In the first five minutes of the pilot episode of The Big Show Show, the titular protagonist meets a police officer stationed outside an airport. The police officer played by Ithamar Enriquez, one of the few persons of color in this pilot, mistakes The Big Show for John Cena before proclaiming himself to be a “huge fan.”
When he asks for a photo with our hero dad wrestler, Big Show–not Paul Wight, don’t you dare call him Paul Wight–responds with a kind, “I’d do anything for a cop.”
Both a close friend of mine as well as my girlfriend pointed to this line as a source of annoyance when they watched the episode. Both of them studied in the College of Mass Communications at the University of the Philippines Diliman, one of the most vocal parts of a community famous for its ties to political activism. The university’s antagonistic relationship with the government often means that both students and faculty both find themselves targeted and harassed by local police forces. The abuse of the police to silence student activists from UP even led to a 1989 agreement between the university and the Philippine government that states that police and militia are barred from entering campus premises without prior approval or in the case of extremely dire emergencies.
In the current political climate, the mistrust of local police has only grown worse. The Philippine National Police are the main tools of the current administration’s bloody war on drugs that has left thousands dead. Heavy policing has also been one of the main tools of the government to enforce its emergency lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
All this doesn’t even scratch the surface of the controversies of the police in an American setting. That is a long, ugly history that I as a Filipino only know the surface level of. But the echoes of decades of racial discrimination can still be heard on our shores from across the Pacific.
None of this is to say that The Big Show Show is some horrific pro-police propaganda. That’s far from the truth. At the end of the day, this Netflix original sitcom will be a harmless footnote in the annals of both television and wrestling history. A strange curiosity for some wrestling fan to dig up and mock for content decades into the future.
But there’s no denying that for some, myself included, there’s a pervasive whiteness to this whole show. It’s in the opening scene where the blonde wife character Cassy boasts about her spat with management at a nearby Starbucks. It does not escape my attention how painfully close her name is to Karen. It’s in how the family’s middle child Lily, who cites RBG, AOC, and Leslie Knope as personal heroes, stages an extended sit in for the right to keep her cavernous bedroom to herself. Jokes get lobbed Lily’s way throughout the entire episode painting her mini attempts at activism as frivolous and overdramatic. But when Cassy complains that “There’s always a drum circle” about the children rallying in the house, it leaves the impression that she’s the kind of lady to complain about traffic when a rally’s going on.
It stings to see this show take up space on Netflix, a platform that just last year cancelled the reboot of One Day at a Time–a charming and thoughtful sitcom chronicling the experiences of three generations of Cuban Americans. In that show too, a young female character gets jokes lobbed her way for her overzealous political stances. In One Day at a Time, however, the character of Elena actually cares about things happening in the world, not just whether or not she gets to keep a bedroom. One Day at a Time also does Elena the service of actually acknowledging the value of her thoughts and takes where The Big Show Show seems all too eager to write off any kind of dissent (however minor) as girlish whimsy and fancy.
Perhaps this sounds harsh seeing as I only watched the pilot and nothing else. But as a thesis statement meant to draw in new viewers, this episode failed. Its writing is as bland as the production design, its humor as strained as Big Show’s attempts at acting. This show exists from the blandest, safest place of all–the white utopian America that I imagine Vince McMahon strives to entertain and speak to on a daily basis. In the end, all the thought and bluster above won’t amount to much simply because the show itself won’t amount to much. It will find fame only with the worst WWE diehards and families that have given up on trying to pick something to watch on Netflix.
I doubt you’ll be hearing much about this show from now on. How could you?
It has nothing to say.