PENNSYLVANIA CAPTURED THE attention of many of us this year via the superb crime drama Mare of Easttown on HBO, but there’s another incredible television show set in the state that we should be watching. I’m talking about Philly D.A., on PBS. An eight-episode documentary series focused on activist-attorney Larry Krasner’s unusual election to the role of Philadelphia’s district attorney and his desire to drastically reform the office, Philly D.A. is gripping and revelatory in how it explores the intricacies of his efforts. In the social justice sphere, we have big ideas of how government systems and traditions can be altered and abandoned, but most of us never get the chance to implement them. Philly D.A. depicts a staff doing just that and shows how difficult it is.
We see assistant DAs and staff members who have worked in the office for years, for several administrations, and have households and families—we see them be fired because they’re believed to be too entrenched in how things were done in the past. We see surviving loved ones of murdered citizens wonder why, after many years of the DA’s office recommending the death penalty, Krasner does not see it as a good solution. We see judges and other officials express their fear that, in the pursuit of innovation, all aspects of a functioning system are being tampered with, negatively affecting the city’s safety.