That ‘70s Show” for so many years. He knows a cast either has immediate chemistry or they never will have it. Grace quickly found that connection with the “Home Economics” team.
A strong connection will be necessary because the basis of the show has to do with money. That can be a very delicate situation especially for those who don’t have any.
McGee plays the sibling facing the biggest money problems of the three. She’s convinced there’s only one way to discuss the economic inequalities of the world.
“I think that it’s super important to talk very honestly about this stuff. The country is going through a very interesting time right now,” McGee says. “People within their own families are struggling, and helping each other out. And I think that, at the core of our show, and in many families, is that love and support of family members is what gets you through job loss.”
“Home Economics” launches at 8:30 p.m. April 7 on ABC. If you miss the opener, episodes also can be viewed the next day on demand and on Hulu.