In the US: Thursdays, 9pm ET, The CW In the UK: Not yet acquired
There is considerable feminist discourse around the concept of ‘likability’. Female politicians, such as Hillary Clinton, are considered ‘unlikable’ and therefore considered vote-losers, in a way male politicians rarely are. Does anyone think Rand Paul or Chuck Schumer are likeable? No, yet they still get elected and are considered (for some reason) via politicians.
In the Dark feels like an effort to push ‘the Overton Window‘ on female ‘likability’ using the ingenious aegis of disability. It sees Perry Mattfeld (Shameless US) playing Murphy, a woman whose life is a bit of a mess. She became blind at the age of 14 and was fostered by the owners of a guide dog charity (The West Wing‘s Kathleen York and The Whispers‘s Derek Webster), for which she now ‘works’. I say works, because most of the time she’s getting drunk, waking up from a one-night-stand or both. Or is off smoking with a teenage drunk-dealer who once saved her life.
Mattfield is even more self-destructive than that sounds. “You only care about yourself,” York yells at her after Mattfield has just slept with a married donor to the impoverished charity, resulting in the cancellation of his wife’s $10,000 donation.
“It’s pretty obvious I don’t care about myself. At all,” Mattfield replies.
Which isn’t entirely true, though. While most of the first episode revolves around Mattfield’s self-destruction and self-pity, there is another thread to the plot: the disappearance and possible murder of her teenage drug-dealer friend. That prompts Mattfield to try to persuade everyone that he has disappeared, even though his body goes missing soon after she finds it.
When that fails, she tries to solve the crime herself, with a little help from her friend Brooke Markham (Foursome) and the missing drug-dealer’s cousin/boss (Blood and Oil‘s Keston John).
The West Wing is increasingly looking not just like wishful thinking but science-fiction – certainly, it was very much a product of its time and that time has now passed. But it inspired love among many of its viewers, including Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. A self-professed superfan, he’s created a rap tribute to the show for ‘The West Wing Weekly’ podcast. Why not give it a listen? Maybe on Thursday.
In the US: Wednesdays, 10/9c, ABC In the UK: Netflix. New episode every Thursday
Like most people in Britain, I get virtually all my knowledge about how the US government works via The West Wing. Screw Newsnight – I’ll tell you the first five amendments to the US Constitution and the episodes in which they featured right now, if you want.
So when I heard about Designated Survivor, no explanation was needed: after all, not only had the Mayor from Buffy The Vampire Slayer been President Barlett’s ‘designated survivor’ in He Shall, From Time To Time…, Laura Roslin would never have become President of the 12 Colonies in Battlestar Galactica were it not for a constitution specifying the exact list of people who would assume the position in the event of some terrible tragedy.
Designated Survivor is neither of those two shows. Instead, it’s roughly half-Dave (that delightful movie in which ordinary punter Kevin Kline becomes President and behaves very nicely and decently, unlike the other politicians), half-24 (that less delightful TV series in which highly trained anti-terrorist agents have a very limited amount of time to shoot and torture lots of people to prevent terrible atrocities taking place).
It sees the lowly Secretary of Housing, who’s just about to be fired by the sitting President, accepting the duty of ‘designated survivor’ during the State of the Union. Except then Congress gets blown up and this decent – possibly too decent – pushover family man and educator instantly propelled to the top job, where he has not only to bring the country together and keep it stable, he has to prevent all out war with other nations, find out who was responsible for the bombing and what they intend to do next, and avoid a coup d’êtat from people who think he’s just not up to the job or even eligible for it, given he was unelected.
Can he do all that? Hell yeah. Because that man is Kiefer Sutherland. Yes, boys and girls, Jack Bauer is finally President.