When the problem is politics itself

Cynicism and dejection cede too much ground to the worst among us

Donald Trump, President Biden, and Kamala Harris.
(Image credit: Illustrated | Getty Images, iStock)

One of the best classes I took as an undergraduate was a course called "Writing as a Critic." Students moved from genre to genre throughout the semester — one week writing a film review, the next tackling a play, then a record album, then a ballet, and so on. But nothing tested my patience and flexibility like the assignment to review a few episodes of a TV show. This was 1989, network television was the only option, and the show I chose was Doogie Howser, M.D., a "comedy-drama" about a teenaged doctor (played by a young Neil Patrick Harris).

The show was awful in a way that TV series today rarely are: hokey, trite, hackneyed, treating its audience like illiterates. This was before Seinfeld, before The Sopranos, before competition from dozens of platforms forced everyone in the industry to up their game. So I wrote a contempt-soaked rant — but not aimed solely at the show under review. It was a blast at television in general, treating it as a garbage genre, lacking in any merit. Which inspired my prof to deliver a set of comments that have stayed with me ever since.

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