Ed Driscoll

How the Left Took Over Your TV

Given that it’s from the ironically-titled Independent, the same left-leaning British newspaper that “reported” that “Snowfalls Are Now Just a Thing of the Past,” a decade ago, it’s not surprising that there’s more than a little “Who are you going to believe, us or your lying eyes” tone to their profile of Ben Shapiro’s new book. But it certainly sounds intriguing:

The book’s contents will only add weight to allegations – often aired by conservative Americans – that Hollywood is the exclusive domain of leftie propagandists. Earlier this year, Republicans called for funding cuts to the public broadcaster NPR after one of its executives was secretly taped calling supporters of the Tea Party “racist”.Among Shapiro’s most revelatory interviewees is Marta Kauffman, the co-creator of Friends, who recalls how she hired a “bunch of liberals” to run the programme to “put out there what we believe”. In 1999, she admitted casting the actress sister of Newt Gingrich, the prominent Republican, to play a preacher at a lesbian wedding because she wanted to annoy conservatives.

“When we did the lesbian wedding, we knew there was going to be some flack,” said Kauffman. “I have to say, when we cast Candice Gingrich as the minister of that wedding, there was a bit of a ‘fuck you’ in it to the right-wing, directly.”

Elsewhere in the book, Vin DiBona, the producer of MacGyver, agrees that Hollywood has a liberal bias, saying “I’m happy about it, actually.” The cult cop show advanced an anti-gun agenda, he added. “That was the whole premise of the programme, that MacGuyver used his brain power and skill and science, and solved all the difficulties through ingenuity. No Guns, no knives.”

Far from being just a comedy about military camaraderie, MASH meanwhile had a pacifist agenda, the show’s co-creator and director Gene Reynolds told Shapiro, who said: “We wanted to point out the wastefulness of war.”

And, with regard to Happy Days, writer Bill Bickley said he “had a whole subtext” attacking the Vietnam War. “If you really look for it, you can find it.”

Shapiro is relatively well known among the conservative commentariat, but believes he was able to persuade so many interviewees to reveal more than was perhaps sensible because they assumed he was a fellow liberal.

“There was a certain amount of stereotyping on their part in granting the interview,” he said. “Many probably assumed that with a name like Shapiro and a Harvard Law credential, there was no need to Google me: I would have to be a leftist. In Hollywood, talking to a Jew with a Harvard Law baseball cap is like talking to someone wearing an Obama pin.”

Found on the Website of “Rupert Murdoch’s HarperCollins” (as the Independent helpfully reminded their readers), here’s how Shapiro’s book summarizes Family Ties:

You Thought: It was a generational comedy about a smart conservative kid rebelling against his liberal parents.
What It’s Really About: How evil and misguided the young conservative is. “With Alex[Keaton], I did not think I was creating a sympathetic character,” said Gary David Goldberg, theshow’s creator. “Those were not traits that I aspired to and didn’t want my kids to aspire to, actually. But as soon as you put it in the package of Michael Fox, and all of a sudden we’regetting all this mail, how much they love him, respect him, how’s he’s making his way in the world, and we said, ‘Whoa! What the hell happened here?’”

Isn’t it obvious? Prior to the rise of Rush, Fox News, Drudge, the Blogosphere and Twitter in the following two decades, Americans in the heartland were desperate for something from old media that reaffirmed their values. We all knew that Fox’s character was a distorted stereotype of the average young conservative, just as Archie Bunker was an even more distorted stereotype of the average middle aged conservative, but at least he was visible on TV. As for the difference between the actors who played them, who often had feet of clay, and their characters, chalk it up to what Bill Whittle calls “The Lou Grant Effect.”

See also, universal and concurrent popularity of The Cosby Show, which portrayed an attractive upper-middle class family that worked hard, played by the rules, and loved America.

Of course, it’s also not surprising that The Cosby Show was the last of a long line of Hollywood sitcoms about the idealized American family, and that Rosanne and similar “family from hell” sitcoms were just around the corner.

(Via Big Hollywood.)