In my relatively new married life, I’ve probably watched more television in the last four years than in the previous couple of decades. My downtime was limited back then, and I didn’t want to spend it immersing myself in the latest episode of “America’s Got Narcissism,” or whatever the newest little curiosity might be. It dawned on me a while back, however, that time spent watching television with my wife was, first and foremost, time spent with my wife. That alone makes the investment worthwhile.
Granted, I will never be a connoisseur of television entertainment. It takes less than 10 seconds of yet another “Chopped” episode to make me want to jump out the nearest window. But certain patterns do become apparent even to a semiconscious viewer.
This is nowhere more apparent than in various dramatic series wherein leftist must check off a litany of boxes to deem the program gutsy and brave. So it is on one show that, fresh after a tense surgery in which a patient’s life hangs precariously in the balance, two young male surgeons check into the nearest supply closet to make out like rabbits, all for our viewing pleasure.
Then there’s the brilliant and vivacious surgeon at the top of her specialty who’s been romping about with a hunky, young doctor fresh from central casting. She is now pregnant but can’t be sure who among her suitors is the father, although she seems drawn to a certain ex who most certainly is not the father but who is a nice guy after all.
At least I think I have that right. Come to think of it, I may be confusing her with another brilliant and vivacious surgeon who has already had a baby but who has fallen out with the father while a couple of her ex husbands or lovers or something are vying to get back in the running, just when — wouldn’t you know it — the baby is taking up precious time our surgeon would prefer to spend working at the hospital.
What to do? Maybe watching the 1,157th episode of “Chopped” wouldn’t be so bad after all, but I can only take so many grave pronouncements on the proper way to plop fresh arugula on a pile of something that would only look better if it were dipped in a trash can.
Woke TV Has Gotten Boring
Next come all the obligatory genuflections to this or that trendy cause, and no program genuflected more deeply or frequently than “Bluff City Law.” This is terribly distressing, given the stellar cast of the show, with the legendary Jimmy Smits leading the group as attorney Elijah Strait.
Set in Memphis, the series featured some prime views of local restaurants, hotels, music venues, and gorgeous panoramic shots of the city and the Hernando de Soto Bridge over the Mississippi River. In that respect, the program was like “NCIS: New Orleans,” which features incredible footage from the French Quarter and the Garden District. But the similarities end there.
“Bluff City Law” gives the game away in the first episode when, immediately following the death of his wife, defense attorney Strait prevails on his estranged daughter to leave her lucrative gig as a lawyer for villainous, high-priced corporations and join him in battle against the forces of evil — herein defined as anything that stands in the way of leftist orthodoxy. Indeed, the only things missing are the capes our heroes should be wearing each week as they successfully fight back against sinister corporations, a benighted Catholic Church, the First Amendment, a diabolical doctor, nefarious elements of the U.S. Army, and various other leftist straw men.
What started out as a program with the potential to highlight life in the Bluff City quickly degenerated into yet another effort to parody the church, large business, free speech, and anyone who fails to fall in line with latest leftist political epiphany. The crowning irony, of course, is that a program that dared not deviate from leftist ideas should be thought of as brave. Writing at Fangirlish.com, Lissete Lanuza Sáenz says, “Going against the church is a gutsy move, typical of the Straits, but one thing I learned from a catholic church upbringing is you never really win against the church.”
Well, yes, we are told, “[T]he gates of hell shall not prevail against it,” but I gather that’s not quite what Sáenz has in mind. What exactly is so “gutsy” about going up against an institution that nearly all popular culture routinely vilifies and mocks? That’s not gutsy. It’s banal. It’s underwhelming and overworked. It’s playing to tired stereotypes and is precisely the sort of predictable and platitudinous pablum that convinces people to reach for the remote.
The problem for the iconoclasts of the left is that, having nearly run out of societal pillars to deface and destroy, they’re reduced to swinging their clubs and breaking the remaining rubble into smaller pieces. The result is that they’re no longer iconoclasts. They’re just boring.
‘Bluff City Law’ Could Have Redeemed Itself with Reality
Want really gutsy programing? Try defending the rights of those who want to publish a cartoon of Muhammed. Show the relentless courage of upholding women’s rights to live free from beatings and assaults in communities where Sharia is prevalent. Show an intrepid legal team grappling with whether to defend Planned Parenthood against a lawsuit from the family of a young woman who died from a botched abortion.
Want to be edgy and audacious while taking on issues that matter in Memphis? Don’t just use the city as the backdrop. Instead, welcome real Memphis onto the program. When the characters take a walk in downtown Memphis to think deeply about court case drama, let the sounds of police sirens and fire truck airhorns jolt them back to reality as they ponder the existential question of where they might seek cover should they hear gunshots. When Jimmy Smits’s character goes strolling through Riverside Park, let him encounter a local thug who robs him and beats him within an inch of his life — just like what happens every day in Memphis.
And don’t stop with just an occasional criminal interruption in the Bluff City. How about an episode in which a public official, who is a friend of Smits’s character, is murdered during an armed robbery while leaving a late-night party? That actually happened here not long ago. What sort of drama will unfold when either a close friend of Smits or a member of his firm is appointed as a public defender for the murderer?
And what happens when someone shoots at a member of Smits’s law office while he is driving to work, leading other staff members to express concern about driving to and from work in a city that has experienced more than 50 roadway shootings in the last year with only a handful resulting in arrest? Let the joy of the staff’s sumptuous barbecue feast on Beale Street become tempered when the restaurant TV shows that the man who was just arrested for murdering his girlfriend and child in midtown is the same man these social justice warriors recently helped to escape jail time for a previous assault.
How would the grit and mortal danger of real life in Memphis affect our erstwhile heroes? Taking on those issues would require a spine of steel, raising the equally interesting question: Would the show still be around if its writers and producers had made the “gutsy” call to explore those realities?