9 Great TV Shows That Subvert the Right-Wing Worldview
Photo Credit: Fox Network
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Culture is a flashpoint for social change, both a mirror and a catalyst for our world, and primetime network television is the medium with the greatest reach. Over 290 million people own a television in the United States (that's over twice as many people as those who voted in the 2008 presidential election) and as a primary source of entertainment for most Americans, any sort of progressive politics on the major stations is going to have an impact. Not to mention the over 140 million Americans who watch television on the internet, whether through providers like Hulu, YouTube, and Netflix, or through good old fashioned video platforms on websites with domain names registered in unregulated countries. The average American tends to watch television about 35 hours a week total on both platforms—that's close to a full-time job. You could see why anybody would want to get into the TV racket, but if you're a showrunner with a political point of view, nudging in on primetime is particularly advantageous for spreading your ideals.
Television show runners tend to not be as overall progressive as Hollywood, but there's so much room for growth—witness how "M.A.S.H." and "All in the Family" reflected the changing times in the '70s, for instance, or how putting an upper-class, normal black family on television affected racial understanding with "The Cosby Show." Average blue-collar families—and feminists, and gays—were given a voice by the likes of "Roseanne" throughout the '90s, while Xena, Warrior Princess portrayed a feminist (and lesbian?) superhero kicking ass. More recently, "Scandal" portrays an openly, nonchalantly gay (and married!) Presidential Chief of Staff, and recently "Parks and Recreation" has followed the city council campaign of Amy Poehler's feminist patriot Leslie Knope. As we enter the fall season, there are a number of new shows on the networks that reflect our shifting values as a society—and their very existence is a counterpoint to conservative values. But the goal posts have shifted, and while conervatives moves ever right, our primetime cultural braintrust is loosening up.
Here are some older shows that classically pissed off conservatives, plus some newer TV shows that subvert conservative values by espousing change or progressive values.
1. The New Normal. Fall is full of "Parenthood"-invoking, nontraditional family situations—the aforementioned, and also brother-sister tearjerker "Ben & Kate"—but this one is the show most likely to freak out conservatives. Because the "new normal" is a stable family situation comprised of a young single mom who agrees to be a surrogate for her gay male neighbors who want to be fathers. (Also, NeNe Leakes in the trailer, preaching on race relations like a boss.) Another tearjerker, we can smell the markers drying on the Westboro Baptist picket signs from here, but fuck 'em: this is our present and our future, and it's about time we had a show depicting how gay parents can be every bit as loving and stable as straight ones.
2. Partners. This new CBS jam from the creators of Will and Grace evolves the gay-friendship theme into 2012: the partners of the title are best friends Joe (straight) and Michael (gay), making the point that prime-time is ready for male-on-male friendships that don't necessarily have to be based on their stupid fantasy football teams or their shared inability to raise kids. Clearly, the amount of gay-friendly programming this season is going to be a huge point of contention for intolerant oldsters, but for them, there's always reruns of "Dynasty." Oh, wait! One of the gayest TV dramas ever made! Sorry, homophobes, you're out of luck.
3. 666 Park Avenue. Have you ever felt like the 1 percent is totally demonic? Yeah, this show does too. Starring Vanessa Williams and Locke from Lost as a filthy-rich couple who owns a hellish apartment building with a Manhattan status-address, this show looks like it will be a Twilight Zone for those in the top income tax bracket. It profiles a series of hyper-wealthy characters who live at the address and live their lavish lives for the sole reason that by moving in, they signed a contract with Lucifer. Delicious. At a time when many wealthy conservatives are trying to promote the narrative that their vampire capitalism is just a part of good-old, American, up-by-your-bootstraps manifest destiny—and trying to convince us that Mitt Romney's secrecy about his tax returns is just because of his modest sense of privacy—the last thing the 1 percent wants is for the middle- and working-class to have a fantastical validation of our disdain for them on primetime ABC every week. They won't protest, because they're sitting pretty in their own Park Ave apartments—but it's so nice to have a revenge fantasy on primetime. The difference between the show and reality, though, is that on 666 Park Avenue, extreme greed has consequences.