The modern TV landscape could be confused for a DNC rally. Shows feature anti-ICE plots in between swipes at the Second Amendment. Pro-choice themes abound, while direct and indirect shots against Republicans pepper the screenplays.
Need we even bring up late-night TV?
Those are the cultural rules, but the following 21 shows blaze their own trail. Sadly, most of the following left the boob tube some years ago. They remain alive via streaming channels, classic TV stations, and dusty DVD box sets.
A select few keep chugging along, vital antidotes to woke storytelling and progressive finger-wagging.
1. “Family Ties”
The beloved ‘80s show pitted uber-hippie parents against their Reagan-lovin’ son, Alex P. Keaton (Michael J. Fox). Guess who won? On a show-to-show basis, the ledger likely came out even.
On a pop culture scale, it wasn’t even close.
Fox became a superstar and made Alex’s most selfish tics look fashionable. The show humanized the young Republican in the process, something modern storytellers might avoid. The liberal Slate.com called Alex P. Keaton a “hero” to the Right. “He made conservatism seem at once upstanding and rebellious.” Sort of says it all, no?
2. “Blue Bloods”
Sure, Tom Selleck’s mere presence suggests conservatives might quietly cheer this cop drama. The show itself pulls most of the ideological heft, though, albeit more gently.
The CBS series follows the ongoing saga of the Reagan family (subtle), a multi-generational cop clan led by New York Police Commissioner Frank Reagan (Selleck). The show, prepping its 11th season now, highlights the heroism of the men and women in blue. Best of all, the show integrates the Reagan family dinner, a time when tough conversations and family bonds bloom.
In a way, the Kiefer Sutherland smash depicts conservatism at its most cartoonish. Sutherland’s Jack Bauer will torture a suspect, any suspect, until he gives up the terrorist game. “America … f***, yeah!”
The show’s right-leaning bona fides extend beyond that. It’s about good and evil, sacrifice and heroism, and a protagonist who never, ever quits … even if he’s almost out of time.
The series lacked the moral handwringing over terrorism which suffocated Showtime’s “Homeland” after that show’s creative team, including “24” alum Howard Gordon, got woke.
4. “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet”
It’s the ultimate all-American family with every rough edge sanded to a pristine finish. Life is far more complex than these “adventures,” but the nuclear family unit never had a better advertisement.
The show set the template for family-based TV shows to come. Plus, liberal social critics have spent decades savaging its premise. That suggests it’s still hovering over the pop culture target.
5. “The Apprentice”
“You’re fired” became the show’s catch phrase, overshadowing its deeply conservative message. If you build it, they will buy it, something even celebrity contestants did with alacrity.
Looking back, it’s hard to separate the show from its famous host – sorry, one-and-done Ah-nold. That doesn’t diminish the appeal of entrepreneurs stumbling on the way to success.
6. “Shark Tank”
A stream of wannabe Thomas Edisons ask a panel of fiscal superstars if their dream is worth the bother. The answers, occasionally, are, “yes!” The rest of the times offer brutal life lessons, the kind we can all learn from if we keep our minds open. It’s those sequences which resonate the most. We’ve all gotten knocked down, but it’s the American way to get back up again, with apologies to Chumbawamba.
The perils of capitalism lurk within the boundaries, a fear that drives contestants to succeed. No wonder the show debuted in 2009 and shows no signs of stopping.
The HBO series’ writer/producer, Craig Mazin, blew a gasket when conservative superstar Rush Limbaugh embraced the show. Why wouldn’t El Rushbo adore it? The miniseries showed the folly of the Soviet Union, from its wall of secrecy to the way it cast humanity aside to cover up for its nuclear-sized mistakes.
It’s an essential watch for those who didn’t track the Soviet Union’s demise in the late 1980s. It’s equally important as we meet souls who pine for a similar government stateside. Few cautionary tales will scare you like “Chernobyl.”
8. “Top Gear”
The BBC car show made gear heads out of all of us.
Conservative columnist Rebecca Cusey called the show “fearless,” praising its bold banter and willingness to try new things. Co-host Jeremy Clarkson, she said, mocked environmental regulations, taxes, and other conservative-approved targets. That a British show could channel all-American pluck, with laughs aplenty, only broadened its appeal.
Clarkson got the boot in 2015 following a physical altercation topped by a series of behind-the-scenes issues. The show went on, briefly adding certified “Friend” Matt LeBlanc, but for some it’s no longer the same.
9. “The Waltons”
Like many classic TV shows, this rural drama wasn’t an instant hit. The ad campaign that helped save it? “This program is too beautiful to die.” And it didn’t, growing into a ratings monster over its nine-season run.
The show embraced more than the nuclear family template. We got to know all the Waltons, kinfolk who became like family to us. Richard Thomas’ John Boy dreamed of a writer’s life in New York. Instead, he stayed home and helped his family endure the Great Depression for multiple seasons.
Show creator Earl Hamner swore he wasn’t trying to “send a message” with the series. He created tales featuring “people of principle,” he says. Audiences took it from there.
