Is American TV Finally Facing Reality? 6 New TV Shows Bring Real Economic Struggle Into Your Living Room
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4. A Gifted Man
You might not expect a television show about a man who's being visited from beyond by his dead ex-wife to be specifically class-oriented, but “A Gifted Man” is probably the most explicit one on this list. Patrick Wilson plays a super-talented, super-rich surgeon who’s been privileged from birth, and thoroughly enjoys his luxurious lifestyle. But when the ghost of the aforementioned deceased implores him to volunteer at her former place of employment, a free medical clinic administering healthcare to the impoverished and underprivileged, he necessarily has a life change. The real clincher: can a materialistic jerk change his lifestyle and send some compassion out into the world? Talk about an amazing-looking show, particularly when it depicts the realities of the healthcare crisis: crowded waiting rooms, festering illnesses and the like.
This one’s less obvious... but if a thriller about a girl who moves to the Hamptons to unleash hell upon the bourgeois community that killed her parents sounds like a subtle allegory for class war to you, it might be time to set the DVR.
6. The Playboy Club
Right now you’re probably like, are you kidding? And certainly, on paper, NBC’s ridiculous, unrealistic resurrection of Hugh Hefner’s 1960s Playboy Club looks like a grody, revisionist history glamorization of the real-life version that helped drive Gloria Steinem to feminism. But the show is clearly meant to snag “Mad Men” fans and is certainly ripped from its template. There was already a great storyline involving the Playboy Club in that show, and the "Playboy Club" theme song sounds like a generic version of the one in “Mad Men.” So if they rip off ideas from its script, as well, they’ll conceivably highlight the horrible class disparities between single women and men in that era, showing that there were few options in the way of gainful employment available to women, and some of the most lucrative were very degrading. Certainly the early preview alludes to that element in the premise—women being bewildered at making as much money as their fathers—and frankly it does look deeper than many have assumed, dealing with rape, racism and sexism just in the trailer. And it's a reminder that the disparity still exists, that even in 2011, the jobless rate among women has risen as men’s has declined.
Julianne Escobedo Shepherd is an associate editor at AlterNet and a Brooklyn-based freelance writer and editor. Formerly the executive editor of The FADER, her work has appeared in VIBE, SPIN, New York Times and various other magazines and websites.