Remember the good old days of television entertainment when an intelligently written sitcom could make you sit back and really think about an issue, question your core beliefs and get a debate going in the family room long after the show went off, along with making you chuckle at a well-written skit. The shows that took on the social and political issues of the day alongside the personal ones — the ones I can't seem to find much any longer. I'm talking about the magnificent writing on All In the Family, or the great characters on M*A*S*H and all of those poignant Hawkeye Pierce moments of conscience. Even Laugh-In and Saturday Night Live have had those skewering moments of greatness.
Sure, you get a little of that on The Daily Show and on The Colbert Report, and occasionally on Letterman, but somehow fiction allows for a better medium for getting the story across — and the ability to open up and really think about it is stronger as well. Which is why, I think on some level, the Colbert caricature is such hilarious satire, because you get that veil of fiction, that wink and a nod toward the over-the-top, along with your political punch.
And I see social comentary and an exploration of difficult issues of race and poverty and education watching the amazing yet consistently overlooked show The Wire. But, unfortunately, the humor that I find in the show is a sort of gallows humor from my years working with law enforcement…most of the in-jokes that they write into the scripts aren't exactly funny unless you've spent time scrutinizing autopsy photos or reading psych reports. (btw, if you are not watching The Wire, you should be — one of the best shows that I have ever seen, and they get the criminal and police ends of things right for a change.)
So, when I saw this in the NYTimes, I just had to laugh, because this is so clever:
In a country where publicly talking about sex is strictly off limits, Mr. Saleem has managed not only to bring up the subject on his prime-time television talk show — but to do so without stirring a backlash from fundamentalist Islamic clerics.
And he has done so as a woman.
When Mr. Saleem takes to the airwaves, he is Begum Nawazish Ali, a coquettish widow who interviews Pakistan’s glitterati and some of its top politicians.
A real woman could not possibly do what Mr. Saleem does. In the unlikely event a station would broadcast such a show, the hostess would be shunned. And taking on the guise of a married woman — whose virtue is crucial to her whole family — would be equally impossible.
But apparently a cross-dressing man pretending to be a widow is another matter entirely.
Now, that is entertainment! How incredibly naughty — and yet so honest and up front and beguilingly open about so many things that people keep bottled up and closed off, including apparently many of Pakistan's leading politicians. Diva? Hell, the man's a genius! (And a hell of a lot easier on the eyes than Uncle Miltie.) To pull this off in a Muslim nation when so much of the Islamic world is in turmoil between moderates and fundamentalist fervor? Awfully brave and yet…awfully fun.
Following in the Begum's lead, and in the footsteps of RuPaul and Harvey Fierstein and Mrs. Doubtfire, I can't think of a nation more in need of loosening up a little and being honest with themselves than our own. (Even if it is because I want to spike Phyllis Schlaffley's beehive.)
So while I'm sitting here this morning pining for another genius show from Norman Lear, anyone want to pick up the political satire and social taboo mantle and run with it? Because I think this could be one fun show with the right guest lineup. Any suggestions on who would be a good candidate to let their hair down?
Don't know about you guys, but I think that Pat Robertson might need a little
intervention one-on-one time on the guest couch with a cross-dressing, bi-sexual, political junkie…honestly, isn't that a talking head show we'd all enjoy on some level?