Fall TV Preview for Red Staters

Mary Katharine Ham

10/16/2007 12:05:27 AM - Mary Katharine Ham

So, it’s fall again, and you find yourself, remote in hand, convinced that the television landscape is nothing but one giant View couch populated by Sally Fields, Rosie O’Donnells, Joy Behars and Alicia Silverstones. Hollywood’s most delightful elite crammed together, bony-starlet elbow to gastric-bypassed booty, happy to serve up daily entertainment with a side of condescension, smut, and a cheap political jab for every plot line!

It can get discouraging out there for a red-blooded conservative searching for good original programming without any sermons from our betters in Blue America. Walking into the fall line-up without a guide, you’re more vulnerable than a Democratic staffer at a NASCAR race. So, here’s a way to get good and inoculated.

I search the good, the bad, and the ugly to bring you a report of what is acceptable and even—dare I say it?—enjoyable for conservative consumption.

Friday Night Lights (NBC Fridays 9/8c): In this case “critically acclaimed” is not a stand-in for “soul-crushingly boring and produced by an approved left-of-center team with left-of-center axes to grind, thereby making it worthy of statuettes, but not actual breathing audiences in search of entertainment.”

No, “Friday Night Lights” is critically acclaimed with good reason. It’s one of the most well-acted, sensitive, authentic dramas I’ve ever seen on TV. I shied away from the show at first because the title implied a tour de force of small-town stereotypes—characters dripping in overdone accents, a town that’s grid-iron gripped but with a looser hold on fidelity, morality and the finer things in life. Let’s face it. The stage was set for some serious Hollywood belittling.

But Hollywood got this one right. I covered high-school football in a town much like the fictional Dillon, Texas. Every episode I watch is such an accurate portrayal of the people I knew and loved there—their struggles, their driving forces, their triumphs and their shortcomings—that it feels like an eerie trip back home.

Dancing With the Stars (ABC Mondays 8/7c): Tune in to this show for some wholesome Fred-and-Ginger-style entertainment. There are glitzy stars and glitzier ballroom professionals, paired to bring foxtrots and quicksteps to a new generation. There’s also a live band and singers, making this the triple threat of network offerings. Truly old-school.

As a bonus, this season features Jennie Garth. Judging from her performances so far, Kelly Taylor has recovered quite nicely from her date rape, eating disorder, brief cult membership, drug addiction, gunshot wound, and the scars from that house fire, in order to come back a-waltzing.

Small warning on the skimpy outfits.

Everybody Hates Chris (CW Mondays 8/7c): Based on Chris Rock’s childhood, this comedy based in 1980s New York City, is fundamentally about family—a good family. Chris is the oldest of three children in a household that might be short on money but is never short on values. His father Julius works several jobs at a time to support the family while his mother Rochelle rules the household with no small helping of high expectations and serious punishment for anyone who gets out of line.

Plots focus on Chris’ struggles with adolescence, fitting in at his mostly white school (Chris does several bus transfers a day to attend a better school than the one in his neighborhood, at his mother’s insistence), and his parents’ constant battle to teach their children right from wrong in an environment that doesn’t always help them out.

As an example of the example Julius sets for his kids, this is the subplot for last week’s episode:

Julius secretly tries to find extra work when he must use his vacation days.

House (FOX Tuesdays 9/8c) and Scrubs (NBC Thursdays 9:30/8:30c): You’ll probably think I’m crazy claiming I see conservative messages in medical shows. But, as a conservative, my point-of-view is so seldom represented on TV in a positive light, that I’m sometimes mightily delighted by seeing it treated with mere fairness.

Last season’s “House” saw at least one moral dilemma that deeply affected the famously misanthropic, atheist medical genius. When asked to perform risky surgery on a baby in the womb at the risk of a weakened mother, Dr. House refuses until convinced by his superior. During the surgery, when the mother starts to slip, he’s poised to cut the baby’s umbilical cord (a move that would have surely killed it) until the baby reaches out of the open womb to grab his finger.

The scene was an obvious allusion to photographer Michael Clancy’s famous fetal surgery photo , which has touched hearts around the world, and the unborn child made an impact on House as very little does.

Last season’s “Scrubs” featured a similar scene, in which Dr. Turk was operating on a baby in utero, but “Scrubs” has long been one of the networks’ fairest political shows. The series boasts the rare achievement of having produced a simultaneously funny and totally unoffensive treatment of the Iraq war in a 30-minute comedy form. A challenge and a treat. Don’t miss this consistently fair comedy in its last season.

The Ghost Whisperer (CBS Fridays 8): I don’t often watch “The Ghost Whisperer,” but I’ve always thought Jennifer Love Hewitt seemed like a sensible young actress, and I may be adding the show to my regular list now. I have it on good authority that the show was a sensitive tribute to the troops last week:

Tonite, I watched a special episode of Ghost Whisperer titled "Haunted Hero".

It was a dramatic, touching, sad, moving, authentic, honorable, elegant, dignified, uplifting beautiful, emotional, and evocative tribute to our troops.

Mark Tyler Jacob plays Matt, a soldier who, after serving in Iraq, returns to Grandview with a medal in hand and to a heroes welcome, but who is haunted by noisy nightmares and deeply troubled by suppressed and confusing memories of the night he lost his men.

Those memories come to life for Melinda, a Ghost Whisperer, who finds herself experiencing that same fatal battle over and over.

The show also cast several vets back from Iraq and Afghanistan in the episode to lend authenticity and help check facts.

Back to You (FOX Wednesdays 8/7c): This sitcom, starring two of Hollywood’s most prominent conservatives, represents a sort of full-employment program for Tinsel Town right-wingers. Kelsey Grammar and Patricia Heaton play local news co-anchors in a throw-back, multi-camera sitcom filmed in front of a live studio audience. The format and concept are so traditional, the show is almost a joke within a joke—an ironic commentary on the lost sitcom format. The show is clever at times, but has yet to come into its own. Luckily, the pedigree is so good and the actors so talented, I’m counting on it to become a favorite.

Happy viewing, folks! Write me back with recommendations of your own, and I’ll update on the Townhall blog.