Posted by: davidjmarlow | 09/04/2012

The “Big Bang” response to ‘has it really come to this?’

My most recent personal ‘has it really come to this?’ moment came on a sterile Good Friday night when I was reduced to watching two documentaries and a couple of episodes of ‘The Big Bang Theory’ celebrating that programmes’ 100th episode.

I have nothing against the series – it’s just not one of my favourites. It tells the stories of four nerdy male scientists and their relationship with an aspiring but failing actress who lives in their apartment block and works as a waitress in a local bar.

My unexpected immersion in it on Good Friday, however, revealed nuances I had not previously considered. The show’s propositions rest on premises that, on the face of it, seem pretty unlikely to be popular – four relatively unattractive and socially-flawed single males; a strong academic, scientific context; a shallow ‘waitress with the heart of gold’ cliché. To have sustained and developed this narrative over 100 episodes is impressive, and the ‘behind the scenes’ documentaries revealed creative and intelligent processes at work alongside the rather formulaic production routines.

I often marvel at the excellence of the best US TV series. I have blogged admiringly before on the deep exploration of moral complexities in Law and Order. How can a country that produces (with apparent ease) such finely crafted, incisive, socially-aware drama pursue a public politics so shallow (witness the current scramble of unattractive candidates for the Republican Presidential nomination) and full of deceit(witness repeated foreign policy adventures literally from the Cold War through to even Obama’s contemporary ‘war on terror’)?

Very few people know the full story of the motivations behind my ‘third life’ and how I hoped that new beginning might play out. But, when I established Third Life Economics in late 2008, I certainly did NOT envisage spending Good Friday evening 2012 alone watching (effectively four episodes of) a US sitcom about which I was pretty indifferent.

However, alongside my ‘has it really come to this?’ low spirits (and accompanying intake of high spirits!), there are flickers of hope. Within a standard sitcom about ‘jobbing’ scientists, there are interesting human stories and moments of powerful production and presentation that have sustained the series over the long haul.

So too with local economic development….Within the long haul of government’s uninspiring and unconvincing approaches there are opportunities for us to develop as practitioners and deliver inspirational change in the cities, towns and communities for whom we work. And, just as in the Big Bang Theory, one of the scientists might one day win a Nobel Prize for their contribution to human advancement, maybe, just maybe, local economic development under the coalition will be able to deliver a few transformational ‘big bangs’ of our own.

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