A bit of cultural observation
After spending the holidays binge watching Justified, I have come to the conclusion that we are in the golden age of dramatic television. In between Blacklist, Walking Dead, Homeland, Breaking Bad, Justified, we have shows with developed characters, reasonably believable plots, non preachy dialog, and real actors. The fact that more are on cable speaks volumes, but even the networks are beginning to see that there is only so much demand for reality shows.
I don’t recall growing up with the same quality of dramatic television. In fact for the most part the great drama actors limited themselves to the big screen. While NYPD Blue and St Elsewhere were decent shows they didn’t have near the depth of writing that we see today. On the other hand I recall lots of great comedy growing up from Mash, Monty Python, early SNL, Taxi, to the Bob Newhart show.
Where is that great comedy today? The only comedy I find consistently remotely watchable is Big Bang Theory. Off the top of my head I can’t think of any other must watch comedies. I’ve tried a few, but they all seem to have nothing but sex jokes. Not that sex can’t be funny, most of my attempts certainly have been. But one can only take so much locker room humor in public.
When I think back to those 70’s comedies, they all seemed to have one thing in common. They made fun of “the man”. They weren’t afraid to make fun of cultural norms, excesses, or the hypocrisies of the cultural and societal elites. I suspect that the reason we see so little of that today is twofold. One, many of our elites take themselves far too seriously. They aren’t just trying to make the planet cleaner they are “saving” the planet, one Prius at a time.
And two, Hollywood IS those elites. for years our cultural criticism took place from the outside of the halls of power. Now the studio heads and producers are on the inside, and they are far too serious to make fun of themselves. Speaking the truth to power is kind of hard to do when your busy hosting campaign fundraisers. It’s kind of hard to make fun of “the Man” when you are the man.