The 1950s series set the template for other cop shows to follow, reinvent, or just plain explode. The iconic show featured two cops who probably had “by the book” tattooed on their forearms just out of sight. That’s assuming Sgt. Joe Friday (Jack Webb) would ever submit to such a counter-culture flourish.
These cops were square, and unapologetically so, but they became a cultural force that fueled countless imitators and the 1987 comedy tribute with Tom Hanks and Dan Aykroyd.
Like “Ozzie and Harriet,” “Dragnet” avoided shades of gray. The show’s righteous appeal mattered then, and perhaps even more today. We all want more cops as good and gracious as Joe Friday.
11. “SEAL Team”
One of the more promising Hollywood trends is understanding the big picture behind military service. Movies like “American Sniper” and the criminally overlooked “Thank You for Your Service” remind us about the families who sacrifice so much when their loved ones serve, and fight, overseas.
This CBS drama, starring David Boreanaz, focuses as much on the home front as the gun battles. We see families weep when their fathers leave for active duty, and feel the fallout when a soldier steps out of line.
The show, recently given a greenlight for a fourth season, follows an elite unit sent into battle, often with little time to properly prepare family members.
12. “Duck Dynasty”
What happens when a reality show focuses on a God-fearing clan unprepared for their close up? You break the mold, kick the pieces around in the dirt, and stir a pop culture earthquake. All of the above applied to “Duck Dynasty,” featuring the least likely heroes in modern Hollywood lore.
The Robertson clan struck it rich with its Duck Commander business, but audiences tuned in over 11 seasons for their eclectic duds, Evangelical Christian messages, and plainspoken charm.
13. “Walker, Texas Ranger”
The ‘90s cop show starred uber-tough guy Chuck Norris, which on paper is all you need to know. The show’s themes and characters reflected the star’s point of view, from its adherence to classic western values to tales evoking “good versus evil” narratives. Naturally, the upcoming reboot – just plain “Walker,” thank you, cast actor Keegan Allen as the main character’s gay conservative brother.
14. “Last Man Standing”
The show’s title says it all. Tim Allen refuses to buckle to Hollywood groupthink, playing a smart, conservative pappy and grandpa in this long-running show. ABC bailed on Team Allen after six years despite rock-solid ratings … suspicious. It eventually found a home at FOX where it continues to thrive.
Quick, name another sitcom (on broadcast, cable, or streaming services) centered around an openly conservative character we’re meant to cheer. We’ll wait.
15. “The Middle”
Pro-life sitcom superstar Patricia Heaton segued from Raymond to this wonderfully average clan. The show wasn’t squeaky clean in the “Ozzie and Harriet” mold, nor did it embrace red hot button topics like “Roseanne 2.0.” Instead, the series depicted a blue-collar America family with humor, depth, and heart. Even Vox praised the show, daring to slap the “conservative” label on it sans irony or insult.
16. “The Ranch”
Star and executive producer Ashton Kutcher pitched a simple and rare mission statement behind the Netflix comedy. Red State USA needs a show to call its own, and I’m gonna make it. And he did, until the final season when the show went woke and savaged the Second Amendment. Still, the story of a Colorado clan addressed heartland concerns, which is much more than most modern shows can claim.
17. “South Park”
Why would a show that mocks President Donald Trump, Glenn Beck, Vice President Dick Cheney, and other right-friendly targets attract so much conservative love?
All together now, “Because it hits both sides. So hard it leaves a mark.”
The Comedy Central series is brutal to anyone and everyone in the cultural cross hairs. Sacred cows suffer the most, though. How many shows would mock Prius drivers with an episode built around “smug alerts?” And show creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone neither apologize nor cede their ground. It’s why you can’t see the show in China and no one can see episode 201 in its purest form after their own network censored them.
18. “King of the Hill”
Leave it to “Beavis & Butt-head” creator Mike Judge to poke fun at the Lonestar state in cruelty free fashion.
The Hill clan, led by propane salesman Hank Hill, kept us laughing for 13 seasons. The show embraced Texas culture, tweaking local customs without losing its sense of respect or proportion.
19. “The Cosby Show”
Bill Cosby got “canceled” and later thrown in the slammer for his sexual deviancy. Good, and good riddance. His sitcom, however, doesn’t deserve such a fate.
The story of a middle-class black family filled with love, laughter, and small “d” dramas anchored NBC’s “Must See TV” lineup. The series featured a beautiful nuclear family headed by parents who always strived to do the right thing. They made mistakes. So did their lovable kids. Finding the solutions together made for heart-warming, rib tickling episodes.
Marshall Matt Dillon epitomized peace through strength before President Ronald Reagan amplified that message on a global scale. Star James Arness voted Republican, but his TV persona captured the conservative spirit within the context of the western genre.
21. “American Idol”
The long-running show first made headlines for its cringe-worthy contestants and Simon Cowell’s trash talk. Great. Fine. That’s entertainment, we suppose.
What grabbed audiences then and now is the journey, the path untested singers take en route to fame, fortune, or failure. The best survive. The worst go home and lick their emotional wounds. And it’s up to the viewers to decide the winners. That dash of populism, both empowering and patriotic, remains the show’s secret sauce.
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