When I was in my late teens and early twenties I was crazy about the show Friends on TV. My brother and I would stay up all hours of the night, binge watching complete seasons in one sitting. We loved the hilarity that ensued when the five friends would gather together in a living room, going about their perfectly timed lives for our viewing pleasure. From time to time I would find myself subconsciously musing, “if only I had a group of friends like that! They always have so much fun together!” And they did. Conflicts were minimal and usually quickly fixed and, as the point of the show was to be funny, there were very few hard things the characters had to cope with.
It almost made you believe life was meant to be that way: mostly light-hearted, with just enough drama thrown in to keep things interesting.
Today when I scroll through my Netflix choices, I see a lot of new shows that give the same vibe. I’m a big fan of comedy shows like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and The Office and I know dramas like Downtown Abbey and Mad Men are really popular as well. There’s no shortage of great scripts and believable acting, but I think we’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who can actually relate to the plot lines and character depictions. (I think we all wish we worked at The Office, but in reality our offices are nowhere near as entertaining.) Are we missing out when none of the shows we’re watching resemble our actual lives at all?
A few years ago I started watching the show Parenthood and was completely hooked by the end of the first episode. The further I got into the six seasons, the more I fell absolutely in love with the Braverman family. I had never seen family life depicted so realistically and familiarly, and I never wanted it to end. Day after day, I watched as people just like me struggled with a special needs child, tense relationships with adult siblings, the declining health of aging parents, cancer, post- military PTSD, foster care, surprise paternity, abortion, marital separation, and many other tough issues.
I was inspired as I watched this large family navigate their relationships with one another through constant ups and downs. Their conflicts felt real, their commitment felt genuine, and watching them live out their love for each other amidst hardships inspired me to be a better sister, daughter, wife, and mother. Watching Parenthood felt like a breath of fresh air, and I’ll be honest and admit I grieved a little when it came to an end.
Recently a friend told me she found a new show she thought I might like called This Is Us. Out of curiosity, I turned on an episode and was immediately drawn in by the committed, loving, and flawed family I saw on the screen. I haven’t watched much but so far I have the hunch that it might just be the next Parenthood, filling in the missing space of television that isn’t just mere entertainment, but that actually teaches us about what it looks like to have meaningful, lasting relationships with people even when we’re all bound to screw it up now and then.
I’ll probably never give up my mindless comedy shows, and drama for the sake of drama has its place too. But in my opinion, we need more TV shows that depict typical families loving each other and sticking together through realistic obstacles. Not only does it stir our hearts, but more importantly it gives us hope that we can do it in our own families too.
Photo Credit: NBC.com