Thursday, April 29, 2010

Do you see yourself on TV?

Image from NBC
I do. Every Tuesday nights at 9pm. Although, with the DVR (yay technology!), sometimes it's Wednesday, sometimes it's Friday, depending on when we can fit it in. We recently became fans of the show Parenthood on NBC. In essence, it's a saga about four siblings and their lives as (surprise surprise) parents. Of course, as with most prime time network TV, it's pretty vanilla, replete with characters with the requisite personalities across the spectrum and their foils - successful lawyer and drop out bartender, gifted and asperger kids, grounded husband and neurotic wife, you get the gist. And of course very Hollywood PC with its token minority. Sounds rather run-of-the-mill, and by no means the best show we've seen on TV (it's no Battlestar Galactica or Dexter for sure), but we enjoy it. Quite a bit in fact.

That's because we see ourselves in it. We identify with these parents with the difficult teen (even though our own Little Miss is barely 18 months old), the awkward adolescent, and the precocious toddler. We see our daughter in all of these stages - what she may or may not do, and apart from recoiling in horror, we see how we may or may not react at any given situation. The best part is when we make fun of each other - "Oh you are SO her"; "Oh my God - you would TOTALLY say that"; "I can just see Little Miss doing that"; "No way! I would NOT do such a thing" and last night, when the neurotic mom did something completely in character for her, I intercepted My Guy's attempt to glance askance at me with a "Don't you dare look at me. I am NOT like that." But secretly, I knew he was right (as usual); I am like her. This character has a teenage daughter and I see myself turning into the mom depicted here, minus the blonde hair, and my little girl as her angst-ridden, rebellious 15-year-old buying a sexy Victoria Secret bra to spice up make out sessions with her boyfriend (GASP!).

We hardly watch TV these days, so to be able to nestle in with each other on the couch for some mindless TV watching is a luxury. This one-hour program (45 minutes if we skip the commercials - again, yay DVR!) offers us a glimpse into our own future, and however realistic or unrealistic, it helps us to know the difficult decisions that we may have to make someday (like should the mom go back to work or stay home with the kids on tonight's episode), or what it's like to be parents who screw up in front of their kid and how doing the right thing, like apologizing for your mistakes, is often hard but always rewarding - this last one is usually accompanied by soundtrack that conjures hope or at least one that says "this is the part where you cry" and I do of course. Every time.

The thing is, we don't know that many real-life parents. Of the ones we do, they're also stumbling and fumbling like we are. Our role models, our own parents, may be the only ones we have as our guides and let's face it, the generational gap between us can feel like worlds apart sometimes. And so we look to outside influences - books like The Parents' Tao Te Ching and shows like Parenthood - for something, anything that tells us it can be bad sometimes, but it can also be really, really good.

This was my favorite quote of the most recent episode:
Mom 1 (Kristina): You know what the problem is for mothers?
Mom 2 (Sarah): Daughters.
Mom 1 (Kristina): Daughters.
Ain't that the truth. I'm already beginning to see that in Little Miss. It's in her eyes - the emerging defiance, the innate stubbornness, the growing fire. They're all in her. In me. It's not going to be an easy relationship (I've just jinxed it, I know) and maybe that's why I look everywhere now for clues, ideas, and hope that maybe our relationship, the one between two passionate, headstrong souls, will survive even the most tumultuous times. It may be that I'm grasping at straws when I sit through a 45-minute program rife with banality and predictability to look for inspiration. Some might even think it's rather pathetic to build our family values or emulate our parenting skills from a TV show, but in my defense, at least it's not Beverly Hills 90210.

I'm quite aware that Parenthood is not real but as far as I'm concerned, neither is "reality TV"; in fact I loathe what passes for reality TV, which seems to be a trend that isn't going away anytime soon. Ugh. Parenthood isn't Mad Men or (insert what you think is the best show out there) either, but it has its moments - the warm fuzzies and the enviable sibling relationships that neither My Guy nor I have - that keep us glued to the screen. Selfishly, I'm hoping to entice you to watch the show (increased viewership = decreased chance of cancellation = happy me). I'm devious like that. If I can't sell you on the endearing characters, how about its sheer entertainment value?

On a poem being read out loud at a poetry reading by the mom's old flame -

Mom (Sarah): It's about flowers right?
Teenage Daughter (Amber ): I think it might be about your vag.

See? Entertaining.

(Do you have a favorite TV program? Have you ever seen yourself on TV - if so, which character, what show? Conversely, if you could be any character on TV, who would it be? What do you think of reality TV? If you don't watch TV, what/who/where do you turn to for comfort or even guidance?)