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Why the Birth of a Baby is Oftentimes the Death of a TV Series

Credit: Brooklyn Nine Nine

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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.

Rugrats: Ransom of Cynthia/Turtle Recall

                                                                                Peak baby storytelling.

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.

#makeallbabiespuppies

Brooklyn Nine-Nine: 9 Days

                                                                                Isn’t this better?

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.

Angel: New World

                                                           Though, admittedly, not a foolproof solution.

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?

Friends: The One Hundredth

                                                            Specificity Matters.

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.

The Office: Free Family Portrait Studio

                                                                                   Example.

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.

Rugrats: Ransom of Cynthia/Turtle Recall

                                                                                Don’t blow this.                          (Photo by: John P. Fleenor/NBC)

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…

Gross.

#makeallbabiespuppies

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!

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What to Watch in August 2020 Including ‘Lucifer,’ ‘Big Brother,’ and ‘Chemical Hearts’

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What to Watch and Stream August 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted our lives in numerous ways including shutting down and postponing TV show and film productions, which has led to a content drought even with so many streaming services. 

Of course, if you’ve been putting together a list of TV shows that you’ve been wanting to binge for years, this is the time to do it and you absolutely won’t run out of content, but if you’re looking for new programming or new seasons of shows, you’ll likely feel like your options are a bit limited. 

As I was browsing for new shows to watch in the month of August, I figured I’d throw together a list of my findings to help you keep up with all the new offerings.

We have to help each other get through these tough times — we’re all in this together (go ahead, sing it!). 

Below, you’ll find some of the new shows, films and documentaries premiering this month! 

 

Big Brother – CBS (August 5)

There’s a lot of buzz around Season 22 of Big Brother. Coming off the heels of a pandemic delay, the long-running summer series is changing things up by announcing the cast live during the premiere as opposed to the traditional reveal of houseguests days in advance. It’s unclear who and how many houseguests will be living in the house, but it is the second all-stars edition, so be ready for some familiar faces! 

 

The Muppets – Disney Plus (July 31)

The old gang of fuzzy friends is back together again! Muppets Now is described as an “unscripted series featuring three different segments of a game show, a cooking show, and a talk show.” It premiered on July 31 with new episodes debuting weekly through the month of August. New-age kids will love it, and there’s a whole nostalgia factor for adults that makes this fun for the whole family! 

 

Lucifer – Netflix (August 21)

Lucifer fans, it’s happening — it’s almost here. Fans couldn’t be more grateful that Netflix saved the series, but the end is near as the sixth season was announced as the last. But let’s not think about that now because for now, the fifth season is due towards the end of August, and fans are eager to dig more into Lucifer’s backstory.

 

Lovecraft Country – HBO (August 16)

One of the most exciting offerings of the month is the the drama horror series based on the 2016 acclaimed novel of the same name. It finds Atticus Black, a young Black man living in a Jim Crow America in the 1950s, who embarks on a cross-country road trip to find his missing father with his friend Letitia and his Uncle George. 

 

Selling Sunset –  Netflix (August 7)

Your reality TV guilty pleasure is back for a season 3 just three months after season 2 dropped. The realtors at The Oppenheim Group are ready to sell more homes, make more money, and stir up more drama. 

 

Cobra Kai – Netflix (August 28)

From Youtube to Netflix, here’s your chance to catch up on the first two seasons of the Karate Kid spinoff before season 3 drops later this year. If you haven’t seen the original Karate Kid films, you may want to check them out first as the series picks up where the first three films left off. 

 

The Umbrella Academy – (July 31)

Technically, season 2 of the series dropped July, but unless you took the whole day off, you didn’t get the binge-watch all 10-episodes before the clock struck August. The Hargreeves siblings find themselves displaced in the 1960s with the apocalypse they were trying to thwart following closely behind. 

 

90s Black Sitcoms

There’s been a lack of Black sitcoms on streaming services, but Netflix is course-correcting by adding your favorites throughout the next few months. Moesha will be available starting August 1.  The first three seasons of  The Game will be added on August 15.  Sister, Sister are coming at you on September 1, The Parkers on October 1, and Half & Half and One on One will be available on October 15. Mark your calendars!

