I HEAR A LOT OF FOLKS say that there’s nothing good on t.v. They say the new era of good television is over.
Maybe that’s because Two and a Half Men is off the air.
As a philosopher, I’m willing to admit that I don’t know plenty of things, but, one thing I do know is that anyone who says today’s t.v. sucks are wrong. There’s a lot of good stuff to watch out there.
And not just Fuller House.
You see, until recently, I, too believed that there was nothing good worth watching on television – especially network television. I had given up on network t.v. My weekly television viewing was limited to basic cable. I had found and fell in intellectual love with Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Mr. Robot, Better Call Saul, The Americans, and American Gods.
Folks also seem to like The Good Place.
I haven’t seen The Good Place.
There’s my favorite love to hate, hate to love, The Walking Dead.
The Walking Dead isn’t exactly good television, at least not since they canned Frank
Darabont but it is philosophical television.
That’s what really matters in the end, isn’t it?
One new network t.v. show has got my attention – my philosophical attention.
I think it’s pretty funny, too.
That t.v. show is A.P. Bio.
For those of you who aren’t watching that show (I suspect that’s most of you), A.P. Bio follows the story of Jack Griffin, a self-described “award winning philosophy scholar” (played by Glenn Howerton of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia), who, after a fall from grace, ends up living in his dead mother’s apartment, teaching a high school Advanced Placement biology (A.P. Bio) class in Toledo, Ohio.
Of course, true to cinematic form, Jack Griffin is a bad philosopher.
Jack is arrogant. He waves his (former) Harvard philosophy gig around like a movie rent-a-cop waves around his not-real-law-enforcement badge.
…anything to reinforce Jack’s undeserved sense of intellectual superiority.
And because Jack is a philosopher, he’s also kinda pervy.
Jack isn’t interested in teaching a lowly high school class, particularly one in Toledo, Ohio.
Jack thinks his co-workers are idiots.
Jack thinks his students are idiots.
Jack is more interested in an attempted hook up with the mother of a student, belittling his co-workers and students, (another) attempted hook up with a former girlfriend, expressing his contempt for the city and people of Toledo, Ohio, bragging about his award-winning status, and plotting the ruin of his rival, Jack’s former Harvard colleague (and successful best-selling philosopher), Miles Leonard.
I hope that Jack Griffin wasn’t an ethics scholar.
…. which brings me to the point of this blog post.
With the exception of biopics about philosophers, no one in movies or t.v. shows about philosophers ever says what kind of philosopher they are.
As much as I am enjoying A.P. Bio, I can’t get past the one thing about the show that bothers me: Jack describes himself as a “philosopher” − ok, but what kind of philosopher is he? What’s his field of study? Philosophy of language? Ethics? Metaphysics? Logic?
Good lord, is it epistemology???!
Jack wrote a book called The End: A Philosophy of Death. Does that mean his thing is metaphysics?
Is he an existentialist?
I mean, what kind of philosopher is this guy, anyway???!!!
Movie and t.v. philosophers are just “philosophers”. In film, “philosopher” is a generic term.
Movie and t.v. philosophers never have a specific field they study or teach.
I can say, for the record, that I’ve never had just a “philosophy” professor or taken a generic “philosophy” class. In real life, like many professions, philosophy is a diverse field of study with many (sometimes opposing) schools of thought. Philosophers in the real world specialize. There are philosophers of science and philosophers of mathematics.
There are philosophers of law and philosophers of humor. There are political philosophers and medical ethicists.
Philosophers who do linguistics..
Philosophers who are into aesthetics.
Some even specialize in the study and teaching about the works of a particular philosopher.
You get the idea.
Movie and t.v. philosophers pontificate in ways and about things that says, “whoever wrote this script has never stepped foot in an actual philosophy class”. Or worse yet, fictional philosophers immediately launch into the THERE IS NO GOD routine.
That’s philosophy of religion, folks. And nobody does that, not even actual philosophers.
In movies and tv., calling a character a “philosopher” isn’t about the character being anything like an actual philosopher as much as calling a character a philosopher is a shortcut to describe what kind of person the character is. In entertainment, philosophers are pompous, irresponsible, seemingly profound, but ultimately shallow, moral degenerates.
They’re characters like Jack Griffin.
All you need to know about Jack is that he’s a philosopher.
You can correctly assume the rest.
I guess what’s really grinding my gears about fictional philosophers is the lack of attention (or respect) paid to the profession. We all know that nobody likes philosophers, but if you’re going to depict a profession, even if the character you’re depicting is an absolute asshat, a realistic depiction can go a long way.
Walter White wasn’t just a teacher. He was a chemistry teacher.
The characters on Criminal Minds aren’t just FBI agents. They’re agents with the Bureau’s Behavioral Analysis Unit.
Hank Hill isn’t a mere salesman. He sells propane and propane accessories.
In the real world, when you go to the doctor, you go to a specific kind of doctor. Sure, they all go to doctor school to learn doctoring, but would you want your psychiatrist to remove your gallstones? He could probably do it.
But would you want him to?
I mean, there isn’t a generic doctor, is there?
Wait a minute. There are general practitioners, aren’t there?
Ok. Bad analogy.
But, if I’m watching an episode of Law and Order, I’m going to see a t.v. show full of lawyers who specialize in criminal law. The episodes will involve cases and situations that pertain to criminal cases. There will be no riveting episode about a squabble in probate court. No chance of watching an episode of D.A. Jack McCoy taking on the case of a client challenging an unreasonable noise ordinance.
They’re all lawyers on Law and Order.
But they’re all a particular kind of lawyer.
On every t.v. show, they’re all a particular kind of something.
So, would it be too much to ask that Jack say at least once
before the show is cancelled, seriously, look at the ratings what kind of philosophy he does?
My bet is it’s ethics.
Jack Griffin looks straight-up like a Nietzsche paraphrasing, social liberal/economic conservative, “I AM JOHN GALT” − declaring, Randian Objectivist
f**k boi, who drops Hegel references like Hegel references.
Pretty much your standard philosopher.