By right-wing Christian TV shows I do not mean shows that are explicitly conservative or Christian. I mean shows that will be most appreciated by such people.
Nick Gillespie and Meredith Bragg at Reason.com have posted about “The Five Best Libertarian TV Shows Ever. These shows are not supposed to be explicitly Libertarian (I’m pretty sure House of Cards would never qualify), but they are shows that Libertarians should appreciate and find rewarding to them as Libertarians.
But their list disappoints!
I’m tempted to simply call my own list also “Libertarian” but then I would get comments accusing me of being a Libertarian and I don’t want to confuse people.
I admit that some of their shows may belong on a longer list—I haven’t watched the Wire yet, or House of Cards or some of the others. So I won’t dispute about them.
But this I know: Jericho and Firefly belong in the top two slots of any list of that sort! It is intolerable that they are missing.
Also, whatever one thinks of Penn and Teller’s show, it is not supposed to be drama. I think it is cheating to include them in the list. Why not also list John Stossel’s show or Judge Napolitano’s old show?
Here is my list (again with the qualification that these are shows that resonate with conservative Christians, not that they are intended as Christian messages).
When a nuclear attack hits the U.S. the people of Jericho, Kansas, find themselves blessed with a location that shelters them, but with the challenges of survival. This show featured a rejected but righteous younger brother and an accepted but sinful older one, so it works with a deep Biblical pattern. The younger brother, Jake Green, also stands out as one of the best masculine heroes I have seen on TV. As the story progresses, you see a drama unfold of people in government trying to use a horrible catastrophe to increase and consolidate their own power over the people. This is a wonderful TV series that only lasted for one season and then a mini-season that concluded the story with the flying of the Gadsden flag!
Firefly is a western set in outer space from the mind of Joss Whedon. The human race, speaking English and Mandarin, has migrated from earth and settled in a large stellar system with many planets that have been made habitable for human life. The central planets formed the Alliance and rule the whole star system after crushing the “Browncoats” who fought for independence. Two ex-officers in that defeated army attempt to make a living (often by legally questionable means) by use of a small “Firefly-class” spaceship. Their permanent crew includes an out-of-work pastor/monk and also fugitives from the central government.
I repeat what I said above that this is not a Christian show. It contains a few things I wish were never on Television. But it was a brilliant show and it saddens me that it never got a full season.
Here, I highly approve of Nick Gillespie’s and Meredith Bragg’s choice, but there is much more to say. Back in 1993, theologian Jim Jordan wrote a review of a Graphic Novel based on The Prisoner. In so doing he writes about the TV series and shows it is not just “libertarian” but also Christian.
First shown in the United States on CBS television in 1968, The Prisoner has remained one of the most celebrated and remarkable television programs ever produced. The Prisoner was originally conceived as a seven-episode series, each an hour long, dealing allegorically with the free man versus modern mass society. The series was then expanded to the seventeen episodes that now exist. […]
Actor Patrick McGoohan had complete artistic control over the entire series. He wrote and directed the final two episodes, which “reveal” what the series was about. According to those who know him, McGoohan is a devout Roman Catholic Christian (White & Ali, p. 171). He twice rejected offers to play James Bond, once before the role was offered to Sean Connery and then again when Connery retired, evidently because of his contempt for Bond’s immoral personal character (White & Ali, pp. 123, 181).
In the first episode of The Prisoner we see an unnamed British agent resigning from the secret service. He returns home only to be gassed and spirited away to The Village. Where this Village is and who actually runs it we never know. It may be the Soviets; it may be the British; it may be a secret world-ruling conspiracy. It doesn’t matter: The point is that The Village exists to force this ex-agent into conformity with the “world.”
The prisoner is given the name “No. 6.” In each episode a new No. 2 is brought in to break No. 6, find out why he resigned (the answer is simply that he freely chose to do so), and bring him into conformity. We don’t find out for certain who No. 1 is until the last episode, though this is hinted at every week. The home of No. 6, from which he is abducted, is shown each week as 1 Buckingham Place (Palace). Also note the opening dialogue:
No. 6: Where am I?
No. 2: In The Village.
