There are two types of storylines that make my skin crawl: amnesia and babies. Between the two of them, I will take amnesia every time. I wish I could have amnesia wipe my memory of all the baby stories I have been subjected to.
To clarify, stories that are designed around babies can execute the concept just fine, as the main conflict of the series is determined by the concept (like The Scarlet Letter or Rugrats). Here I’ll mostly be referring to series that add babies during their run.
Nothing drains the life out of a character or storyline like a baby. Babies pull the attention of characters and viewers away from the main character arcs and storylines, and usually not in a way that develops or actually changes the characters. Real parents have to deal with babies’ constant need for attention and nonsensical sleeping hours, and fictional parents inevitably face the same horrors. When a child is born in reality, however, the mother and father become parents. In television, the mother and father become babysitters.
There is no way to keep your characters likable and have them neglect their child, and if they aren’t neglecting their child that means the parents either have to carry it around or stay at home with it. “But wait!” you say, “Can’t they just find a sitter or drop the child off at daycare?” Yes! Yes they can! Lots of shows do this; they find convenient ways to keep the child off-screen and cared for, whether that’s the baby sleeping through their birthday party or spending a weekend at the grandparents’ place. But if you’re just going to get rid of the baby on-screen, why even introduce a baby in the first place?
When a baby isn’t being written out of a story, they provide a troubling example of tropes in television. Babies are not characters: their personalities cannot play as a foil to other characters, their decisions don’t reveal anything about them (because babies don’t make decisions, they just do things), and they have zero agency since they are completely dependent on other characters in every single scene they are written into. Due to their lack of everything necessary to make a character, they mostly act as objects within a plot, resulting in plot-lines that tend to be incredibly trite and played out.
Baby gets lost. Baby won’t sleep. Baby says a word and everyone gets excited. Why are you so excited? Babies may be able to speak a few words but they can’t converse. They can’t interact with the rest of the characters in any meaningful way that a puppy can’t, and a puppy can be left at home alone without the characters ruining their likability.
Of course, if you don’t want your characters to be likable a baby can provide the necessary ammo to achieve that goal. Breaking Bad is a great example of this, as Walt’s infant child is used to highlight particularly nasty aspects of several characters. Despite believing that Walt’s baby could be completely removed from Breaking Bad without damaging the show in a significant way, I think this is an adequate use of a baby in a series. A large part of that success, though, comes from the fact that we don’t just see Walt babysitting a baby, we also get to see him be a father to Walter Jr. (AKA Flynn).
In most baby cases, we don’t actually get to see the parents be parental figures. Human babies stay unintelligible and dependent for a LONG time, so we don’t get to see parents deal with the difficulties of raising a person until the little potato hits at least 4 or 5 years of age. That’s longer than most shows will ever run, (and most baby storylines don’t start until well into a series) so unless you’re starting off with an infant, the story is never going to reach the point where we see parents passing on their knowledge or beliefs, or coming into emotional conflict with their offspring. This is why long lost sons and daughters appear out of nowhere; they can be fully formed characters that actually challenge the parent on a character level. Until a child is at that point, they just act as a ball and chain that wakes you up at night and you have to feed, weighing down both the characters and the story.
Time skips are sometimes utilized to quickly raise the age of a kid (like in Angel or Parks and Recreation), skipping over the baby portions to get the child to a point where they can challenge the characters and provide more personal impact on storylines. This isn’t a solution to create a compelling storyline, however, it’s a way around having to deal with a baby.
The problems with babies can even extend to the pregnancy portion of the storylines, which are also filled with tropes and constantly covered ground. Mom is emotionally unstable. Mom has funny food cravings. Mom is afraid to be a mom. That last one is a valid storyline where character growth and change can happen, but it’s also a storyline that can happen without having a child inside of you.
It’s a real shame when shows fallback on these standard plots for their pregnant characters because unlike babies, the women carrying the unborn plot devices are actually characters. They have interests, desires, hopes, dreams, and fears. Take a look at how good these storylines can be when a show infuses them with character specificity.
In Angel, soulless vampire Darla gets impregnated by the ensouled Angel, resulting in a child with a soul. That soul starts nurturing Darla, causing her to feel emotions like love for the first time in centuries. How will she handle these new emotions? What happens when she gives birth? Will she once again lose her soul?
Then there is Phoebe from Friends, who has her brother’s babies. Already, that’s an above-average pregnancy storyline because the explanation without context can lead to several comical encounters, but there are two other great aspects at play here.
