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Friday, June 4, 2010

The Televangelist: Another Day, Another Doctor

click to enlarge "Seriously? ANOTHER medical drama?"
  • "Seriously? ANOTHER medical drama?"

Perhaps I stand alone among all Americans in my lack of interest in knowing more about the lives of doctors and lawyers. Because, lo, another doctor show is on the air - but wait, there's more! - this time it's a documentary series about surgery called "Boston Med." The show will follow the "ups and downs" of surgery, which I guess is, somehow, going to be completely different from its scripted predecessors "ER" and "Grey's Anatomy."  Of course, if you're really a health care drama junkie, CSPAN was probably your favorite station on the dial for the past six months.

The new Fall lineups on all the networks sing the same song, and beg the same question: are there any other televised occupations anymore?  Are doctors and lawyers the occupational equivalents to setting a show in Boston or New York? (There's another new police procedural, "Rizzoli & Isles," for the summer season on TNT that - hang on! - includes a medical examiner, and takes place in, you guessed it, Boston).

What made a show like "Six Feet Under" so interesting was not just that it was a very well-written, well-acted family drama ... it's that it revolved around a family of undertakers who lived in a funeral home, a world most of us are unlikely to ever see.  But let's return to dramas on network TV - I'm hard pressed to conjure many 1-hour shows that deal with things other than the police force, medical and legal professions.  It seems other jobs fall into the tragi-comic world of sitcoms, the most extreme among them are left to be explored in reality shows airing on Discovery or TLC (I have a great affinity for the kind of mind that first thought up "Dirty Jobs," bless those people).

I get it, though - we want to be surrounded by more exciting and glamorous lives than our own.  But since when did attorneys stop becoming the brunt of jokes about greed and morality, and start being idolized?  I heard a story on NPR the other day where I mother of three sons who volunteered for the Army said, "I would have loved them to be, you know, doctors or lawyers or something."  Even Willie Nelson puts in his two cents on the matter in his classic tune "Mama, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys," saying: "let 'em be doctors and lawyers and such."  Honestly, the last great attorney I know of is Atticus Finch.  Maybe Perry Mason.  And I'd love to see a show about cowboys that wasn't a rerun of "Gunsmoke!"

Law students on the brink of graduation report that their prospects are about as rosy as those of a wannabe starlet with clubfoot.  So what gives?  Why the focus on these occupations?  Perhaps it's time to start redefining our notions of  successful careers, or at least consider giving time to some less-tired modes of storytelling.

Sound off if you have an opinion below: what kind of occupations would you like to see as backdrops or to be explored in scripted dramas?  Are you tired of medical and legal shows, or can't get enough?

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