Carol Platt Liebau: The Problem with Agenda Television

Friday, January 20, 2006

The Problem with Agenda Television

Here we read that ratings for "Commander in Chief" -- the Geena Davis show about the first female president -- are falling, amid speculation about why: Is it changes in the show's behind the scenes team? Scheduling? What's going on?

Here's the problem -- and it has nothing to do with viewers "losing" the show during its break, or the switch to Steven Bochco. It's the fact that "Commander in Chief" is too deeply invested in being "agenda television."

What makes a television character interesting? Flaws, foibles, quirks. But those creating "Commander in Chief" are so solidly behind the concept of a female president -- and obviously so afraid of being condemned for political incorrectness -- that they've created a prototype who does nothing but speak powerfully, stride masterfully, decide decisively, swat down sexism powerfully, maintain control at all times, etc. etc. etc. Portraying her any other way might -- heaven forbid! -- play into gender stereotypes about women . . . and we can't have that, can we (especially with Hillary Clinton planning a run in 2008)?

But paragons (and paper cut outs) are boring. Here's what would make "Commander in Chief" interesting: Learning about how the female President quells an impulse to cry (or maybe even embarasses herself by doing so). Seeing less of her emerging triumphant at the end of each show, after withstanding clearly outrageous and gratuitous attacks from either foreign enemies or domestic political adversaries. Watching her make a mistake and cope with it. Fewer storylines that leave her as the victim of circumstances created by some clearly dislikable "other" (be it North Korea, the Speaker of the House, or her children).

But "Commander in Chief" can't afford to take those risks. It has too much invested in bolstering the concept of female president-hood. It has an agenda. And therein lies its problem.


Blogger HouseOfSin said...

Willa Cather once said, "I met success when I stopped inventing and started remembering."

My basic problem with the show was even more basic: Davis' president was invented. Invented by an agenda? Sure. But in fairness, they couldn't really "remember" a female president. So the agenda filled the vacuum.

What would have been nice is if they made a "Thatcher" miniseries instead. Maybe then, at long last, could they get Brolin playing Reagan in primetime. But that would be contrary to an agenda.

Anyway, kudos to Everybody Loves Raymond, Romano's extended memory finessed into an Emmy winning show.

11:36 AM  
Blogger Pete said...

They can't show a Prez who would actually be like Schrillary, because rumor has it she is hell on wheels to work with, and nasty! That wouldn't help her get elected, ever.

And they couldn't have a black lady there - that might imply we could have Condi as Prez! Actually, I like THAT idea!

11:39 AM  
Blogger lbrosky said...

A hard-driving, arrogant, foul-mouthed leading character with past filled with mysterious deaths, boorish behavior and head-scratching profit-making would accurately reflect Hillary Clinton. It may not be flattering but it could be compelling TV. Then again, maybe there is already a show with a character like that. Tony Soprano?

1:11 PM  
Blogger Mr. Twister said...

lbrosky wrote, "A hard-driving, arrogant, foul-mouthed leading character with past filled with mysterious deaths, boorish behavior and head-scratching profit-making would accurately reflect Hillary Clinton."

At least Hillary Clinton didn't run a stop sign and kill her high school boyfriend. Unlike at least one first lady.

5:17 PM  
Blogger wile e coyote said...

Gee, Twister, if you'll admit that "hard-driving, arrogant, foul-mouthed leading character with past filled with mysterious deaths, boorish behavior and head-scratching profit-making would accurately reflect Hillary Clinton", I'll admit that Laura Bush killed somebody in a car accident when she was 17.

Shall we further admit that neither one deserves to be President of a U.S. Senator?

9:06 PM  
Blogger Orphan in Bama said...

It is tough enough that the producers had no woman President to remember, but it is truly sad they could not remember what a woman is like.

Twister......tch, tch, tch..


4:49 AM  
Blogger Mr. Twister said...

Hey Rzafft, it doesn't matter what you and I agree to. The facts will out.

There are police reports that show that Laura Welch (the future Laura Bush) ran a stop sign and killed her ex-boyfriend.

Here's the difference--I post factual material, while lbrosky and his "past filled with mysterious deaths" is engaging in tin-foil hat conspiracy time.

5:53 AM  
Blogger Mr. Twister said...

Orphan in Bama writes, "Twister......tch, tch, tch.."

It says volumes that you have no problems with judgemental postings of Pete's admitted rumors and lbrosky claiming that Hillary Clinton's past is littered with "mysterious deaths," but you take me to task for posting a simple fact with no character assassination attached to it.

Now I guess I just need to wait for Greg's inevitable post bemoaning how I have lowered the standards of the blog.

6:00 AM  
Blogger Pete said...

Why wait for Greg, twisted?

The regular readers here know that nothing you post is without character assassination intended for anyone affiliated with the Republican Party, or with the appearance of politics slightly right of center!

Additionally, the only reason I gave Schrillary the benefit of the "rumor" is because I don't catalog her newsprint. I know I have read about her arrogance in several places, but cannot reference them at the moment. You apparently don't have a life - why don't you research them for us - instead of the useless information you find to throw off blame or misbehavior from the democrats?

6:41 AM  

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