While I thought that it was definitely pro-conservative in its portrayal, often mocking liberal viewpoints, it did take as well as it gave. There were punchlines that were cringe-worthy, and I was uncomfortable with some of it’s “glossing over” of race issues. But that’s a reflection of how many people actually feel about those issues, and the show did take the time to let the other side, my side, have a voice.
There was (for me) an unforgettably poignant episode about guns, where pro-gun wanted his dad to start carrying after getting robbed. The dad refused, and various characters picked one side or the other, with their ideals were straight facebook meme-worthy. In the end, Dad broke down and explained how the horrors of war left him vowing to never touch another firearm again, probably the only time I have ever heard anyone else besides myself speak on the responsibility and burden of the ability to take the life of another human being, a burden we don’t fully appreciate until we feel it on our shoulders, and in our hearts. That episode ultimately didn’t end the debate one way or the other, but it did plant the seed that there is more to the debate than what most of us are willing to argue over.
And that show tends to take that approach by the time the end credits roll. It does a pretty good job of humanizing our nature to dehumanize, within the context of family. For example, everyone knew that the wife was racist, except for the wife. But even everyone else would say she wasn’t really racist, she’s just really ignorant about Black people.
It’s billed as a “blue collar” comedy, but I felt that the Baxters were about as blue collar as the Huxtables or the Bradys. What I actually liked about the show was how it humanized the issues that we tend to polarize and de-humanize. It was also very responsive to feedback. Just compare the pilot episode to a mid-season story to the first season finale. Especially the evolution of liberal punching bag Kyle, who is still remained an endearing character rather than a “love to hate” foil. It does take the safe route by having an older Black Chuck with shared sensibilities, vs a younger minority would likely take sharper jabs to the other characters’ racial ignorance. Without being a token cardboard cutout, Chuck provides insight without the reflexive animosity or feet-dragging, often times about things that have nothing to do with race.
I genuinely believe that the show was canned because of the political climate of the viewing audience. While the ratings were solid for the show, the studio got nervous about potential backlash. ABC Disney, which tends to lean liberal, didn’t have the stones to stand up to its own fanbase. While six solid seasons is nothing to sneeze at, it did feel cut short when it was pulled. I felt like the Mouse wanted to “balance” the show more, especially with the re-introduction and re-characterization of Boyd’s dad Ryan. I think the balancing backfired by failing to attract a broader audience beyond its core, and by turning off some of that core audience with characters they found unrelatably unflattering.
Too bad it didn’t find a home at Amazon or Hulu. Even though I’m pretty socio-politically liberal, I think that America needs an accessible view of contemporary conservatism with a dash of humor and a dose of reality. The observation that such programming is rare these days speaks to how insensitive we’ve become about our differing opinions. Consciously, it seems that it’s okay to be American, but not #ItsOkayToBeWhite. And even I’m uncomfortable with that, for the same reasons why it’s been not okay to be Black. We all need a voice to be heard in the exercising of democracy.
Is there any other show on now that can compare?