First is the way it handles the classic “food cravings” plot. It’s not very interesting to watch the dad go get the mom pickles and ice cream cause “man, isn’t pregnancy whacky?” But it IS interesting to watch Phoebe, a strict vegetarian who loves animals, suddenly start craving meat. How is she going to handle this situation? How is she going to deal with the desire and guilt? What if she eats meat and ends up loving it?
Second, the babies leave. Admittedly, part of this is just me being glad that the babies are removed from the storyline, but it’s also because of the emotional impact this has on Phoebe. She carried these children for 9 months for her brother and sister-in-law, but developed an attachment to them and doesn’t want to let them go. She’s a caring person and despite being generous enough to lend her uterus out to her family, she’s struggling with the thought of giving up the children she nurtured. It’s a complex emotional scenario, and it’s great. And also the babies leave.
Now, I understand that there is also an emotional attachment to the onscreen babies that parents are going to keep, but there is a major difference. For most on-screen couples, having a child is a joy; it’s a wonderful wondrous feeling and the peak of their happiness, and that’s the problem.
Normally, if we witness the peak of a character’s happiness, it is at the end of their story when they’ve earned it or at the beginning of their story right before they lose it all. This is because, no matter what it says about human nature, suffering and adversity make for more compelling narratives. Babies provide that peak happiness but the story doesn’t end, so what now? If the couple starts to suffer again because of the baby what message does that send? Do the parents spite their child? This route likely makes your characters less likable (or I suppose more relatable, depending on your point of view), and so it’s a route rarely chosen outside of intense dramas. Babies have to cause problems, but not big problems, lest they ruin the structure or dynamic of the show.
By nature, though, babies are disruptive. That’s their entire schtick. They need attention, a lot of it, and demand you to put off your life to help nurture theirs. That’s fine for real-life (depending on your point of view), but not for a television series. It’s invasive, which is why so many shows soften the impact a child has or stick to the most common and least consequential stories, AKA Baby gets lost (and found!), Baby won’t sleep (until that one unexpected person holds them!), Baby says a word (something comical or inappropriate!) and everyone gets excited.
Except it’s not exciting. It’s dreadful. How many shows really need this? Shows themselves seem to refute the very idea of baby narratives by constantly sidestepping them. If a show finds itself creating excuses to keep a baby offscreen or trying to soften the disruption the child will have on any existing dynamics, then don’t write in a baby.
I am terrified for Brooklyn Nine-Nine. They already had Amy’s mood swing episode with “Ding Dong” and her part in it was everything I dread. The series may be winding down soon and I’d personally much prefer to see Jake and Amy wrap up their relationships with Holt, Boyle, Rosa, and Terry than start a new one with an unidentifiable humanoid blob. I hope that they can at least make Amy’s pregnancy unique to her and create personal conflict through it instead of relying on the standard pregnant jokes, jabs, and joylessness.
Maybe it’ll prove me wrong. Maybe Brooklyn Nine-Nine will have the greatest baby storyline ever. That would be awesome! I won’t get my hopes up, though. Babies aren’t naturally suitable material for interesting stories due to their lack of character, dependence on others, and their dangerous influence over characters’ actions and the audience reception of those actions. And anything that carries that much ammunition to disrupt a narrative is, well…
Am I being a baby about baby storylines? Does anyone have any examples of good baby storylines to share? Tell me your rebuttals in the comments below or on social media @CraveYouTV!
What to Watch
Summer 2023 TV Lineup Schedule – Time to Heat Up the Summer
It’s time to heat up the summer with plenty of new and returning TV shows.
The summer months are, obviously, best spent outside enjoying the warm weather, unlimited BBQs, and pools and beaches, but when you’re ready for a little getaway, TV shows and characters are always around to keep you entertained.
With the WGA strike possibly continuing into the fall, summer television might be the last time we get any new seasons for the next few months, so embrace it.
As always, the slower-paced summer months are also the best time to catch up on any shows that you’ve been wanting to watch!
Here’s what’s on tap for summer 2023—let us know what you plan to watch in the comments!
