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What Would Ainsley Watch?
September 25, 2012 1:38 AM   Subscribe

What is(are) the Republican/conservative/libertarian equivalent(s) of The West Wing ?

(i.e. popular fictional narrative-based TV entertainment show and excluding explicitly political-text works like the movie trilogy of Atlas Shrugged)

The closest thing I can think of is 24 (which has been celebrated by panels at rightwing thinktanks for instance)... which I guess counts but are there any non-action driven ones?
posted by Bwithh to Media & Arts (38 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Yes Minister would be one.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:10 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't know about Republican or Libertarian, but for Conservative, maybe House of Cards.
posted by pompomtom at 2:44 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ben Shapiro’s The Right TV: the 12 best conservative TV shows shapes up as follows:

12. Lost
11. Walker, Texas Ranger
10. South Park
09. Everybody Loves Raymond
08. King of the Hill
07. The Waltons
06. Gunsmoke
05. Dragnet
04. Leave it to Beaver
03. Magnum, P.I.
02. The Cosby Show
01. 24
posted by misteraitch at 3:01 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just because Hank Hill was conservative it didn't make the show conservative. KotH was about as left of the fence as television gets.
posted by item at 4:42 AM on September 25, 2012 [10 favorites]


Just because Hank Hill was conservative it didn't make the show conservative. KotH was about as left of the fence as television gets.

I disagree. Hank Hill was rarely made out to be a buffoon because of his Republicanism, nor was anyone else a straw man for the other side. KOTH was a centrist show, giving us a good look at various sides of political debates and the actual human beings who believe things we don't.

Of course, I also think that it's the most underrated show of its generation, so I admit bias on this front.
posted by Etrigan at 4:50 AM on September 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


The short-lived Commander-in-Chief attempted to do this, as the presidential party was Republican/moderate Republican, however it was so focused on the fact that the president was omg female that it bombed with virtually everyone.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 5:15 AM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I will have to disagree with the suggestions for 24. Depending on what seasons you watch, it's not always Republican friendly.

For example:

Season 2 - Jack must stop an illegal war for oil and keep the evil military industrial complex from impeaching David Palmer - the noble Democratic senator-turned president (who is now compared to Obama) - for opposing the war. The terrorists in the first half are a right-wing white supremacist group.

Season 5 - The bumbling but secretly evil Republican president wants to start a war in central Asia for natural resources/oil.

Seasons 1, 3, 7, and 8 weren't terribly political either way. Season 6 was bi-polar and frankly a mess beyond the first four episodes but I remember it receiving flack from its conservative fanbase for having Jack team up with Alexander Siddig's reformed terrorist to stop a nuclear threat.

Season 4, however, is a neo-con wet dream. Torture is awesome! Jack's girlfriend is a blonde member of the Heritage Foundation! Terrorists are hiding EVERYWHERE. Noble Republican president! Badass Republican Senator-type dad of Jack's girlfriend. And so on. Also, it's stand-alone so you don't really need to watch the previous season to follow it.
posted by GadgetryOwl at 5:45 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


This might be kind of a non-answer, but I think that lists like Shapiro's and discussions at think tanks do a great job of highlighting the way that people interpret the media they consume to reinforce their existing worldview.

I mean, The Cosby Show? I think of that one less as a conservative show, and more about a family living in a diverse city, headed by two equal partners, both of whom worked outside the home, raising their children with a heavy emphasis on education and an immersion in black culture (what do you think all the HBCUs and jazz musician cameos were for?)

