Series television is escapism, isn’t it? Isn’t the entertainment supposed to transport you away from financial worries, medical problems, lawsuits, unemployment, Wall Street bailouts, and the housing crisis?
Yet, much what we see on television is about financial worries, Wall Street bailouts, medical problems, unemployment, crime, and the housing crisis.
These things are the stuff of police procedurals, legal series, and even comedy.
Recently, we watched an episode of “Harry’s Law,”a legal show starring Kathy Bates as “Harry”, the skeptical, matronly mastermind behind the legal firm she heads.
The best thing about “Harry’s Law” is the solid acting, amusing characters, and high production values.
Typical of modern legal drama, “Harry’s Law” pivoted on two cases the firm was working on, both of them concerned with “pressing social issues.”
In the first instance, Harry’s firm is defending a woman who is losing her house to foreclosure and so goes into a bank with a gun and shoves it into the teller’s face.
You’re supposed to empathize with the defendant.
“I didn’t want to hurt anyone,” the woman defendant sobs pitifully in court.
But right away, I’m thinking there’s something wrong with me, that I’m anti-social or have a psychopathic personality. I don’t feel sorry for the defendant at all.
I feel sorry for the bank teller, imagining how terrified I’d be if I were looking down the barrel of a cheap revolver.
Okay, so where’s the audience identification to come from? You have to believe, as the lawyers argue, that the evil bank tricked the defendant into taking subprime loan.
There is no mention of the Community Reinvestment Act which intimidated banks into making loans to people who couldn’t repay them, contributing greatly to the current housing collapse.
If you believe in the demonization of evil bank corporatism, then you get a warm and fuzzy feeling toward the bank robber.
But for me all it means is that I’m getting in touch with what a lousy human being I must be because I’m envisioning the whole thing in real life. With an emaciated methamphetamine-crazed thug, maybe.
I’m flabbergasted, really, at how an Examiner article can take the bank robbing episode seriously, and in a rather long and drawn out fashion to boot. There you see evil banks, emptying whole neighborhoods through foreclosures, and the ethnic cleansing of sub-prime mortgagees!
As with most television dramas these days, and in consideration of audience ADHD, “Harry’s Law” has several balls in the air at the same time. The second plot concerns two grieving parents who lost their son in a high school football game.
They want to sue the school district, not for monetary gain, but for the noble purposes of making sure such a thing never happens to other parents.
Again, real life intrudes. It is difficult to find in recorded history either parents or attorneys who file lawsuits against a school district without thought of compensation.
Yet the plot winds through some intricate legal maneuvering involving depositions, motions before the court, and heart-rending conversations between Kathy Bates’ character and the grieving parents’ characters before a judge character rules that a civil trial can proceed.
At the end of the episode, I’m thinking I’m a good candidate for psychoanalysis which, perhaps, is the whole point. Those who can afford to pay psychiatrists $200 bucks an hour will do that.
The rest of us must watch television.