It won’t come as much of a surprise to some people that I have a slight obsession with watching political dramas. I love them, especially the nitty gritty behind the scenes ones. As such I was pretty excited that two brand new political dramas started airing on commercial TV (not somewhere I venture often) in the last fortnight, both on Channel 10.
The first one I caught was the Australian production, Party Tricks with Asher Keddy and Rodger Corser. I’ll admit at the start here that I’m not the avid Keddy fan that many people are. I loved her in Paper Giants, but Offspring was not my thing and her character, Nina, drove me mad. I know, I’m out on a limb all of my own on that front. I was hoping in Party Tricks she would bring more of the Ita and less of the Nina, and be a strong, assertive leader. Two episodes in and I feel like this is the Nina Proudman turned politician show. I’m also frustrated that it seems the only political drama depicting a woman in leadership to be made in Australia and aired on a commercial station is one which focuses on a sex scandal. Wouldn’t it be great to have a hard hitting, intelligent Australian political drama with a female leader that didn’t centre around her love life? I’m undecided whether I will give this another episode to prove itself – it’s been dubbed a dramedy, but for me it’s failing in both comedy and drama – but I feel it very unlikely that I will see this through to its conclusion.
Also airing on Channel 10, it the highly acclaimed American political drama Madam Secretary starring Tea Leoni as the new secretary of state, Elizabeth Faulkner McCord. For me this is so much more successful on so many levels. Firstly Tea Leoni’s character, Elizabeth, is strong, confident and smart. She has a decided dislike for the image women in politics are expected to portray, the focus on clothes, hair and so on (does that remind of anything? Julia and her jackets perhaps?) and refuses to play that game…. except when she uses that unwanted attention for good, an interesting paradox in itself. As well as being secretary of state Elizabeth is also a wife and a mother, the juggle of this adds another layer that feels very real to the show. I read a newspaper article by Annabel Crab recently about female politicians needing ‘wives’ at home to keep it all going. The idea that husbands can take at least an equal share, if not the lead, in ones home life is still pretty foreign. The usual take on females in position of power is that they are either childless or wracked with guilt for being where they are and not at home. Of course, this is a pretty true account of many women’s experiences, but isn’t it time that attitude in society changed. Madam Secretary has move mostly away from that – there has been a bit of the guilty mother stuff, but not much – and that is a great thing. The issues arising in the show so far have also been pretty relevant to current political and world events – Middle Eastern kidnappings of westerns for example. Seeing the way politicians or leaders negotiate (at least on TV, it’s probably vastly different in real life) their way through situations is fascinating. I have high hopes for the rest of the season. Let’s see if it meets my expectations.
Although, if you want really, truly wonderful – perhaps faultless – political drama there are two, in my opinion, head and shoulders above everything else. They are, of course, West Wing and the Danish series Borgen. The former is my go-to I-need-a-break-from-the-mummy-stuff show. It gives me a little over half an hour down time during the day. I pop ABC kids on in the family room for the girls and I watch an episode of West Wing in the lounge room. I makes me remember I’m an adult with a functioning brain…. and because I know there’s nothing racey, violent or sweary in it if the girls wander through I’m not concerned about what they’ll hear or see. They think it’s totally boring because it’s just people talking so I get a few minutes alone. Heaven! The latter, Borgen, has been airing on SBS and I would highly recommend all 4 seasons. It’s another with a female leader, but in the more open-minded Scandinavian environment it seems worlds away from where we have been in Australian politics with regard to gender roles.
So political dramas, love or hate? What are you favourites? And what other great stuff have you been watching?