According to Lauren Zalaznick, evaluating television trends can teach us a lot about the social conscience of our country. I showed her TED talk to my composition students last week as we introduced our unit examining how television affects our understanding of social issues like racism, gender equality, poverty, mental illness, capital punishment, abortion, gay rights, etc.

This week, we are watching three episodes of TV shows that I feel demonstrate the medium’s ability to speak about social issues.

Earlier this week, I showed “The Unnatural,” an episode of The X-Files that starts by depicting the challenges faced by African American baseball players in the 1940s, but eventually moves into a cheesy, but altogether successful episode about aliens, baseball, race, and love.

X-Files: "The Unnatural"

X-Files: “The Unnatural”

Today I’m going to show “Take This Sabbath Day,” a West Wing episode that you might remember if you watched the show—the whole thing surrounds the White House staff figuring out their feelings about capital punishment. (It also features hungover Josh Lyman and introduces Joey Lucas for the first time. So.)

The West Wing--"Take This Sabbath Day" (click to see gif in action)

The West Wing–“Take This Sabbath Day” (click to see gif in action)

So, the question is: what do I show on Friday?

It needs to be on Netflix, needs to tackle a social issue, has to be accessible to people who have never seen the show before, and can’t have too much sex/violence/profanity/etc. I’d love to show some Doctor Who in class, but I’m not sure that there is an episode that meets those requirements.

Any ideas for me?

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