There are people on the right who see any show with a gay character as pushing some kind of radical agenda, even when that character is a stereotypical caricature. And I'm far enough to the left that I find most tv shows gender-normative and insufficiently interested in critiquing capitalism. Sometimes when people watch television, they can't help but see themselves reflected back.
posted by box at 6:00 AM on September 25, 2012 [13 favorites]


Boss
posted by Kruger5 at 6:37 AM on September 25, 2012


I'm not sure Yes Minister truly qualifies as a "conservative" version of TV, given a) it was satirical and b) it strenuously avoided political labels for the most part. Indeed, from the wikipedia link above:

The series, then, intended to satirise politics and government in general, rather than any specific party. The writers placed Hacker at the centre of the political spectrum, and were careful to identify his party headquarters as "Central House" (a combination of Conservative Central Office and Labour's Transport House). The terms "Labour" and "Conservative" are scrupulously avoided throughout the series, favouring terms such as "the party" or "the Government" and "the opposition".[1] In the first scene of the first episode, "Open Government", Hacker is shown at the declaration of his constituency result wearing a white rosette, with other candidates sporting the red and blue rosettes associated with the two leading British parties. The one exception to this neutrality occurs very briefly in "The National Education Service", when Sir Humphrey explains to Bernard how the policy of comprehensive education is retained through successive governments, using different arguments according to which party is in power. Even there, Humphrey does not reveal which party Jim Hacker represents. Despite this, the overall thrust was towards government reduction rather than expansion. The episode "Jobs for the Boys", for example, rejected corporatism. Throughout the period of Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister the incumbent government of the United Kingdom was Conservative with the government led by Thatcher.

The West Wing was much more explicit in its political values, whereas Yes Minister was by and large much more vague. I think a 'conservative' version of the West Wing would need to be equally explicit in its values.
posted by modernnomad at 7:01 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I mean, The Cosby Show? I think of that one less as a conservative show, and more about a family living in a diverse city, headed by two equal partners, both of whom worked outside the home, raising their children with a heavy emphasis on education and an immersion in black culture (what do you think all the HBCUs and jazz musician cameos were for?)

They did one entire show on Mrs. Huxtable going to an auction to purchase an $11,000 painting. It was a painting by a posthumously renowned Black artist but still, who in their audience would they have been trying to appeal to with that? Odds are Mr. and Mrs. Huxtable would have been pointedly seen in the audience at the RNC.

Boss

Really? I know the star of the Boss is conservative but show takes place in Chicago.
posted by fuse theorem at 7:08 AM on September 25, 2012


Really? I know the star of the Boss is conservative but show takes place in Chicago.

On the surface, not so obvious. It is a deeply conservative show (politically conservative).
posted by Kruger5 at 7:28 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


They did one entire show on Mrs. Huxtable going to an auction to purchase an $11,000 painting. It was a painting by a posthumously renowned Black artist but still, who in their audience would they have been trying to appeal to with that? Odds are Mr. and Mrs. Huxtable would have been pointedly seen in the audience at the RNC.

They also made a point of showing that the Cosbys came from very little (Cliff couldn't afford a plastic bracelet when they were dating) and made good through hard work, which is a traditional conservative value. However -- I didn't get the impression that they were interested in closing the door behind them.
posted by sweetkid at 7:55 AM on September 25, 2012


I think South Park actually counts as libertarian - which means that they mock everyone of course, but still, I think they count...
posted by HopStopDon'tShop at 8:10 AM on September 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


Here's a list from Conservapedia. Some themes: period shows, family shows, shows set in small towns or rural areas, Westerns.
posted by box at 8:34 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would say that Diff'rent Strokes was more conservative than the Cosby Show. Nancy Reagan made a guest appearance (and the premise is basically "Rich White Dude helps out Poor Black Kids").
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:53 AM on September 25, 2012


I always thought The Thick of It as a pretty conservative show, despite that the protagonists are all mostly Labour (although they never say so) and the antagonists are Tories (although they never say so), because, whereas the overall theme of the West Wing was how the government can do good, The Thick of It just showcases how incompetent the government is at doing anything.

P.S. It's also one of the funniest shows ever made.
posted by General Malaise at 9:24 AM on September 25, 2012


Jericho always struck me as incredibly conservative in its values.
posted by LN at 9:31 AM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Your best bet is probably going to be with science fiction universes, because they can camouflage enough to be palatable for everyone.

Thus, I think in some ways Battlestar Galactica is the most conservative show politically that I can think of offhand. There's a lot of politics that wind up being very right-wing, just after major terrorist acts and in the middle of a war, which includes bombing potential civilians just to make sure they don't have any cylons aboard, torture, etc.
posted by corb at 9:41 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think in some ways Battlestar Galactica is the most conservative show politically that I can think of offhand.

