The Antiquated Handbook For Making Great American Television Needs A Major Update

Photo: sturti (Getty Images)

American TV has always been the gold standard for addressing current issues in the world. Unfortunately, these shows usually take the wrong side, create a false reality or just make America a little too great (again). When sex feels like a crime but serial murder doesn’t, that’s when you know The Antiquated Handbook for Making Great American TV is in need of a serious rewrite.

We’re pulling references from old shows and new to make a prime example of what’s wrong with American television. Maybe we can get a little more Black Panther and a little less The Cosby Show before it’s over.

Maximize the Graphic Violence (With Zero Repercussions)

Shows like Sons of Anarchy got away with a lot of gruesome murder without not a lot of repercussion, at least until the end when the entire Teller family dies. It’s a damn wonder why we have problems with school shootings in America.

Limit Female Speaking Roles (or Center Entire Show Around Objectifying Them)

Old school America television was all about entertainment (lots hot girls) without a lot of talking. Even Netflix shows today, like House of Cards, has very limited female roles, where if the female is intelligent, she’s likely a loner. Megan Fox on Two And a Half Men would be the halfway point in time between the two references, and you’re starting to catch onto the problem.

Cast Trustworthy Father Figure in Lead (Later To Be Called Out For Sexual Assault)

In addition to limited female roles, getting a guy into the lead, who will terrify us with multiple counts of sexual assault, seems to be the play. On rare occasion, kids even get to join the reality horror show. You might have never known until it was too late. Who knew the guy selling us pudding pops was doping his lady friends? New rule of thumb: If there’s a list of abused women to consider, maybe reconsider.

Ruin a Family By Bringing a Class-One Felony Drug (Weed) Into the House

This episode of 7th Heaven is too classic, but in fact just about every rule in this handbook applies to the show about a preacher and his family. Such irony. If you weren’t up to speed, weed is in the same felony class as heroin and has zero medicinal values, except all of them. Not seeing a reunion for this show in the works. Curious why?

Sprinkle in Light Racism (or Write Other Races to Sound Like White People)

The one guy who didn’t get to rock a banana hammock on Baywatch, Garner Ellerbee, was more or less classified as the help. The only thing worse than old TV shows treating other races like outsiders would be new TV making them sound like white people (ahem, Arrow, New Girl).

Make Holiday Episodes Unrealistically Entertaining

Holidays are shit, and we all know it. Well, they’re not shit, but they’re not without flaw (i.e. major family squabbles, political conflicts). Any show that does that is just trying to make us feel better that our family moved and didn’t inform us when it came time for Christmas.

Create an Imbalanced Political Setting (Or Belittle All Republicans Characters)

Photo: ABC

Where most shows would make their liberal Hollywood agenda so imbalanced that it’s awkward for even the left, Roseanne Barr’s Republican allegiance made its way into the Roseanne reboot as an opportunity to make Jackie look like the crazy, token liberal for the rest of us. If Trump is praising someone on TV, you know it must be fucked.

Make At Least One Indirect (Or Very Direct) Jab at the Trump Administration

Speaking of political balance, Fuller House wasted zero minutes before making their political stance well known in its Netflix pilot. And they haven’t let up from what we hear.

Reduce Sex to a Dangerous Act That Only Married Adults Can Handle

The ’90s teen dramas had the opportunity/painful duty to address every major adolescent issue in the book, which is probably why they went for 10 seasons (and we’re celebrating a Dawson’s Creek 25th anniversary). Donna Martin’s virginity on 90210, prom night deflowering, Joey Potter’s unwavering strength, Dawson repeatedly getting rejected. It’s all there in the ’90s, making us feel guilty about sex, masturbating and not getting married at 19 like our parents. Oh, and anal was way off limits, of course.

Convince Your Audience That Having Multiple Kids Is a Sensible Idea 

And discriminate against anyone who doesn’t adhere. Roseanne, a Midwestern working-class family that can’t quit getting its phone service shut off, just keeps cranking them out. The only thing better than a ridiculously large family you can’t support? Marrying into another huge family and really struggling to find happiness (Step by Step, The Brady Bunch).

But, Jesus, No Swearing

All these awful things and more will make you a great classic American TV show. But for the love of all that is holy in America television, don’t you ever goddamn swear. If you need to, just scream “Jesus Christ,” which should send the right message.