No. 6: What do you want?
No. 2: In formation. We want in formation. (That is, we want information, but we want you to get “in formation” with society. No individuality allowed.)
No. 6: You won’t get it.
No. 2: By hook or by crook, we will.
No. 6: Who are you?
No. 2: I am the new No. 2.
No. 6: Who is No. 1?
No. 2: You are No. 6. (Or: You are, No. 6!)
No. 6: I am not a number! I am a free man!
No. 2: (uproarious laughter)
White & Ali identify the seven core episodes of the series. A look at these brings out some of the Christian themes that become more explicit in the last episode. In “Dance of the Dead,” No. 6 finds a dead body on the beach, and takes from it a transistor radio. Climbing to the top of the tower, he tunes in just long enough to get the message, “Only through pain can tomorrow be ensured.” (Compare Acts 14:22, “Through many tribulations we must enter the Kingdom of God.”) The Village overseers sentence him to death for possession of this radio, but he manages to avoid execution.
In “Free for All,” we find that the pub in The Village serves no alcohol, but in “Checkmate” we find that No. 6, before his capture, used to drink at a pub called “Hope and Anchor.” There is enough here to see that the radio represents the Bible, alcohol the sacraments, and the “Hope and Anchor” pub the Church. These are forbidden in The Village.
No. 6 has an inner strength that enables him to avoid being pressed into the world’s mold. From time to time, as he says goodbye to someone, No. 6 says “Be seeing you,” and shoots the sign of the fish with his thumb and forefinger. McGoohan explained this as an ancient Christian greeting (White & Ali, p. 132). Paradoxically, other (bad) characters also use this sign of greeting, showing that things are not always what they seem.
It is in the last episode that we see clearly that the entire series has been allegorical. The issue of who really runs The Village is unimportant, because The Village is the world. At the end, free at last, No. 6 is still “The Prisoner” — these words flash under him while he drives away “free.” Moreover, the last episode, by showing that No. 1 is really the dark side of No. 6, shows that true freedom comes not from wrestling with society but from mastering one’s sinful, ape-like nature. No. 6 is truly free within because he is a moral person, even if he is, like all of us, held captive by The World.
The last temptation put before No. 6 was also put before Jesus Christ: take over and be our ruler. No. 6 almost falls before this temptation, but he successfully resists it. The last episode also symbolically points to love and faith, balancing “hope and anchor” which have already been mentioned. The Beatles’ song “All You Need Is Love” is played throughout much of the last episode, as is the song “Dem Bones, Dem Dry Bones.” McGoohan was particularly insistent on “Dem Bones,” doubtless because it is only the man resurrected from the dead who can be a true individual and resist The World.
The Official Prisoner Companion is chock-full of information about the original television series. White and Ali show that Christian allegorical elements are important in The Prisoner, though they don’t provide a full Christian analysis. All the same, if you are a Prisoner fan, or if the series is going to be broadcast where you are, you will enjoy having this book alongside.
Obviously, nothing from James Cameron is meant to be remotely Christian, and there are lots of cultural offenses in these two seasons. But the setting involves living under a corrupt national regime in the aftermath of a terrorist attack that destroyed the economy and provided an excuse for disposing of the Constitution. Also, the people constantly have to worry about flying government drones spying on them! Watching the show now it is hard to believe that it was not intentionally designed as a metaphor. Since the first season aired before 9-11 that can’t be the case. The constant fight with government corruption and tyranny is one of the reasons that this show is worth watching.
A CIA agent is “burned” for reasons that are not revealed to him. He has to try to find out while living in Miami and working private jobs that use his skill set. I haven’t watched all these and am less interested in the story when the protagonist is finally received back by the CIA (perhaps he got “burned” again?). But when the protagonist worked on his own as an urban mercenary… that was satisfying to watch! Sadly, though a champion in many ways, he did not govern his actions by Christian sexual ethics. The shows I saw showed a much more moral character than you often see on television. (This certainly deserves to be somewhere on a Libertarian list, depending on how long that list is.)
Of course, my list is relatively recent (except for the Prisoner). The last two slots are especially debatable.
What shows would go on your list?