 

Movies

Project Power – Netflix (August 14)

Summer action flicks are no longer debuting in theaters — they’re available from the comfort of your couch. Jamie Foxx and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are fighting dealers responsible for selling a drug that gives people temporary superpowers. What could go wrong? 

 

Chemical Hearts – Amazon Prime (August 21)

If you’ve been missing Lili Reinhart while Riverdale is on hiatus, you have to check out this teen romance drama about the trials and tribulations of young love. Henry Page, a hopeless romantic who has never fallen in love, aims to become the editor of a high school paper until Grace Town, a transfer student, becomes his new partner. 

 

Dora the Explorer – Netflix (August 3)

Get exploring with Dora and friends! The live-action Nickelodeon adaptation arrives at Netflix to explore a lost city in South America as Dora aims to save her parents. It’s like Tomb Raider for youngin’s, and audiences loved it based on the reviews! If you’re looking for a family-friendly film to watch under the stars in your backyard, this is it!

 

Work It – Netflix (August 7)

Dance movies are an acquired taste with many not reaching the heights of Step Up (the original, come on guys). Alicia Keys aims to change that in her new Sabrina Carpenter-led flick, described as a coming-of-age comedy about Quinn Ackerman, an overly ambitious senior who attempts to join a dance team to get her way into her dream college. But when the team rejects her, she creates her own team, and they need all the coaching they can get! 

 

Documentary

World’s Most Wanted – Netflix (August 5)

Netflix is big on documentaries for one reason — Netflix audiences eat them up. Coming in August, World’s Most Wanted focuses on, you guessed it, some of the world’s most wanted criminals who have avoided capture “despite massive rewards and global investigations.”

 

Black Is King – Disney+ (July 31)

Again, the visual album premiered at the end of July, but you’re either going to watch it in August or you’ll be rewatching the stunning cinematography several times in the upcoming month. Beyonce’s work of art has gotten much praise from critics and fans alike as it explores a the journey of a young African king cast from his family with motifs of “betrayal, love and self-identity” told through powerful Black voices. It’s a visual component to the Beyonce-curated 2019 Lion King album. 


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Best Tweets About Beyonce’s Visual Album ‘Black Is King’ on Disney+

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The Best Tweets About Beyonce's Visual Album Black Is King

Beyonce’s highly-anticipated visual album Black Is King is available to stream on Disney+.

Much of the BeyHive stayed up way into the night to watch yet another stunning piece of artwork from the queen of pop that continuously reinvents herself. 

The overall consensus? Black Is King is saving 2020. 

How to Watch Beyonce’s ‘Black Is King’ on Disney+

Check out some of the best tweets about the documentary, that Disney+ describes as a “celebratory memoir for the world on the black experience.”

Twitter is even celebrating because every time you like a tweet with the hashtag #BlackIsKing, two little lions will pop up. That alone is worth going and liking every tweet you see! 

 


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Netflix

Money Heist: Who Is Alicia Sierra and How Is She Connected to the Professor and the Overall Heist?

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Money Heist: How is Alicia Sierra Connected to the Professor and the Overall Heist?

There’s no shortage of intriguing and enigmatic characters on Netflix’s Money Heist (La Casa de Papel), but season 3 of the crime drama introduced fans to Alicia Sierra (Najwa Nimri), lead police investigator in the Bank of Spain heist, and quite frankly, the most puzzling character to date. 

Sierra is an exciting and worthy replacement for former police inspector Raquel Murillo aka Lisbon, who left her policing days behind to join the Professor’s merry band of robbers following their first heist at the Royal Mint.  

With a lollipop in hand, Sierra is ready to stop the robbery of the bank in its tracks and finally bring the criminals to justice. Her actions and decisions bring a new level of unpredictability to the series, which makes her a worthy opponent for the Professor. Raquel played by his rules, but Sierra has figured out his rules and kept up with them… almost too well.

She’s in it to win it, and prior to her introduction, we hadn’t seen anyone who was equally as cunning as the Professor. 

She’s defined by her brutality; while others would shudder at the thought of using family members as leverage, she’s overjoyed to cross the line on multiple occasions including when she uses Nairobi’s son and Raquel’s ailing mother to manipulate them. 

