Pop Culture Intervention

‘Roseanne’ Isn’t The Only TV Show To Depict Working Class Families. Here Are 7 Others.

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At A Plus, we're addicted to pop culture, and Pop Culture Intervention brings that obsession to the soapbox. Through this series, we'll recommend what you should be watching, reading or listening to; explore how arts and entertainment affect us; and interpret the important messages contained within various works.

The entertainment world has been shaken this week over the cancellation of the Roseanne revival after the show's namesake, Roseanne Barr, unleashed some racist tweets directed at Valerie Jarrett. There had long been controversy around Barr's social media presence, but it was this instance that was the last straw for ABC.

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In the wake of this surprising development, many have been lamenting where they will be able to watch a TV show about a working class family dealing with all of life's ups and downs. Some are speaking as if there are no other options in what is considered the Golden Age of Television. If you think Roseanne is the only show to depict working class families — either in its original run from 1988 to 1997 or the 2018 revival — you're missing out on one of many to do so and do it well.

Throughout the history of TV there have been many series that have given a voice to working families, from the likes of All in the Family, Roc, and The Middle, just to name a few. In fact, the following seven shows are still running and have made a name for themselves, with both critics and viewers alike, by being dynamic additions to the pop culture zeitgeist and centering on working class families. Check them out here:

"Bob’s Burgers"

Bob's Burgers, created by Loren Bouchard and Jim Dauterive, is an animated series on Fox that focuses on the Belcher family, led by the titular Bob (H. Jon Benjamin), who owns a burger restaurant, and Linda (John Roberts), who is one of our favorite TV moms. Their children — Tina (Dan Mintz), Gene (Eugene Mirman), and Louise (Kristen Schaal) — keep things lively with their wild antics and adventures. Throughout the run of the Emmy-winning series, we have seen the Belcher family deal with many everyday issues American families face, some of which revolve around their realistic and relatable financial reality.

"Fresh Off the Boat"

New to Orlando from Washington, D.C., Fresh Off the Boat (created by Nahnatchka Khan) follows the Huang family, which is led up by parents Louis (Randall Park) and Jessica (Constance Wu). They are navigating life with their three sons — Eddie (Hudson Yang), Emery (Forrest Wheeler), and Evan (Ian Chen) — as well as Grandma Jenny (Lucille Soong). They live in suburbia and own a Western steakhouse restaurant (named Cattleman's Ranch), never living beyond their means. With Fresh Off the Boat, we see solid representation of the Asian-American experience — especially of first- and second-generation immigrants — and turning a derogatory phrase into the title of a relatable TV series title.

"Insecure"

Insecure makes the cut because we're not only highlighting biological families here, as sometimes the family you find is just as good as — if not better than — the one you're born into. This HBO series follows Issa (Issa Rae) as she navigates her life in Los Angeles with friends like Molly (Yvonne Orji) and a relationship with Lawrence (Jay Ellis). While Molly is a successful lawyer, Issa and Lawrence are more on the hustle side as the former works at a nonprofit and the latter was unemployed for a bit. The couple lived modestly in a neighborhood that's clearly going through gentrification, with that being just one of the social and racial issues shown from the contemporary Black experience in the U.S. that the show explores.

"Jane the Virgin"

Another Latinx masterpiece on TV is Jane the Virgin, a CW series loved by critics and fans alike. We focus on Jane (Gina Rodriguez), an aspiring writer who becomes pregnant after accidentally being artificially inseminated with Rafael's (Justin Baldoni) sperm. That's just the kicking-off point, though, as this is really a telenovela that's all about family — notably Jane's mom Xo (Andrea Navedo), Jane's grandmother Alba (Ivonne Coll), Rafael's ex Petra (Yael Grobglas), Jane's first love Michael (Brett Dier), and Jane's long-lost father Rogelio (Jaime Camil). This is a working class family because, at one point, four generations were living under one roof. Plus, Rafael has gone from being a wealthy playboy to working at the hotel he used to own. Jane, in both relationships with Michael and with Rafael, is budget-conscious when looking at where to live in Miami. Another show that has heart, laughter, and gets serious sometimes with important topics.

"One Day at a Time"

One Day at a Time is a reboot of Norman Lear's 1975 sitcom of the same name, updating the original by putting the focus on a Cuban-American family. The Netflix version (created by Gloria Calderon Kellett and Mike Royce) follows a single, working mother named Penelope (Justina Machado) who is doing the best she can to make ends meet while raising two kids — Elena (Isabella Gomez) and Alex (Marcel Ruiz) — with the help of her mother Lydia (EGOT winner Rita Moreno), and very-involved landlord Schneider (Todd Grinnell). The show, while full of laughs, also highlights social issues such as Penelope's PTSD and depression as an Army vet, Elena's coming out, Alex experiencing racism, and Lydia becoming an American citizen.

"Speechless"

If there's one show that really keeps its central family grounded, it would be Speechless, created by Scott Silveri. The DiMeo family — parents Jimmy (John Ross Bowie) and Maya (Minnie Driver) — is constantly keeping it real on a low budget. Their main focus is their oldest son J.J., who has nonverbal cerebral palsy, but they also have another son, Ray (Mason Cook), and a daughter, Dylan (Kyla Kenedy). The actor who portrays J.J., Micah Fowler, has cerebral palsy as well but is able to communicate verbally with effort. The family moves to a shabby house in a good school district so J.J. can get access to an aide, Kenneth (Cedric Yarbrough). Cutting corners and making it work is this family's modus operandi — and they do it with flair.

"Superstore"

Superstore, an NBC series created by Justin Spitzer, is another great example of how family doesn't have to just be those you're related to — it can be those who you choose to spend your time with. This show follows a ragtag group of employees at a big-box store named Cloud 9 and their daily antics, talking about issues such as race, economic status, gender equality, and immigration. It's perhaps the most diverse collection of characters on this list — featuring the likes of America Ferrera, Ben Feldman, Lauren Ash, Colton Dunn, Nico Santos, and Mark McKinney — and runs the gamut in terms of providing a true representation of what the U.S. looks like. That, friends, is a refreshing thing to see on TV these days.

Cover image: Adam Rose / NBC

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