Bureaucrats, Politicians TV's Favorite Bunglers

By Duin, Julia | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 6, 1999 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Bureaucrats, Politicians TV's Favorite Bunglers

Duin, Julia, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)

Call it the negative '90s.

Television shows now portray civil servants, public officials and businessmen as lazy, inept and greedy, according to a new report from a Washington research organization.

"Public officials and public employees are the Rodney Dangerfields of TV entertainment," said S. Robert Lichter, president of the Center for Media and Public Affairs. "They don't get no respect. Basically, bureaucrats are there to pester you and politicians are there to steal your money and generally corrupt the system."

The center conducted an exhaustive study of 1,234 prime-time TV episodes and 9,588 characters that aired between 1955 and 1998 on ABC, CBS and NBC.

In analyzing shows that aired from 1955 through 1986, 51 percent of the politicians played negative roles compared with 40 percent who played positive ones. Nine percent of the portrayals were neutral.

Politicians' roles have become more neutral in the past few years. For shows airing between 1992 and 1998, only 31 percent were depicted negatively, 22 percent positively and 47 percent neutrally.

Some TV politicians were depicted as honorable, such as actor Fess Parker in the TV version of "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," a comedy show that ran from 1962 to 1963.

But after the mid-1970s, when Watergate occurred, TV focused on either the dark side of political life - evil politicians allied with business or criminal interests - or as foolish bumblers in humorous roles, such as Boss Hogg, a corrupt and blustery county commissioner on "The Dukes of Hazzard," the report said.

In "Spin City," fictional New York Mayor Randall Winston is portrayed as a scatterbrained bungler.

Other government workers don't fare so well, either. In an episode of "The X-Files," FBI agent Fox Mulder - often portrayed as a hero - discovers a secret government conspiracy to implant a deadly biotoxin in stolen money to test its effects on the public.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Bureaucrats, Politicians TV's Favorite Bunglers


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?