The WB’s Jack and Bobby
—About this Series
It's not unlikely that somewhere in a junior high or high school is a young man or woman who will, in about another 30 years, become President of the United States. We don't know which student it is. He or she probably has no idea of what lays ahead of them. But the experiences of these years are important influences on the person they will become.
In The WB’s Jack and Bobby, we see a present day family in which one of the sons is a future President. The show spends most of the time in the present day, watching Jack and Bobby McCallister and their single mother Grace get through the trials of life. But occasionally the show shifts to future “documentary” interviews of people talking about President McCallister and the things that made him a great leader.
Some have likened the show to West Wing. Since it deals with the Presidency, there is a certain similarity. The difference is that rather than seeing the power of the office and those involved with it, we see a much more fragile version of the person who will assume that office.
Each week the show gives us a little more information about the family and the McCallister presidency. The show offers a bit of a twist each week. For example, since the first episode is gone until reruns, it's hardly a spoiler to tell which brother is to become President. Throughout the first episode, it isn't clear until the end, when it is finally revealed that the younger brother, Bobby, is the one destined for high office.
A few other bits of information: Jack and Bobby are not named after the Kennedy's, but their absent father, who was Mexican. Bobby becomes a Republican (much to his mother's disappointment), but runs for President as an independent. Courtney, one of Jack's potential girl friend, ends up as Bobby's wife.
Like other people their ages, Jack and Bobby make good and bad choices and may get into trouble. It is these choices and the consequences that we see forming who Bobby is and who he will become. His understanding of personhood, of citizenship, of right and wrong are being formed week by week.
Faith is one of the formative factors in Bobby's life and values. Although his mother is antagonistic to religion, in the fourth episode of the series, Bobby begins to have a spiritual awakening. A variety of faiths come into play that in that episode. The different religions are each treated fairly, even giving the viewer insight that we may not have considered. We learn that this religious awakening is of major importance to Bobby's development, in that before he went into politics, Bobby becomes a minister.
One problem is that, so far, the show relies on fairly obvious stereotypes. The boys’ mother is a dope smoking, single mother, liberal university professor always trying to stir up students or trouble with the administration. Her nemesis, the new university president, Peter Benedict, is of course a Republican who seems to be more concerned with cutting budgets than educating students. His is a business attitude, not academic. The stereotypes are so obvious we can tell the politics of these two just from visual clues: Grace has hair and body language that go a bit wild. President Benedict has short white hair, a ramrod posture, and deadpan face.
There is hope, though, in that the writers seem to enjoy breaking down stereotypes. They like to twist our expectations. Already there are some crack in these stereotypes. Grace and Benedict will, I'm sure influence and be influenced by one another, just as Jack and Bobby are being shaped week by week by their encounters with other people and situations.
This is a show that has a great potential for growth as it moves through the season (and future seasons.) I expect that in many ways the characters will discover things about life and about themselves that are valuable for us all to know.
It also has the potential to help us grow in our understanding of the ways each of us influences other people in our lives. Character is not something that people are born with; it is something they develop through the choices they make and the ways they learn from their successes and their failures. We have influences on one another. How are people being formed by what we do? How are we passing on our values? If a future president is in our lives, what are we adding to his or her character?
The show also challenges viewers to think about their own character and values. What has made us into the people we have become? Are the values we are passing on truly the values that need to be passed on? Are there values we have learned that we should rethink and perhaps discard?
As we watch Jack and Bobby (and Grace and the other characters) growing into who they are yet to become, perhaps they will also help to fashion the character of viewers as well. That marks the potential for a great series.