Sunday, March 15, 2015

The antics of Corey Matthews and Shawn Hunter were always subdued and brought back to reason by Principal Mr. Feeney, and occasionally teacher Mr. Turner.

If you don't know, I'm talking about four characters in a popular sitcom that took place in Philadelphia, PA, in a Philadelphia school, in a Philadelphia neighborhood.

Except No, and No, and Not At All.

The show, "Boy Meets World," was a great show.

I watched it, back in the Mid to Late 90s. But even as a 9-year old, I could see past the BS. I could see that not only was this show not even filmed anywhere near Philly, but also that the producers couldn't care less about even pretending they knew anything about My City.

By sheer observance, I deduce that popular culture excludes authenticity. Trust me, I know, as does any other 80s baby born and raised in Philly, or Cleveland, or East St. Louis.

Then we get this network tv series Boy Meets World, about a Philadelphia kid, except it's not actually in Philly. There is no accent, or dialect, or reference to anything in My City. Even the outdoor shot of the house made it clear: this show is about two children growing up, and arbitrarily, we chose the 5th most populous city in the US as the backdrop.

The real backdrop? Well, a studio in Burbank, California or NYC, obviously.

You see, Philly gets no love.

Even when we do, it's not accurate. Even the Netflix series "House of Cards" bungled it, and they have arguably much more leeway than even HBO. Really? A Congressman named Peter Russo, who has not even a hint of a Philly accent, even though he's from South Philly? And his union boy constituents sound more like they're from Brooklyn. And the outside scenes of his Philadelphia homecoming are literally filmed in Baltimore.

But hey, I'm used to all this.

Like weathermen and...weatherwomen, who are told to lose everything they hold sacred, up to and including especially the way they talk so that everyone in this country can feel comfortable hearing a person whether black or white or Asian tell them about the tornado about the wipe out their entire town or the sleet that may inconvenience them in their morning commute in a dialect that's...COMFORTABLE?

Enter The Wire. HBO. 2002.

Sure it takes place in Baltimore, Maryland, missing My City by about 90 miles give or take, but for once we get honesty. On tv.

For once we get a show ABOUT the Outliers, and FOR the Outliers, instead of business as usual...Shows, broadcasts, podcasts, dramas, comedies, documentaries, mockumentaries, movies, about the INSIDERS FOR THE INSIDERS.

David Simon took a huge gamble with this. This concept, of writing for and about a small sliver of the American Experiment, in the hopes that the Mainstream would and could eventually catch on, had never been done before.

And rarely has been done since.

Until, that is, Breaking Bad, and its genius little brother Better Call Saul.

My litmus test for good tv is when you are not only watching actors play characters, but also when the Setting becomes a character in itself.

Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce you to the City of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Tune in to AMC, Mondays at 10p.

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