Bothers and Sisters

Over the weekend I watched most of the episodes of the Brothers and Sisters, an evening soap produced for ABC TV (and available on the internet). It is a pretty standard "Thirtysomething" type show, starring Calista Flockhart and Sally Field, about an upper middle class family from Los Angeles. The show is mostly about family dynamics, made more interesting by the fact that the fictional Walker family owns a successful food distribution business. However, the Calista Flockhart character is not involved in the family business, but rather is a Republican media spokesperson for a fictional Republican Senator, played by Rob Lowe.

Brothers and Sisters is the first show that I have seen come out of Hollywood that makes an honest effort to depict Republican positions realistically. Granted the Sally Field character is an outspoken Democrat and that some of the major themes, including a heavy dose of anti-war content, are sympathetic to more left wing politics. But unlike West Wing or, come to think of it, any other show produced for broad consumption, this show actually gives Republicans a fair hearing. The show is the most balanced treatment of American politics I have ever seen on American television.

Here is an example. One of the characters in the family is a gay man. He is incensed when his sister takes a job with a Republican senator who voted for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Within the storyline it is explained that the senator actually had little interest in the bill, but knowing that it would fail, he traded his yes vote for Republican support of an education bill he was sponsoring.

When the gay brother confronts his sister on the vote, calling the senator a homophobe who "hates" gays (the standard line we hear from the left on this issue), the sister counters with an accurate distillation of the view that many on the right (including me) hold on gay marriage. She says that marriage should be treated as a private religious covenant and should not be sanctioned by the state. Additionally, she says that both heterosexuals and homosexuals should contract their private relationships through the same civil union statute.

Needless to say, I was shocked to hear such dialog from an American television show. Conservatives are so conditioned to expect left wing talking points from the entertainment media that it almost knocks us out of our chairs when conservative views are given a fair hearing. Further, I have seen Brothers and Sisters' lead writer on The Charlie Rose Show and he is clearly an upper West side liberal. So I give him all the more credit for seeking input from the political right so that he is able to build a conservative character with the kind of depth and nuance not often (if ever) seen on American television.

1 comments:

JP

7:52 PM

What's more amazing is that Jake was watching prime-time network TV programming...