ABC punctuates Grammer

Comedy pilot among spate of topical shows as nets let the bad times roll

During the economic crisis of the 1970s, television was ruled by procedural dramas, variety shows and socially relevant comedies.

Now, as the country is suffering the steepest economic downturn since then, primetime is still ruled by crime procedurals and the descendants of the old-fashioned variety shows, music and dance-themed reality series. What is missing are socially relevant comedies, something the networks are seriously looking at for next season.

There is a promising entry in the arena: an untitled comedy starring Kelsey Grammer and written by "Everybody Loves Raymond" exec producer Tucker Cawley.

ABC has ordered a pilot from the project, produced by Warner Bros. TV and Tom Werner's studio-based company Good Humor TV.

The half-hour reflects the harsh realities of the financial crisis as it centers on a hotshot Wall Street executive (Grammer) who loses his job and is forced to move back with his wife and kids to his hometown and reconnect with his family.

Grammer and Cawley, who have eight Emmys between them, are exec producing the project with Werner.

The financial crunch is definitely on the minds of TV creators this year.

Writer Jim Herzfeld recently set up "Changing Positions," a multicamera comedy at NBC that centers on a thirtysomething Wall Street guy who loses everything and is forced, along with his wife and their teen kids, to move in with his wealthy, sexually active parents.

The ABC project keeps Grammer in the network's fold after starring last year in ABC's comedy pilot "Roman's Empire." The actor, who played Dr. Crane on "Frasier" for 11 years, is repped by CAA and attorney Paul Mayersohn.

Cawley is repped by CAA and attorney Patti Felker. (partialdiff)