Escapist Visions of a (more-or-less) Functioning Society
November 9, 2016 4:33 AM   Subscribe

I've been binge-watching Parks and Rec over the past few hours. It's hitting a sweet spot because of its warm portrayal of competent, caring people who manage to get things done for the public good despite opposition. Mr Smith Goes to Washington is a bit too saccharine, but is the right ballpark. The Goblin Emperor scratched this itch perfectly, even though it's not about a democratic society. Books, TV or movies.

I know escapism isn't necessarily the healthiest thing in every circumstance, but it's what I want right now. The West Wing has never really appealed to me. It comes off as super smug, somehow, but if enough people recommend it I'll take another look. Veep is much too grim and cringey to fit into this category, even though it's the kind of thing I enjoy when I'm feeling more emotionally secure.
posted by Rinku to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
The West Wing really is worth checking out, especially seasons 1-4. It got me through the Bush years. And I'm about to start up another re-watch. You should really give it a shot. It's streaming on Netflix.
posted by litera scripta manet at 4:39 AM on November 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'd definitely give The West Wing another shot (also check out The West Wing Weekly podcast for a companion). Whilst it might appear at first to be rather smug it deals a lot with people trying their best, failing and then trying again.
posted by gmb at 5:07 AM on November 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

This is less politically oriented, but you also could check out Gilmore Girls. It's definitely one of those shows that can fill you up with warmth and cheer.
posted by litera scripta manet at 5:14 AM on November 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

Thirding try The West Wing again. The first few episodes are the smuggest, so if you haven't gotten past 5 or 6 then definitely give it another shot.
posted by snorkmaiden at 5:18 AM on November 9, 2016

One of the reasons I find traditional mystery series so comforting is the fairly simple moral structure. The bad guys are very bad and the good guys are nearly defeated, but then they are brilliant and put it out at the last second and win and the bad guys get their comeuppance. The obvious Agatha Christie type things work, especially Miss Marple.

Other ones that are recommended are Miss Fisher Mysteries and Father Brown. (These both have more modern sensibilities and address issues like feminism and race and immigration in good ways.)

I'm so out of good mystery shows though...I recently started in on Scandinavian ones, but they tend to be darker and grimmer, which isn't exactly comforting.
posted by threeturtles at 5:22 AM on November 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

Foyle's War. It's set during World War II, and there's some dealing with fascism and the complicated morality of wartime but Foyle is ultimately the model of a competent caring person who manages to get things done despite the odds.
posted by peacheater at 5:53 AM on November 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency!!
[Executive Producer Amy] Moore has commented that the story struck her with the idea "That leading a good life is possible; that being a good person is possible; that being a good neighbor is possible; that truth can exist alongside beauty.
posted by muddgirl at 6:30 AM on November 9, 2016

Twelve Angry Men?
posted by kevinbelt at 7:24 AM on November 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Original-recipe Star Trek.
posted by praemunire at 9:44 AM on November 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Seconding Foyle's War. In fact, I may need to rewatch it pronto.
posted by threeturtles at 9:50 AM on November 9, 2016

This isn't so much a show about a functioning society, but I've been watching Leverage (available on Netflix) and it helped my partner and I stop weeping for a little bit last night when we took a break from the news to watch an episode. We've been watching it a lot over the past few weeks and it's been a welcome distraction. It's about a crew of thieves in the Robin Hood model: taking down corrupt businesses/people using their thieving/grifting/hacking skills. So it definitely isn't going to give you hope about humanity except that the crew almost always wins and that's deeply satisfying to me right now. It's not too heavy, not too saccharine, and right now it's a life raft.

More in line of what you're looking for, have you watched Call the Midwife? It's amazing to me that the show can cover so many dark issues while never being pessimistic. It's a deeply enjoyable show and the characters shine with warmth — there's so much love for each other, for their patients, for humanity in general despite often horrible circumstances. I think it might really hit the spot.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 10:32 AM on November 9, 2016 [4 favorites]

Barbara Michaels's novel Smoke and Mirrors (1989). This election campaign has made me think about it often as it shows a woman of integrity who is a candidate for the Senate, with possible plans to run for President eventually. It's technically a thriller or suspense novel with a bit of romance but the interest is in the details of the campaign and the portrayal of basically public-spirited people.
posted by paduasoy at 1:09 PM on November 9, 2016

Northern Exposure is one of my all time favorites in this vein. Young New York doctor goes unwillingly to a small Alaskan town and meets all lots of interesting and eccentric folk. I'd move there myself if I could.
posted by rw at 6:55 AM on November 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

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