30 for 30: The American Gladiators Documentary (May 30, ESPN)
The Ride (May 30, Prime Video)
Drag Me to Dinner (May 31, Hulu)
Nancy Drew, season 4 (May 31, The CW)
Manifest – season 4 part 2 (Netflix, June 2)
The Idol (HBO, June 4)
The Lazarus Project (June 4, TNT)
Cruel Summer, season 2 (Freeform, June 5)
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, season 16 (FX, June 7)
The Real Housewives of Orange County, season 17 (June 7, Bravo)
Alone, season 10 (History Channel, June 8)
Based on a True Story (Peacock, June 8)
Never Have I Ever, season 4 (Netflix, June 8)
The Crowded Room (Apple TV+, June 9)
The Full Monty (FX and Hulu, June 14)
The Big D (June 14, USA)
Temptation Island, season 5 (June 14, USA)
The Wonder Years, season 2 (June 14, ABC)
Project Runway, season 20 (June 15, Bravo)
Outlander, season 7 (June 16, Starz)
The Walking Dead: Dead City (June 18, AMC)
The Righteous Gemstones, season 3 (HBO, June 18)
Secret Invasion (Disney+, June 21)
The Bear, season 2 (FX, June 22)
I’m a Virgo (Prime Video, June 23)
2023 BET Awards (June 25, BET)
The Bachelorette, season 20 (June 26, ABC)
Grown-ish, season 6 (June 28, Freeform)
Hijack (Apple TV+, June 28)
The Witcher, season 3, part 1 (Netflix, June 29)
Warrior, season 3 (June 29, Max)
Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, season 4 (June 30, Prime Video)
And Just Like That …, season 2 (HBO Max, June TBD)
Black Mirror, season 6 (Netflix, June TBD)
The Horror of Delores Roach (July 7, Prime Video)
The Prank Panel (July 9, ABC)
The Afterparty, season 2 (Apple TV+, July 12)
Full Circle (Max, July 13)
Foundation, season 2 (Apple TV+, July 14)
The Summer I Turned Pretty, season 2 (July 14, Prime Video)
The Real Housewives of New York City, season 14 (Bravo, July 16)
Justified: City Primeval (FX, July 18)
Minx, season 2 (Starz, July 21)
Praise Petey (Freeform, July 21)
The Witcher, season 3, part 2 (Netflix, July 27)
Good Omens, season 2 (July 28, Prime Video)
Heels, season 2 (July 28, Starz)
Survival of the Thickest (July TBD, Netflix)
Reservation Dogs, season 3 (FX on Hulu, August 2)
Heartstopper, season 2 (Netflix, August 3)
Only Murders in the Building (Hulu, August 8)
Painkiller (Netflix, August 10)
The Upshaws, season 4 (August 17, Netflix)
Archer season 14 (August 30, FXX)
Ahsoka (Disney+, August TBA)
As for what we can look forward to in the fall and beyond, well, Lupin Season 3 is scheduled for October 3 on Netflix. Other shows in the works without premiere dates include Bridgerton Season 3 and The Crown Season 6 on Netflix, Ironheart and Loki on Disney+ and Gen V on Prime Video!
What to Watch
Memorial Day Weekend: 5 Best TV Shows to Binge-Watch
Break out the red, white, and blue because it’s Memorial Day weekend.
The holiday, honoring and remembering fallen military personnel, is typically characterized by a three-day weekend consisting of parades and outdoor grilling.
But if you’re planning to kickstart summer indoors, there are plenty of great shows and movies to binge-watch with friends, family, or even solo!
You can opt for some Memorial Day-themed movies, or you use this time to finally get around to that “one show” you’ve been meaning to watch! Or even use this time wisely to catch up on shows that will be dropping new seasons in the next few weeks/months.
If you’re looking around for new shows to feed your eyeballs, look no further than this list of must-watch during Memorial Day weekend shows that are all streaming RIGHT NOW!
Manifest – Netflix
The last 10 episodes of the groundbreaking plane drama are preparing for landing on June 2, which. means that this is the perfect weekend to catch up on all this Manifest. Where did the passengers of Flight 828 go when they disappeared for 5 years?
Sweet Magnolias – Netflix
It’s almost time to return to Serenity to catch up with your three best gal pals, Maddie, Dana Sue, and Helen. The beloved Netflix drama just announced a summer premiere, so this is your time to binge all the episodes you haven’t seen yet!
How I Met Your Father – Hulu
HIMYF, the Hilary Duff-led HIMYM spinoff, is one of the biggest sitcoms on TV right now. Along with its promising cast, it delivers a fast-paced yet quirky and hilarious storyline that makes it a breeze to watch during a long weekend.
Cruel Summer – Freeform
Love a good mystery? So do we. And Cruel Summer, which was a breakout hit in 2021 when it dropped its first season, kept audiences on their toes right down to the last minute of the season. The first season of the drama—spanning three different summers—focused on Kate Wallis, a popular teen who goes missing, and Jeanette Turner, a dorky outlier who is accused of knowing who abducted Kate and keeping it a secret. Which one of them do we believe? Binge all seven episodes and prepare for the arrival of season 2 in June!
