The Long Term Issues

Television has changed a lot since its inception. Shows started out simple, but with the advances in technology and advancement of acting, story telling has drastically changed. Shows started dealing with challenging topics such as homosexuality, diseases, unwanted pregnancies, violence, etc in ways that they never had before. But even as they dealt with these issues, they mostly dealt with these issues in quick sweeps. In one episode we would learn that a girl’s parents were having a divorce, she would be upset and angry, and by the close of the episode her parents would have her convinced that it would be all right. In a single episode a boy would find out that his new friends do drugs, they pressure him into joining them, and by the end of the episode he stands up to them. But like so much else on television, these rushed are changing. Some recent shows are paving the way for more in depth looks at tragedy and character struggle:

Glee– Glee has gotten a lot of attention for its story about Kurt coming out, being bullied in school, connecting with his very “manly” father, and finding a boyfriend. This has been a continuing storyline almost from week one and now into the second season, it shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, another semi-major character has revealed that she is gay and has only just begun to deal with it.

Private Practice– The rape of Charlotte King has been a major story of this season and it was weeks before the character could open up about her experience, much less be intimate with her boyfriend.

Grey’s Anatomy– the show ended last season with a shooting that left the hospital staff reeling but what it allowed the show to do is spend time looking at how each of the different characters dealt with PTSD. (Christina’s story in particular took a look at how traumatic the experience was, though she was not the only one.) The result was a completely revitalized show.

Parenthood– It is not common to find a character with disabilities on a show. The Secret Life of the American Teenager has a supporting character with Down Syndrome though mostly as comic relief and Grey’s had a doctor with Aspberger’s for about two weeks. Actually seeing these issues play out and how it affects the family is a rarity. One of the most unique elements of Parenthood is that we get to see Max, Christina, Haddy, and Adam deal with all aspects of Max’s Aspberger’s. The most touching moments of the show almost always come out of these families struggles.

Make It Or Break It– A recent plot line of the show has been one characters anorexia. This is the perfect example of a story that typically gets an episode’s worth of time but instead, every time we think Kaylie’s problems are about to be fixed, we learn that more is to come. (If the show is really smart, we will see Kaylie have some very serious side effects, beyond fainting.)

I can only hope this new trend of spending time on issues and letting them be a part of the larger story remains. It adds a new depth and sense of reality that shows were lacking until now. What shows do you think have taken this step in dealing with their character struggles in depth instead of hurriedly? Are there any you feel should have done this and instead have had missed opportunities for relatable, strong stories?


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