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TV That Matters: Remembering ‘Totally Biased’

By John Thomas Columnist

 

There’s already been a lot said about the importance of “Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell” in the wake of its cancellation. I would point you to a great article by Garrett Brown on Splitsider entitled “Why We Needed Totally Biased” to give you a bit of a footing on the show. Bell also has a post on his own blog that sends off the series nicely as well. Yet, I haven’t read anything that has recognized one of my favorite aspects of the program: its willingness to be angry in earnest.

Sure, your Jon Stewarts and your Bill Mahers are filled with a sort of righteous fury when rallying against some of the same injustices that found themselves targeted by Bell and his writers, but oftentimes the fact that these injustices will never affect those hosts makes their tirades sound if not insincere, at least a little disconnected from the issue.

To paraphrase Andrew Jackson Jihad, they’re straight, white men in America. They’ve got everything they need.

Bell is extremely sincere and affable, and I think that those very qualities are why some find it hard to understand his humor.

People are so used to comics that present themselves in a way that circumvents conventions of normal, polite convention either through their abrasive characteristics or simply their odd character. But Bell’s colloquial demeanor is unrivaled by any other host on television today and it allows his sincerity to shine through and not just seem like an attempt but an actual innate quality of his being.

This is a quality generally shared with his writers  at least in some respect, though they often tend to ham it up a bit. So when somebody on “Totally Biased” was angry or perturbed, you knew that they weren’t feigning that emotion, that the problem they were joking about was hurting them or their friends and family.

If you didn’t watch “Totally Biased,” can I ask you when was the last time you saw an angry gay man,  black woman or transgender person on TV that wasn’t the butt of the joke?

I don’t know, maybe Larry Wilmore, but you might not have been watching “The Daily Show” that night. It’s abominable that these minority communities aren’t allowed to show their distaste with the mechanisms of oppression in any way other than cool indignation.

I’m going to miss “Totally Biased.” The grief that’s taken over me becomes more unbearable as I realized that we probably will never be blessed with such a program again. FX should be applauded for giving “Totally Biased” the chance it did, but the viewership was just not there. You could make the argument that that’s because the show was booted off to FXX, and I’m sure that had a role to play, but I think when it comes down to it, straight, white, male America just doesn’t want to find humor in the disgruntlement of those they circumscribe. Maybe in 20 years there will be another show that has the kind of diversity that “Totally Biased” had, but I hope that the anger found in the show won’t be needed any more by then.

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