The Bear – Hulu
There may be a lot happening in Jeremy Allen White’s personal life right now, but that shouldn’t deter you from enjoying Hulu’s The Bear, where he plays a young chef from the fine dining world who comes to run his family’s sandwich shop following a death in the family. There’s a lot to dig into with this one, including White’s poignant performance and an organic chemistry with the cast.
YOU Review – Portrait of the Artist (402)
And the murder mystery continues on YOU Season 4 Episode 2.
Joe, er, Jonathan, has been going above and beyond to figure out which of the members of the elitist circle could be the murderer that’s trying to frame him, but it looks like he’s being played at his own game.
Honestly, it’s kind of refreshing to see Joe on the other side of things for once—running around terrified like a chicken without a head and trying to put together the pieces of a puzzle.
He’s not in a city that’s familiar to him, and he’s definitely not in his element. And while he fell into a friends circle of some of the most insane and damaged people on earth, his charm isn’t working on them or in his favor in the same way that it has countless times before.
And what’s making this all the more disturbing is that there’s someone out there that’s actually more deranged than Joe. Joe pales in comparison to the person that’s stabbing people left and right and keeping body parts as tokens of some sort, likely to frame Joe in the long run by planting those body pieces on his belongings or in his apartment.
The person is hiding in plain sight and utilizing all common and familiar murder mystery tropes, including that the second victim is always the first suspect.
The crimes are gruesome and terrible, but it’s also hard to feel bad for any of the victims as the whole bunch—maybe aside from Rhys—is genuinely unlikable. Mostly everyone in the wealthy group has no redeeming qualities, and most of them don’t even seem too phased by the deaths in their inner circle because the truth is that none of these shallow people actually like or care about each other.
YOU does a great job at making us question Joe’s sanity and then immediately introducing people who are even worse than him, proving that the world seems to be full of unhinged people everywhere you go.
Joe doesn’t have much to go on at the end of episode 2 as every single person he’s come across could potentially be the killer. He has, however, seemingly figured out some kind of connection between Malcolm and Simon’s deaths, though it’s unclear if that has any bearing on their deaths.
Blackmail seems to be a common thread, with Malcolm likely blackmailing Adam, who fancies himself a golden shower from the bus boys at his establishment, while planning to take down Simon, a fraud who stole artists’ work to pass off as his own. Joe learned the truth about Simon from his assistant, who crashed the opening and threw red paint at him (he had it coming). She also confirmed that Malcolm was trying to expose him, and while she definitely has the motive, I don’t think she would stoop that low. She wanted to make a statement—she didn’t want to be the statement.
At this point, the only person who stands to gain anything from the destruction of both men is Kate as she was in a relationship with Malcolm and a gallery partner with Simon, whose secrets threatened her career. But I’m not convinced that she’s responsible. She genuinely seems like one of the only good and level-headed people in the group, not to mention she’s also concerned about Malcolm’s disappearance meaning she likely has no idea he’s dead.
It could’ve been Adam to keep his sexual kink a secret, but I don’t think he’d have it in him.
The timing of Roald’s arrival was suspect, as was his immediate distaste for Jonathan, so I’ll keep him on the list. Joe may be the new guy, but he shows up right before the second murder.
If I truly had to put my money on someone, my prime suspect is still Rhys. There’s just something off about him, plus, he carries himself as if he’s above them all, so it would make sense if he was trying to make them pay for their sins or something. He’s also very observant, thus, he’d be knowledgeable about all of their deepest and darkest secrets, which could be used against them. It would also make sense that he used his status and smarts to dig up dirt about Joe.
The killer seems to be having an absolute blast toying with Joe, even beating him at his own game by figuring out his identity.
It sent a chill down Joe’s spine—and I didn’t think it was possible to freak Joe out. In an attempt to stay ahead of the killer, Joe is somehow trying to play catch up.
What if it’s Marienne? What if she’s turning the tables on him? It seems like the killer is using Joe’s psychological warfare against him, which means that they have a lot in common. It has to be someone that Joe has connected with on a personal level already, so aside from Rhys and Kate, that leaves Nadia rounding out the top three suspects. She’s been helping him figure out the murder mystery genre, which might be a clue as to her involvement. Plus, we find out that she had some kind of personal relationship with Malcolm, though it’s unclear if it was sexual.
I really hope that she’s just a genuine person helping her teacher, but at this point, we can’t rule anything out.
And finally, there’s the possibility of Adam and Phoebe’s security guard, Vic, who is silent but deadly. He sees everything that’s happening (he ticks off the observant box for sure) but doesn’t say anything, though we know he’s not above blackmail because when he catches Joe snooping around, he takes a lump sum of money to remain quiet.
What did you think of the episode? Who do you think the killer is?
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