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sb f0 American series: when the news contaminates fiction - The Times Hub

American series: when the news contaminates fiction

American series: when the news contaminates fiction

Temperature measurement at the entrance to the police station, Plexiglas panels in the courts, nursing staff suffering from COVID-19, hostility towards the police … American TV series have become a mirror of the events that have upset the past few months in United States, sticking more than ever to the news, while screenwriters and actors demonstrate an unprecedented commitment.

“I just want this year to end.

– Hopefully the news is better… ”

On January 7, it was on these sentences spoken by the character of Olivia Benson and her son that the first episode of the year of Law and Order – Special Victims Unit, mother and son reflecting in front of a deserted Times Square the state of mind of virtually the entire planet on the eve of the new year.


    Actor Peter Scanavino takes his temperature on the set of Law and Order – Special Victims Unit.

  • American series: when the news contaminates fiction


    Ice-T and Jamie Gray Hyder, cast ofLaw and Order – Special Victims Unit

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In recent months, many American series have been directly inspired by current events to immortalize a new season marked by a panoply of health constraints and a highly tense social climate.

Outraged Law and Order – Special Victims Unit, shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Chicago Med, The Good Doctor, The Resident, Station 19, This Is Us – to name just a few – have chosen to depict the daily life of police officers, doctors, firefighters and ordinary inhabitants forced to deal with illness, quarantine, physical distancing, prohibitions, fear, mistrust …

Thus, viewers were treated to episodes where police officers reprimand witnesses who do not respect distancing or do not wear face coverings, where people frequent speakeasys in full confinement or roommates argue over the issue of compliance with sanitary measures.

Other shows, like the sitcom The Conners or dramatic comedy Shameless, address the pandemic in particular by showing the economic repercussions and the effect of containment measures on the working class, notes Stéfany Boisvert, professor at the School of Media at the University of Quebec in Montreal. Series which, according to her, have always been concerned with displaying their closeness to people.

What makes the popularity of series like Law and Order – Special Victims Unit, it is precisely their side ripped from the headlines (torn from the headlines), believes Martin Winckler, doctor and writer, author of several essays on American series, including The mirrors of life – History of American series.

The television series are a reflection of the world in which we live. Thus, they allow a look at the same time near and from a distance. They don’t give us the solution, the answer; they tell us: this is how we can think of things differently.

Martin Winckler, doctor and author of several essays on American series

But there would also be a political will on the part of the writers to tackle certain subjects, in his opinion. “You have to remember that Hollywood votes 95% Democrats. So, anti-Trump speeches, critical speeches on the management of the pandemic, on people who do not wear masks… necessarily, there are, because there is a commitment from the writers. This is inevitable both as a material and as a statement. ”

From engaged TV

This commitment is moreover far from having gone unnoticed. The writers – and actors – of these prime-time broadcasts used every forum at their disposal to get their messages across.

The screenwriter and producer of Law and Order – Special Victims Unit Warren leight even went so far as to announce on Twitter that the show would attempt to give roles to all of the Broadway actors who have been out of work since March 2020.

As for medical series, Stéfany Boisvert recalls that the executive producer of Grey’s Anatomy, Krista Vernoff, said in several interviews that she has a responsibility to caregivers.

Canadian writer and director David Shore, series creator The Good Doctor, meanwhile told the CBC network that he not only had a huge opportunity to entertain with the show, but also, he hopes, the ability to “educate, open some eyes and bring people think about certain things a little differently ”.

Photos of masked actors have also proliferated on social networks, whether in the form of selfies or snapshots taken during filming.

Actors Ellen Pompeo and Giacomo Gianniotti notably posted on Instagram a photo where they proudly wear a mask, accompanied by a comment where they dedicate this 17e season of the show to the medical community (to whom they say they are “in debt for life”), as well as to all the healthcare workers who have succumbed to COVID-19 and those still at the front lines.

The creators and actors behind these series seem very keen to put forward this social utility of television, its role in raising awareness with regard to social and health issues, the educational dimension and the function of raising awareness for living together that enables television as a mass medium.

Stéfany Boisvert, professor at the Media School of the University of Quebec in Montreal

If the pandemic and the social upheavals that have marked the last few months in the United States have provided the creators of television series with plenty of stories to tell, Stéfany Boisvert is certain that events “as disruptive and of such magnitude” will also have a long-term effect on creative practices.

Disruptive events, precisely, recent news has not finished producing them. Thus, Martin Winckler would not be surprised that screenwriters are already working on the writing of episodes featuring… the assault on the Capitol, which took place on January 6. To be continued.

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