Will HBO Ask the 'Questions' We Really Need to Hear?

HBO is teaming up with The Atlantic for a project we need now more than ever. But will this combination click?

It's not TV. It's HBO.

More specifically, it's the home of reliably left-leaning originals.

Consider weekly fare like "Last Week Tonight" and "Real Time with Bill Maher." Original movies such as "Confirmation," "Game Change" and "Recount" follow strict progressive narratives. They all drip with liberal bias, even on the rare occasions a program speaks the kind of truth to power conservatives can cheer.

The pay channel offers a wealth of great, apolitical originals, too, from "The Sopranos" to "Game of Thrones." Still, it's been the host of progressive programming for quite some time.

A new addition to the channel's left-leaning lineup? "Wyatt Cenac's Problem Areas," which debuted April 13. Here's how The AV Club, an aggressively liberal entertainment site, framed it:

Watching the show can feel like you’re sitting down for a chat with your informed and similarly left-leaning friend ...

Anyone shocked?

Now, HBO is teaming with The Atlantic for a new series of film shorts dubbed "Question Your Answers." Here's how the latter describes the programming.

... a series of short films that challenge audiences to, in a time of increasing cultural and political polarization—when every side seems convinced it has the answer—confront their own beliefs and assumptions.

Interesting. Yet the irony is rich right from the starter's pistol.

The Atlantic recently hired, and promptly fired, conservative columnist Kevin Williamson after learning he once Tweeted that women who had abortions deserved to be hung. He later clarified the comments, explaining he didn't believe that should happen in such cases.

Williamson's other views on politics, society and the culture at large will be missed, apparently, at the rigorously liberal outlet.

It all begs the question. How far will "Question" go? Will it embrace the Jordan Peterson model, where "incorrect" thoughts are considered, and not met with fury, anger and violence? Will it tackle Kanye West, a performer shamed for supporting both President Donald Trump and the notion that black Americans can vote GOP if they wish?

Or will it be as toothless as the series' opening salvo? Actor Jeffrey Wright plays himself -- three times -- in this clip about feeling anxious on a long-distance flight.

Having two left-leaning platforms ask tough "questions" isn't a promising first step for an ideologically diverse reality. Then again, The New York Times recently ran a fair and fascinating op-ed on intellectual iconoclasts like Peterson, Ben Shapiro and Christina Hoff Sommers. The article detailed their battle to exchange ideas in a free manner that precludes any "incorrect" groupthink.

Maybe that story will flow into what we'll soon see with "Question Your Answers." A culture can hope.

Christian Toto is the editor of the right-leaning entertainment site HollywoodInToto.com and host of The Hollywood in Toto Podcast.

Comments