Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Why Not Make a Show About That Job?

"Another cop show"? came the outraged utterance from my significant other, having stumbled across the recently premiered "NYC 22." Clearly, modern television's penchant for crime dramas is getting out of hand. As I remarked a while back, it seems like every new series I've latched on to this season is some variant on a police or detective procedural. With many lawyer shows getting more case-of-the-week and doctor shows growing scarcer after a string of high-profile flops, I think it's time to look at some other professions for ideas for new television dramas. I mean, if the reality shows can find the drama in everything from logging to running a pawn shop, there's no reason why we couldn't dramatize a few jobs that aren't related to solving a new murder or disappearance 22 times a season. Here are some professions I'd like to see more of on television:

Teachers - Yes, I remember "Boston Public," but it's been a while. Most school-based shows revolve around the students, including the currently airing "Community" and "Glee." Moreover, most of them are comedies, presenting idealized, sanitized institutions. I think we are sorely in need of another serious take on life in the public education system, more in the vein of recent documentaries like "Waiting for Superman." I've seen so many crime dramas feature cases with troubled kids, I think it's about time we saw some of those stories from a different perspective, a little closer to home.

Journalists - It has been far too long since the days of Clark Kent and Lois Lane. Journalism is in an interesting state of flux these days with the transition to new media eliminating many of the traditional newspaper reporting jobs. At the same time, so much emphasis goes to the presenters and pundits, that no one seems to pay much attention to the actual fact-gathering going on behind the scenes. Or in an alarming number of cases, the lack thereof. As self-cannibalizing as the media is, there hasn't been much self-examination of how the journalism landscape has been changing and how that affects the news we consume.

Accountants - The actual job of accounting is pretty dull, but being responsible for vast sums of money is certainly not. Accounting firms are right up there with law firms and financial firms in playing a big role in the economic fortunes of the rich and powerful, and they have been party to some of the biggest economy-melting scandals in recent years. Accountants are often portrayed as fairly inconsequential players, which has always struck me as odd considering the kind of chaos that can result if their work goes awry. So for a different perspective on the business world, maybe it's time to follow the money.

IT Workers - Every modern action show seems to have an IT guy or gal on staff who doubles as comic relief and exposition generator, but these days the computer programmers and technicians are increasingly making the world go round as the internet has spread its influence into every imaginable sphere of human existence. I see no reason why techies couldn't sustain their own adventures, fighting hackers, viruses, bugs, and hardware failures. Or there's always the online vigilante antics of groups like Anonymous and Lulz-Sec, for more morally ambiguous stories.

Lobbyists - I don't think that much of the American public is aware of exactly what a lobbyist does or how much influence they hold in the political system. Most shows dealing with politics like to focus on the politicians, but so much of the game is happening in a bigger sphere of non-profits, think tanks, special interest groups, consultants, aides, and of course the lobbyists. I'd like to see more of that world. A good model would be Jason Reitman's "Thank You for Smoking," which argued the lobbyist was a modern incarnation of the salesman - a man who could talk you into buying anything.

Religious Leaders - Religion-centric shows have almost entirely disappeared in the past few years. The trouble is that most of the programs that actually deal directly with religion tend to be schmaltzy and old fashioned. The more ambitious ones that try to take a different approach are inevitable found to be controversial and suspicious. However, religion has changed along with everything else in the modern age, creating a lot of big questions that have gone unexplored. As religion is still a major part of the American culture, I think it's about time it got more serious attention from Hollywood.

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