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5 Life Lessons from TV Shows

We probably watch too much TV at our house; we watch many shows live and also DVR (Tivo) hours more to watch later. And it isn't the high-brow PBS fare that most people who eschew TV will admit to watching. We're not embarrassed about our fondness for Reno 911 .

In addition to the admittedly low-brow stuff, I watch several shows that are indicators of the increasing quality of TV - the content has become more complex and goes beyond entertainment. The following aren't meant to be reviews of the shows, but rather an examination of some that explore important life issues of interest:
1. Mother-Daughter Relationships
A show that I'm still mourning is Gilmore Girls - it ended its 7-year run last spring. Set in a small, New England town, it's the story of a young single mom and her teenage daughter. I started watching it as a way to connect with my non-verbal adolescent patients. I kept watching it because it was so good. Lorelai, the mom and Rory, her daughter talked on more than a superficial level and respected each other as people. They didn't always get along - they didn't speak for most of one season. But they always managed to resolve differences and demonstrate that they cared about each other.
2. Small-Town Life
Gilmore Girls also did a nice job of exploring the realities of small-town life. But a current show really nails it. Friday Night Lights is only in its second season. I admit I passed on it initially because I'm not a high-school football fan. But the critics raved, I gave it a try and it's a wonderful examination of small towns. I grew up in a tiny college town so I know it's accurate. The show avoids the typical "everybody-in-your-business" shtick that is usually portrayed. What stands out is the care and support people in small towns offer each other.
3. Marriage
Of course marriage is fodder for comedy shows. But underneath the laughs, Everybody Loves Raymond portrayed many aspects of real marriages - relationships with in-laws, kids, etc. And although it often didn't seem so, Raymond and Deborah had a mutual respect. Roseanne, the '80s sit-com nicely portrayed an American blue-collar family. The marriage was stressed with worries about money and kids, but maintained a tight bond. Another older show that I feel accurately depicted marriage, family and divorce was Once and Again. The main characters were able to carve out a deep relationship in the midst of negotiating divorce, child custody and remarriage.
4. Work
Doesn't The Office come immediately to mind? Both American and British versions are hysterical. Who doesn't relate to the clueless boss and irritating co-workers? But behind that we see camaraderie and caring relationships that go beyond plotting against the boss. I like the practical jokes that Pam and Jim play on the rest of the staff. It shows us the need to blow off steam and de-stress while at work.
5. Mind Your Manners!
This category is inspired by countless reality TV shows. One in particular, Bridezillas, defines it for me. This show follows brides-to-be through their wedding prep. OK, I know reality TV shows are exaggerated for the benefit of ratings and viewership, but the majority of these women are an embarrassment to the gender! Their behavior is atrocious. I often think, "Your families, co-workers and friends are watching this!" The competition-style shows seem to showcase bad behavior also - back-stabbing, lying, cheating and tantrum-throwing. My grandmother would say, "mind your manners!" and I would agree.
So I guess I've justified all those hours wasted watching TV, right? Now go turn on your set and see some content that relates to your life. Share your insights - what shows deal with life lessons that speak to you?



  1. I may have to change my viewing habits! I agree that TV is good for exploring relationships, etc., but I have to wonder what exactly, I'm learning from Buffy re-runs and House. ;)

  2. House teaches us not to repress our innermost aggression? Maybe?

    Aw heck, I dunno.

    Someone on the bus the other day was reading "The Psychology of The Simpsons", and I am regretting now not asking him if I could glance through it.

  3. I'm not much of a TV person but I often pay an analytical mind when I'm watching movies. It's always interesting to see how characters and situations are put together. How the dynamics work.

    When it comes to TV too much of it these days just seems pathetic. It's hard to find shows that offer intelligent insight. Especially with the wealth of reality TV that abounds these days.

    Ultimately, I think I'll stick to books but I'm a House fan too. *chuckles* I know, the irony but ultimately I LOVE the character! He's the sort that all writers should adore. A mixture of traits that come together in a wonderfully deep, damaged but brilliant personality.

    House actually does have lots of lessons. The importance of taking risks, the value of examining all the options, how the sanctity of life takes precidence over political (or even legal) correctness, etc. That's my justifications and I'm sticking to them. ;-)

  4. I second what Rebecca and Loquacious say about the House character. Although, I have found him a bit tedious and repetitive lately. But Hugh Laurie is an amazing actor!

    Sam - as for Buffy, well, how about the old good vs. evil thing?

    Thanks for your comments!

  5. Yes I second the good winning over evil on Buffy. Sometimes I think we learn our biggest lessons from Reality TV - the lesson being that stress brings out the worst in most of us.

    As for House, I never ceased to be amazed that the tortured genius has such a loyal friend and that he was able to cause him so much distress before he snapped back at him.

  6. My daughter and I watched Gilmore Girls together. I am turning 38 on November 4th, she will be 18 on November 14th. She and I were mightily entertained by the series, and constantly asked each other "Have the writers been spying on us?" and then we'd giggle. :D

  7. Hi Virtual:

    I loved that show! The writing was amazing. As I said in my post, I'm still mourning its end.


  8. I dont get to watch much tv, But my fav tv show that I wait for, is a reality tv show called The Amazing Race. I love how the enthuastic couples (at the beginning) have to really work at their relationships under stress, loss of sleep, mis-steps, and unforseen change of circumstances. Sometimes their realtionships don't make it. To add to the plot, the competitors either react with helpfulness or with jealously, resentment and of course to engage everyone else into their ploys to knockoff a couple. I still love seeing good over coming bad manners. I love seeing people at their limits of exhaustion pull together and make it through. I hope it helps me remember how to act in public when I am stressed to the max, exhausted and hungry...I hope that in any situation, I can see the good in helping others, and be aware that bad manners will certainly, in time, show just how bad they can be in full view of everyone, so don't sweat what they're saying, keep my head & attitude pointed forward, be mindful to read lifes clues carefully, and keep faith in my partner, family, & myself, even when the chips are down or they/I really screw up. And above all, it really IS HOW you play the game and if you have fun doing it that really counts. If I'm an optimist, fine, I'd rather live in my world then a synic's any day. :)

  9. To my mind, films, TV shows, and other programms can teach young people to behave. They show real life of average persons. I think, it is useful much to watch various TV shows indeed.


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