Lately I’ve been obsessed by TV shows with a political flavour.
The funny thing is in my everyday life I’m a rather apolitical citizen; voting on issues, not for a specific party. Apparently, that’s a trait of my generation (read North-American, Millenial). Hereby, I quote:
“Until the bombing of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, Generations X and Y experienced few defining historic moments. They were raised in a time of relative peace and prosperity in the United States, perhaps lessening the need for immediate political action. The political ethos during their lifetimes has been characterized by declining political engagement. Widespread social movements have petered out. Single-issue advocacy groups now dominate the political scene.”
– From Will They Engage? Political Knowledge, Participation and Attitudes of Generations X and Y, by S. Soule, 2001, p.1
In fact, we’ve been accused of voter apathy. According to Putnam, when one looks at the incidence of voting in national elections, since a “high point in the early 1960’s, voter turnout by 1990 [has] declined by nearly a quarter” (Putnam 1995: 67). This didn’t start with us however, GenXers were doing it before us, and Baby Boomers before them… (Yes, Baby Boomers). “Compared to Baby Boomers, GenXers are even less likely to follow the news, have lower voter registration rates and report lower levels of always voting”, write Baehart and Nagler (2009:9). It’s just that we, Millenials or GenYers “are the absolute lowest” (9). That’s why we have ‘Rock the Vote’. Except, that’s not the whole truth to it; we’re not always apathetic and indifferent. The 2008 United States general election, “saw the highest overall voter turnout since 1968” (Potteiger 2011). Remember “Change”? It should be however noted that the 2008 US election had one distinctive characteristic, mainly that its anticipated outcome greatly divided the population. Overall, you may wonder, why does this matter? Because “[b]y 2016, Millenials will be the single largest block by age” (Potteiger 2011). Yes, I know, that worries me too.
To get back to my original topic, here’s my pick of interesting Political TV Fictions, which does not include The West Wing (it would be all too obvious), which I hope encompasses a large spectrum of entertainment with lighter to denser political content.
1) Scandal (2012- )
Olivia Pope (played by Kerry Washington) is the most sought after ‘Fixer’ in Washington D.C. Plagued with an impending scandal on your hands, need damage control? Fear not, she’s your person. In part based on the real crisis manager Judy Smith and created by Shonda Rhimes, who brought us Grey’s Anatomy, this series is charged with highs and lows that will make you grab on to your seat and wait anxiously for the next episode. The White Hat is on.
2) Political Animals (2012)
Created by Greg Berlanti, this six-episodes miniseries follows the lives of the Hammond family, more precisely, the political career of Secretary of State Elaine Barrish. Often drawing from reality (the similarities with previous Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, are undeniable), Political Animals is an interesting look at the backstage of political lives and what it costs to be a public citizen. With Sigourney Weaver. Also, killer intro theme.
3) Jack & Bobby (2004-2005)
(Or ‘there used to be a time when the youth portrayed on TV could be inspirational’).
If you could get a peek at the path least travelled, would you want to know which littlest things can shape a man into becoming the President of the United States? This series is built partly as a fictional documentary retracing the political life of President McCallister, partly as a succession of flashbacks into his teenage years.
Starring Christine Lahti, Logan Lerman, Matt Long, Jessica Paré, John Slattery.
4) Newsroom (2012- )
Technically, not a political tv series in the strict sense, but what would be a selection of political fiction without the mention of some work by Aaron Sorkin? With its incisive critic of US politics and its proficient use of witty repartee, Newsroom can be considered as one of those future classics. Drawing from real news event, but reporting them with the wisdom of hindsight, this series was already attracting polemic at its infancy stage (which, if you ask me, when done intelligently, can be deemed the mark of a good show). Additionally, it is possible that Newsroom may have the strongest, most poignant opening sequence in the history of pilot episodes. Here’s to hoping that being served with a dose of “romanticised, idealised newsroom” (Mulkerrins 2012) can inspire us all to be more informed, idealistic and passionate citizens.
Starring: Jeff Daniels, Emily Mortimer, John Gallagher Jr., Alison Pill, Olivia Munn.
Lastly, allow me to ask:
Baehart H. and P. Nagler. (2009, September 30). “A New Generation, A New Engagement?” In 2009 Presidential Citizens Scholars Program, PACE (Institute for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement). Salisbury University, Salisbury, Maryland.
Mulkerrins, J. (July 10, 2012). “Aaron Sorkin, interview”. The Telegraph. Retrieved September 6, 2012
Potteiger, J. (2011, June 17). “Will Gen Y Vote in 2012?” Retrieved December 3, 2013, from http://www.thenextgreatgeneration.com/2011/06/will-gen-y-vote-in-2012/
Putnam, R. (1995). “Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital,” Journal of Democracy, 65-78.
Soule, S. (2001). “Will They Engage? Political Knowledge, Participation and Attitudes of Generations X and Y”. In 2001 German and American Conference, “Active Participation or a Retreat to Privacy.”