Shapiro wants to prove that U.S. television episodes are “pieces of small-scale, insidiously brilliant leftist propaganda.” And he sort of succeeds. The pundit, who claims his attempts to break into TV scriptwriting were scuttled because “outspoken conservatives are less likely to get jobs,” has set out to expose the liberal biases in our favourite TV shows past and present. CSI episodes “target conservatives in pathetically blatant ways.” Mary Tyler Moore insidiously told us that “if you liked Mary, you had to accept her active sex life.” Even Cops is liberal because it goes out of its way to find white criminals. And don’t get him started on Sesame Street, which promotes “politically correct multiculturalism.” If young people tend to be more liberal than their elders, Primetime Propaganda says it’s because their TV programs are indoctrinating them.
What makes the book easier to take than most political screeds about TV, left or right, is that Shapiro has bothered to go out and talk to some of the writers of these shows, who were happy to tell him that their political views did indeed influence what they wrote. Readers might not share Shapiro’s displeasure when the creator of The Waltons, which Shapiro finds unacceptably pro-New-Deal, tells the author, “I’m for abortion. I’m for gay marriage.” But at least writers like Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman are given a chance to argue that “it didn’t feel to us that we were preaching anything.”
Shapiro sees his book as an alternative to traditional conservative moralizing about TV: instead of arguing that people shouldn’t watch, he demands more employment for conservatives, possibly including himself: television producers can achieve greatness, he says, but “they can only do it with conservative help.” Still, he has trouble making the case that conservatives are systematically excluded. He even admits that Hollywood is friendly to Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry and NCIS’s Don Bellisario, who are economic conservatives but “social liberals.” What Shapiro’s argument really comes down to is not that TV doesn’t hire conservatives, but that it doesn’t hire conservatives like him.