Friday Night Lights and The Wire both offered intelligent, thoughtful portraits of race. For laughs, we’ve still got the smart and subtle humor of NBC’s Community, FX’s Louie, and Comedy Central’s Key & Peele. But in what is supposedly a new age of groundbreaking, “novelistic” television drama, one of the most dramatic threads of America’s cultural history is strangely absent. We did Mad Men, the well-lit, glossy “before” picture of white America, taken just as the civil rights movement was about to upend Madison Avenue’s cushy status quo. And we’ve done The Wire, the gritty “after” shot of urban America in the wake of white flight and the drug war. But we skipped the middle chapter. We haven’t done the part about how America stopped being Mad Men and turned into The Wire. That would be the story of the failure of racial integration in the 1970s.
—Tanner Colby, for Slate