Agreed. The show was very well done — and I watched it to the end — but around about the middle of the second season I realized that [MILD SPOILERS] the character embodying science was a sniveling buffoon, the character embodying the media was a fifth-columnist, and the noblest characters on the show were largely defined by their religiosity and their dedication to their military duty, respectively.
posted by Johnny Assay at 10:14 AM on September 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


Totally Jericho. Small-town Midwestern values and lots of guns save the day!
posted by xedrik at 11:24 AM on September 25, 2012


I agree with the BS:G assessment. I also think there's a lot of conflating of shows that promote(d) "traditional values", which pretty much covers all of network TV pre-2000, with true Big-C-Conservative politics.

fuse theorem: "They did one entire show on Mrs. Huxtable going to an auction to purchase an $11,000 painting. It was a painting by a posthumously renowned Black artist but still, who in their audience would they have been trying to appeal to with that? Odds are Mr. and Mrs. Huxtable would have been pointedly seen in the audience at the RNC."

You do know there are plenty of well-off liberals, right?
posted by mkultra at 11:42 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sticking with the Cosby/24 issue, conservatives in particular feel that they are not well-represented in the media, thus they are likely to be adept at teasing out the aspects of shows that they like while dismissing aspects that don't fit their worldview as well. (This is somewhat akin to the way in which minorities often have to engage with mainstream culture.) In point of fact, while it was running, Cosby was often considered a liberal show just because of the black characters, but it was also often criticized for being a sanitized reality because they were a wealthy doctor's family. Episodes such as the one about the painting were meant as answers to their critics that the show wasn't "black enough".

Whether or not both these shows had elements that map to the liberal worldview (such as the pre-Obama black Presidency of David Palmer), they were both deeply conservative in their overall values. Conservatives identify with the family unit expression and the way that a present father is imparting moral values to his children. {Notably, Cosby has also gotten some latter-day cred as a critic of black culture. This is not as evident in the show but affects the perception of it.} Conservatives love the national security apparatus and the concept of the paragon of American values (Jack Bauer) being someone who goes above and beyond the law as needed.

Anyway, one thing that mainstream viewers aren't aware of is that there is an entire alternative right-wing culture out there, with its own movies -- whether or not they're explicitly labeled "Christian" -- music and, of course, books and talk radio. My cousins grew up going to a Christian school and not only did they have their own textbooks there but there were catalogs, video presentations and the like to disseminate this cultural material, much of it virtually invisible to the rest of America.
posted by dhartung at 11:51 AM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Walking Dead doesn't involve much politics, but its social attitudes and gender roles are far-right. Or at least, they were; I stopped watching it after the second season.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 11:51 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Armando Iannucci would be incredibly sad that anyone thought of The Thick of It as a conservative show! But I do think this makes the larger point that the "both sides are equally flawed" theme tends to further the status quo because it fosters apathy.

As for "The Cosby Show" being conservative because the Huxtables are well-off, that makes no sense at all. Clair Huxtable was a working mum who made more money than her husband; issues like drug use and teen pregnancy were addressed without shaming or moralizing; the Huxtables are graduates of Historically Black Colleges (the fictional "Hillman", where the spinoff "A Different World" was set); leaders of the Civil Rights movement were evoked as models of bravery and achievement. It was a thoroughgoingly bourgeois, centrist show that someone like Rick Santorum or Pat Robertson would shudder at.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:18 PM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Walking Dead doesn't involve much politics, but its social attitudes and gender roles are far-right.

Try the new season. It looks like they're going to (MILD SPOILER) introduce Michonne, a woman of color who kicks quite a bit of ass in the comics (I'm not caught up on the comics, so I don't know whether she continues to be a decent role model).
posted by Etrigan at 12:22 PM on September 25, 2012


Thinking about this further, I think Conservative nostalgia for the "good old days" extends to TV as well- shows like The Andy Griffith Show and Leave It To Beaver. I remember being down at my (quite Conservative) in-laws over the holidays one year and shows like those are still rerun on broadcast TV.

qxntpqbbbqxl: "The Walking Dead doesn't involve much politics, but its social attitudes and gender roles are far-right."

