Hello, stereotypical American family.
Hello, stereotypical American family.

by Kathy Fuller

Netflix–the gift that keeps on giving. This week I watched America in Primetime, a four-part series about…television. Combining interviews with showrunners, actors, and archival footage from the 50s through the current decade, this documentary is definitely worth six hours of your life (I suck at math so maybe its a little more than six or a little less, who cares).

The first episode, “Man of the House”, is about how male characters and viewpoints have evolved on television and in America. The second ep, “Independent Woman”…I’ll let you guess. Those were interesting enough but it’s the third and fourth eps, “The Misfit” and “The Crusader” that were really interesting to me, because there’s a lot of discussion about writing and characterization and why people identify with certain shows and characters who exist outside the norm. I found the discussion about Dexter to be particularly interesting (and it’s at the very end of the series, so watch the whole thing folks) because this character and series are so polarizing that David Simon won’t watch the show. To find out why, you’ll have to see this documentary.

It’s all pretty thought provoking and provides great insight into writing and development. Since it’s a documentary and tries to cover many different eras, there’s a lot of skimming the surface here–an entire episode could have centered around the nuances of The Wire, for example–but IMO it’s a must watch for writers, whether you’re planning to go into television or not.