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cultural vandal | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Are cable dramas and comedies our best reflection of today’s zeitgeist?

A recent story on AlterNet by Alan Farago suggests that the only place where we’re seeing an accurate reflection of the zeitgeist at the moment is on cable TV: not the news channels, but on networks like HBO, TNT, and AMC. And certainly not on the broadcast networks:

The zeitgeist of the new television connects to societal depression, not a mental recession or tea leaves featured in Time or Newsweek or advertiser-sponsored, network TV. In NBC’s “The Office”, there are whispers of layoffs, triggering panic, but no one is layed off who doesn’t return.


[T]oday’s best crop of television comedies are onto something new. In “Weeds”, a suburban mom turns wily drug dealer battling Mexican drug lord screws one to safety while protecting her family in idealized middle class stability. The joke is not just the sardonic nuclear family; it is that the nuclear family can only survive by breaking the law. In “Breaking Bad”, a suburban high school chemistry teacher with cancer — who cannot afford his cancer treatments without bankrupting his family — starts freelancing as a maker and seller of crystal meth. In “The Riches”, a family of gypsy grifters blend in seamlessly with the trappings of suburbia, cheating and winning with the flat-landers on adaptation strategies that viewers can only fantasize. In the new HBO “Hung” another teacher — the second winningest basketball coach in Westlake history — embarks on a career as a male escort to pay the bills and redeem himself with his twin Goths.

And so on.

What do you think? Are cable dramas and comedies our best reflection of today’s zeitgeist?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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