This is it folks: we now finally know exactly what a Trump-era television landscape looks like. Although every show that's bowed since his win has been squinted at through Trump-colored lenses ($69.99 at Amazon; made in China, by the way) to determine how his... Shall we say, signature tone would impact television, all the big buzzed-about new shows the past few months (American Gods, 13 Reasons Why, Dear White People, Handmaid's Tale, etc.) were mostly done before the Tweeter-in-chief took to the White House. Now that the fall 2017-18 TV schedules are out, though, the Trump effect is clear: Red is the new black.
There's been a swift slant towards conservatism at the big networks — and not only in the "safe and conventional" interpretation which has translated as reboots, spin-offs and superhero shows. No, we're talking apple-pie, drive-in theater, yellow-ribbons-round the tree conservatism manifested in two genres: shows about the military and shows about religion.
Three military dramas will be on TV screens in fall: Seal Team (CBS); Valor (The CW); and The Brave (NBC). If Behind Enemy Lines, which is still in limbo, and Charlie Foxtrot (from Fox and ABC respectively) had been picked up, that would have meant every network would be airing a military show this upcoming season. The glory, grit and guts of military stories make for compelling content no matter what your political leaning, but executives clearly all thought it wise to pivot and lean into the values of the people who have handed the government to Republicans. Republicans are the party of patriotism, service to country and boots on the ground of course — leaders who justify the enormous costs of war by saying it's the work of heroic men and women whose willingness to fight is vital to defending our freedom.
That's why Seal Team, in which David Boreanaz plays a member of the real-life elite unit fighting for American's safety, is much more than exciting gunplay and choreographed fighting. As shown in the the trailer, the meat here is the touching, tender stuff — leaving the significant other and kids, bonding with the team, struggling with PTSD — that paints service men and women as gods among mortals.
Same deal with Valor, pretty much, which is about U.S. Army helicopter pilots whose secret mission to Somalia goes awry. Full of mystery and intrigue after a team member goes missing, Valor has cool military technology and erotic tension between the good looking soldiers that makes the show sexy. They, along with Brave, offer empathetic looks at soldiers' sacrifice and glamorize them.
Come December, reports of a new wave of applications at armed forces recruitment centers would not be surprising. Or, could it all be too much camo? After eight years of minimal military conflict, the populace seems kind of over war — not to mention jittery about the possibility of new ones. Could network bigwigs have overestimated an appetite for war stories? Or is it all government propaganda to make us excited for World War III? Time will tell.
On a less frightening note, faith is big this fall as well. ABC's The Gospel of Kevin has Jason Ritter playing a sinning jerk who is handpicked by God to be brought back to righteousness. Though it's a light-hearted dramedy, Gospel's Kevin (Ritter) is so low he attempts suicide, making his turn to God all the more remarkable. It's the kind of show that Vice President Mike Pence might be into, what with its inherent promise/agenda that you can beat depression, addiction and a whole bunch of other pre-existing conditions if you just turn to God.
On CBS, The Big Bang Theory's Johnny Galecki is blessing us with the show he's producing, The Book. It's based on the (lowercase) book The Year of Living Biblically, about a man who tries to live according to the Bible's rules for a year. Though the comedy will inevitably show our hero failing at holiness... At least he's trying, right? More importantly, it'll make the Bible and its message part of pop culture — something that might've been unthinkable a few years ago in a liberal-led country where inclusion was the buzzword. Overtly religious TV used to be relegated to cable documentaries and local Sunday morning slots. But if elections are pendulum swings, the new sanctified shows on the schedule make sense: sassy and promiscuous is out; Christ is back.
It's too soon to say if this mood — or, for that matter, this administration — will stick; but hey, the people are getting exactly what they asked for. Love of country and love of God are everywhere mainstream primetime, and even the current political chaos won't change this direction, at least until next season.
God bless American television.
(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS, one of The CW's parent companies.)