The debate cropped up in another thread, and I don't buy its premise at all. For starters, it's A ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE. Also, Rick's leadership style is not only presented as questionable to the viewer, but often overtly challenged by the group. My opinion may be tainted by having read the books, which delves further into this conflict, but I think the show presents it fairly well.
posted by mkultra at 1:26 PM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


For the record, Battlestar Galactica is not conservative at all.

which includes bombing potential civilians just to make sure they don't have any cylons aboard, torture, etc.

And all of this is shown to be bad. Tigh is a massive failure in command, Roslin's moment of near villainy is soundly rejected and defeated by a liberal boy scout (Lee) and a heretic (Baltar). Cain's militaristic conservatism is considered such a fundamental threat to the fleet that Adama is willing to civil war to stop her. And, of course, "Idle Hands" is so obviously pro-Union that Moore admitted that this episode was a bit over the top. "Characters sometimes act in a conservative way" does not equal "the show is conservative".
posted by spaltavian at 2:13 PM on September 25, 2012


which includes bombing potential civilians just to make sure they don't have any cylons aboard, torture, etc.

hmm, these are considered trademark conservative values?

thanks for the suggestions, guys!
posted by Bwithh at 2:31 PM on September 25, 2012


Odds are Mr. and Mrs. Huxtable would have been pointedly seen in the audience at the RNC.

This is not how being African-American and well off in Brooklyn works. From experience living where the show takes place (and specifically in a historically middle class Black neighborhood), my assumption has always been that the Huxtable family would have been Democrats. Potentially very committed firebrand Democratic Party rank and file, too, though of course we don't talk about political parties on TV.

Then again, my vote for "conservative analogue to The West Wing" would be Parks and Recreation. Yes, the main characters are bureaucrats, but the cast is on both ends of the political spectrum. Also, a lot of the overall values espoused by the show are American Heartland small-c conservative ones, like taking pride in your hometown and not getting above yourself (see for instance the constant mockery of Tom Haverford's obsession with the celebrity lifestyle). Even though the protagonist is (nominally) liberal, the emphasis tends to be on integrity, hard work, and playing by the rules.

Also, until pretty recently Leslie Knope's office featured portraits of both Condoleeza Rice and Madeleine Albright. Lately the show has portrayed Leslie as being more specifically a moderate Democrat (without using the D word, of course), though on last week's episode it was mentioned that Olympia Snowe is one of her heroes.

Also, errrrr.... what about The West Wing? I guess maybe it came off as hard-left in the aftermath of 9/11 when everything short of "KILL ALL MUSLIMS FOREVER" did, but watching the early seasons over the last year or so, it's definitely not explicitly liberal in the way that Walker, Texas Ranger was explicitly conservative. Even their token conservative character comes off as sympathetic and is often in the right. Aaron Sorkin is not a liberal (though I think he thinks he is?), and the cast is only liberal in the sense that they're not far-right fascists or anything.
posted by Sara C. at 5:41 PM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Even their token conservative character comes off as sympathetic

My vague understanding is that the sympathetic conservative characters were added specifically at the request of network suits to counter the impression that WW was overwhelmingly liberal and so boost audience share
posted by Bwithh at 12:16 AM on September 26, 2012


Just thought of another answer to this.

