What is the most realistic depiction of the lumpen proletariat on television?
The “lumpen proletariat” – literally translated as “rag workers” – was Marx’s term for the permanent criminal underclass of society: the whores, beggars, boosters, drug dealers, and other petty crooks who supplement welfare or disability payments with penny ante scams and schemes of a morally dubious nature.
I’m currently enjoying my way through the complete set of The Trailer Park Boys, and a great deal of my laughter comes from recognizing a lot of characters and situations from my own life, which has been spent mostly in decades of grinding poverty, living cheek by jowl with a lot of people very like the characters in the program. The people who made Trailer Park Boys clearly have some affection for the underclass while at the same time not whitewashing how squalid and dysfunctional it often is.
I’ve seen a lot of attempts at trying to capture the social milieu of the lumpen proletariat with greater and lesser effect. My Name Is Earl, for example, amusing as it was, had very little to do with the real experiences of the lumpen proletariat. Other programs like Welcome Back Kotter and The White Shadow had similar unrealistic or whitewashed views of the lumpen proles, presumably because they were marketed to the middle class, who are unlikely to enjoy realistic depictions of poverty. Good Times wasn’t bad, but it didn’t really deal much with the lumpen proletariat; it was more about the working poor.
What television program, in your opinion, has or had the most realistic depiction of the lumpen proletariat?
(Note: If you’ve never been poor – and I don’t mean college student poor either – then you’re probably not qualified to judge what’s realistic.)