Sierra isn’t just crazy good at her job, she’s simply crazy… and that allows her to go head-to-head with the Professor, with or without the support of law enforcement. She’s a sociopath, in her own way, that’s equally as complex, ruthless, intelligent, and confident as both the Professor and Berlin.

There are also many parallels between her and Raquel as they’ve both been outsmarted by the Professor on a few occasions, they both lost the support of their team while working the heist investigations, they were both turned into scapegoats for agency, and they both used their instinct to successfully hunt the Professor down. 

But there’s a key difference that sets Sierra apart from Raquel — she’s not in love with the Professor. 

Raquel pursued the Professor, but she was also blinded by love. The trust they developed when she didn’t know who he truly was made it easier for her to understand that, though flawed, his intentions behind the heist were noble. 

Sierra, on the other hand, was motivated to find the Professor to finish a job. She never once lost sight of the prize, and one could say her dedication to the job and capturing the bad guys has been fueling and motivating her. 

The dramatic season 4 cliffhanger, which ended with Sierra finding the Professor’s hideout and ambushing him by pointing a gun at his head, proves we’ll dig deeper into her character come season 5.

She may have the upper-hand as things stand now, but there’s a huge chance the Professor will manipulate and outsmart her while giving us some much-needed background about her. 

The vagueness about Sierra’s villainous character has drawn much attention from fans who are theorizing how she’ll play into the storyline moving forward. 

All we know for certain is that she and Raquel attended police training together, her husband died a few months ago due to cancer (we don’t even know who German is or if he’s important to the story), and that she’s pregnant (and even that’s questionable). 

The thought that Sierra may be faking her pregnancy crossed my mind while binge-watching the series.

Even before Sierra was roped into leading the investigation at the Bank of Spain, she was responsible for inhumanely torturing Rio through illegal tactics such as waterboarding and burying him alive. 

Much of her actions indicate that she doesn’t have much of a maternal bone in her body, and it’s possible that she’s faking her pregnancy to gain sympathy from the public in the instance that her sadistic actions come to light.

The sympathy card has worked on many occasions for the Professor and his robbers, and realistically, we’re all less likely to judge a pregnant woman’s action. It could be the reason why the agency attempted to place the blame solely on her when the Professor exposed their torture tactics on a civilian. 

There have also been other moments where Sierra is seen smoking, gorging on junk food, and drinking caffeine. All of that compounded with the stress of the job cannot be good for a woman in such an advanced pregnancy.

One could chalk this up to personal quirks and Sierra’s unhealthy coping mechanisms, or, it could be a huge red flag that the pregnancy isn’t real. Don’t even get me started about the stamina needed to spend hours interrogating someone or hunting down the Professor without any assistance.

There’s an added level of suspense to having a pregnant maniac in charge — especially so far along in the pregnancy — because the audience is always wondering when she’ll go into labor. 

The most likely (and predictable) scenario lends itself to Sierra going into labor while pointing the gun at the Professor. It would catch her off guard, put her at a disadvantage, and force her to rely on the Professor to help her give birth. It would also allow the Professor to regain control of the situation.

Even though he has some of the most meticulously thought-out plans that anticipate every possible outcome, luck has a tendency of working in his favor. 

But that’s the key to all of this — anticipation. The Professor has played out every possible scenario in his head. Even the ones that have taken him by surprise have, at some point, crossed his mind, so it’s unlikely that he’d be careless enough to leave behind a trail leading directly back to him.

If Raquel was able to find his first hideout, the chances are high that he would consider that another agent, one that isn’t blinded by love and is more cutthroat than Raquel, would be able to track him down, too. 

Not to mention the Professor also has an advantage this time around because Raquel knows Sierra personally and can predict how she’d act in certain situations. 

By making Rio’s torture private, he could’ve anticipated that the agency would try to save face by placing the blame on Sierra, like they did with Raquel, and thus, figured she would seek him out. It’s entirely possible that the license plate and the footage of him threatening a cop that led Sierra to him was all part of the plan. 

He laid the breadcrumbs and she fell into his trap thinking it was a victory. Maybe she’s a necessary part of the plan to help the gang escape from the Bank of Spain alive and with the gold?

Read the full post at TV Fanatic now! 


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