My mom and stepdad are mega-conservative. They mostly watch reality TV. Especially of the "Manly Men Git R Dun" variety, like Deadliest Catch, Swamp People (though we are from Louisiana), and that one about motorcycles that came on a few years ago. I could cast all kinds of aspersions and make all kinds of judgments about why this is, but I won't because I'm nice and there's ultimately nothing wrong with that type of TV if it's what you like. On the other hand, I will say that there seems to be a high correlation between conservatives I know and reality TV viewers I know. Not just my family.
posted by Sara C. at 7:22 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Heh, Deadliest Catch. I'm a dyed-in-the-wool bike riding urban elite pinko who has never been fishing in his life, but I still get a kick out of that show when I catch it occasionally.
posted by modernnomad at 6:30 AM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


30 Rock. Jack Donaghy is 1) super-conservative, 2) super-wealthy, 3) deserves every cent of the millions he earns as by far the most competent and hard-working person on the show and at the fictional NBC, 4) also has the least-dysfunctional personal life (admittedly a low bar), 4) scrupulously honest, and 5) probably the most generous with his time and energy for his friends and coworkers.
posted by ylee at 12:20 PM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Odds are Mr. and Mrs. Huxtable would have been pointedly seen in the audience at the RNC.

This is not how being African-American and well off in Brooklyn works. From experience living where the show takes place (and specifically in a historically middle class Black neighborhood), my assumption has always been that the Huxtable family would have been Democrats


If you click through to that article posted above that lists the Cosby show as an example, it uses some sketch reasoning like 'encourages black people to get educations and have families' as a conservative virtue. Which...ew.

On Family Ties Alex P. Keaton was a good example of a teenage Reaganite, though I wouldn't call the show conservative at all and the parents were Democrats. They didn't play Alex's conservatism as bumbling idiocy by any means, but then again this was a different time for the Republican Party.
posted by sweetkid at 12:27 PM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


You do know there are plenty of well-off liberals, right?

Sure, and there are plenty of well-off Blacks. But I'd still argue that most of the Black audience fawning over that show at the time were not going out buying $11,000 paintings. (The price of the painting was key point of the episode.) At least shows like The Jeffersons had the self-awareness to portray that sort of subtle snobbery for laughs. The Cosby show, IMO, took itself way too seriously with the "look, we've arrived too" stuff.

As for "The Cosby Show" being conservative because the Huxtables are well-off, that makes no sense at all.

I don't think it was because they were well-off, it was because of the show's attitude about it (which may have been largely Bill Cosby's attitude about it). Mr. and Mrs. Huxtable were well-educated and had achieved admirable professional and financial success. But show was walking a fine line between setting the characters up as role models and lording their status over a chunk of their audience who were unlikely ever to achieve that kind of success for a variety of reasons. I think show represented a particular kind of conservative mentality that tells people they can pull themselves up out of poverty ("Just like the Huxtables did!') while at the same time looking down their nose at them and quietly snickering, "Good luck with that."

In point of fact, while it was running, Cosby was often considered a liberal show just because of the black characters, but it was also often criticized for being a sanitized reality because they were a wealthy doctor's family. Episodes such as the one about the painting were meant as answers to their critics that the show wasn't "black enough".

"Black enough" to have an entire show based on a purchase that for arguably most of their Black audience would have been considered beyond frivolous? Apparently it didn't do the trick because the show ended up bringing in a relatively poor, Black teenaged girl character for the last season or so. As I barely recall, she wasn't quite as "proper" as the Huxtables and was considered a deliberate counterpoint to their bougie-ness

This is not how being African-American and well off in Brooklyn works. From experience living where the show takes place (and specifically in a historically middle class Black neighborhood), my assumption has always been that the Huxtable family would have been Democrats. Potentially very committed firebrand Democratic Party rank and file, too, though of course we don't talk about political parties on TV.

Perhaps that bit of history/sociology was more apparent to East Coast/New York viewers.
posted by fuse theorem at 8:45 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


30 Rock. .

Funny, I keep trying to get my conservative mom to watch 30 Rock (we once bonded over how awesome Tina Fey is), and she never does. At this point I've assumed that there's some kind of cultural divide where urban blue state liberal 20 and 30somethings like (certain) NBC sitcoms, and nobody else does. Because all the young liberals I know like that, Community, and certain other NBC comedies (Chuck comes to mind), and the conservatives I know just will not watch them or do not comprehend them.
posted by Sara C. at 8:55 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Old question! Wooooo!

While it is extremely satirical, I could definitely see a certain type of conservative taking The New Statesman entirely the wrong way.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:03 PM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


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