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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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6 Sexy Shows to Watch for Valentine’s Day

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6 Sexy Shows to Watch for Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day can be celebrated in all sorts of different ways. 

Some people bake cookies, others go out for a romantic date, while some do a fun activity with their significant other. 

However, this is the first Valentine’s Day under COVID-19 restrictions, which means that you likely don’t have as many fun and romance-filled options as in years prior. 

That’s where TV comes in! Regardless if you’re spending February 14 with a significant other or your besties, these are some of the sexiest and steamiest shows to watch on the day that’s all about celebrating L-O-V-E (for friends, family, significant others, and, most importantly, yourself!) 

 

Bridgerton

Romance, scandal, drama… Bridgerton has it all! Dubbed the Regency-era Gossip Girl, Netflix’s smash hit and most-watched series is a brilliant and entertaining period piece with enough sex scenes to make you blush. And Regé-Jean Page isn’t bad on the eyes.

 

Emily in Paris

Emily in Paris, which was just surprisingly nominated for a Golden Globe, hails from Sex and the City creator Darren Star. It’s an airy flick about a millennial named Emily who travels to Paris for a dream job and becomes enamored with the City of Love and the men that want to show her all that it has to offer. 

 

Modern Love

Falling in love requires you to be open, honest, and vulnerable. The American rom-com anthology web series, based on a weekly column published by the New York Times, explores themes of love (romantic, platonic, friendly) with a star-studded cast. The 30-minute episodes are standalone and easily digestible, which makes them the perfect viewing on a night like Valentine’s Day. 

 

Younger

What happens when Liza, a 40-year-old single mom, decides to be 26-years old in order to re-enter the working world and falls in love with not one but two very different men? An exciting journey through the world of publishing and heartbreak. As Liza tries to find herself, she does everything in her power to hide her true self from those she’s become most intimate with. It’s another whip-smart Darren Star creation!

 

Good Girls

Two sisters, Beth and Annie, along with best friend Ruby find themselves embroiled in a dangerous life of crime after robbing a grocery store. Beth, specifically, falls victim to a crime of passion with one sexy “gang friend” that pulls her further and further into his world. 

 

Elite

If Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars had a baby, it would be this Spanish-language drama. A private school becomes the scene of a murder after a clash between the rich and poor students. There’s plenty of sexual tension and unexpected turns as detectives try to narrow down the list of suspects. 

** Article originally published in February 2021**

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The Resident

Is Bruce Greenwood Leaving ‘The Resident’?

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After The Resident Season 6 Episode 9, many fans have been wondering if Bruce Greenwood, who plays Dr. Randolph Bell, is exiting the FOX medical drama.

While there has been no official word about a potential exit, it’s a fair question to ask considering the nature of his most recent storyline. 

In the latest episode—which aired on November 29—Bell, who found himself as the target of Governor Betz’s smear campaign, finally admitted to himself, and to his wife, Dr. Kitt Voss, that his MS is progressing. 

After Bell exposed Betz’s corruption while trying to secure funding for Chastain, Betz decided that the only way to teach him a lesson and make an example out of him was through revenge. Betz ordered a hit piece on Bell that painted him as a dangerous doctor to Chastain, which, in turn, tainted the hospital’s image. 

Of course, while some parts of it were true at one point in Bell’s career, it was largely exaggerated and sensationalized to paint him in a bad light, and it didn’t take into account all the work Bell has done to become a better man and doctor.

The stress of all the negative press caused Bell’s MS to flare up, triggering a variety of symptoms like a high-pitched ringing in his ears, seeing double, and dizziness, which made him realize that he was pushing off the inevitable.

This time around, instead of operating when he shouldn’t, he acknowledged that he no longer felt confident in his abilities, nor did he trust himself to perform any future surgeries. When he told Kit that he needed to go back to the clinical trial, it was a shock, but ultimately, she was supportive because she knew that’s what he needed. 

But what now? How will The Resident keep incorporating Bell’s character into the storyline? Will we just see him communicating with Kit from the trial in the same way we did earlier this season? Or will he slowly get phased out and written off? 

The trial could prove to be successful again, and all of Bell’s worries could have been for nothing. After he prioritizes his health and the whole thing with Betz blows over, it’s possible we could see Bell return to surgery for many more years—back to his previous glory. 

Losing Greenwood would be a huge blow to the series, especially since he’s been part of the series since its inception, however, it remains unclear which direction The Resident will go with this storyline.

Hopefully, we’ll find out in the upcoming season 6 finale, which is set to air on December 6, but as of right now, there’s no indication that Greenwood is exiting the drama.

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Movie Reviews

Madelaine Petsch’s ‘Hotel for the Holidays’ Is a Gem Among Cliché Films

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Madelaine Petsch's Christmas Movie 'Hotel for the Holidays' Is an Absolute Gem Among Cliche Films

There are a lot of Christmas movies out there, which is why it’s important to make the right choice this holiday season. After all, no one has the time to waste over two+ hours on a bad movie. 

At the top of your list should be Hotel for the Holidays, a rom-com that offers a refreshing take on a festive genre that oftentimes lacks creativity simply because the forces behind the scenes know it will make money regardless as everyone longs for a slice of familiarity and comfort around the holidays.

There’s plenty of Christmas magic (it must’ve slipped through the cracks) in Hotel for the Holidays, and it sneaks up on you—and Madelaine Petsch’s character, Georgia—in the best possible way. It’s Amazon Freevee’s first original holiday flick, and hopefully, not the last. 

The plot is rather simple on the surface, but it isn’t predictable as with other holiday rom-coms.

Here’s the gist: Georgia is a young and ambitious hotel manager at the historic Hotel Fontaine (it gives The Plaza Hotel vibes from Home Alone 2), which attracts an eclectic bunch of guests, including some heartbroken singles, an infamous popstar, a European ex-prince looking for a taste of the real world, and more. They all arrive in New York City for the holidays looking for an escape from the norm, and Georgia is determined to give it to them. However, she also has her own plans and goals that get her into a bit of a love triangle with the hotel’s chef, Luke (Mesa Massoud from the live-action Aladdin), and the ex-prince, Raymond (Max Lloyd Jones from Book of Boba Fett). It also stars Kayleigh Shikanai (American Gods) as Pandora, Jami Belushi (According to Jim) as Kiki, Neil Crone (It) as Milton, and Jayne Eastwood (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) as Florence.

Madelaine Petsch's Christmas Movie 'Hotel for the Holidays' Is an Absolute Gem Among Cliche Films

Credit: Amazon Freevee

Pretty early into the film, it’s obvious how Georgia’s romantic life will resolve itself, which allows the film to dig into other captivating subplots that are positively unexpected. Unlike other holiday films, Georgia values herself beyond a romantic partner, which, right off the bat, is a breath of fresh air. 

The supporting cast plays an integral part in the film, right down to the chef’s best friend/fellow chef and the janitorial staff. They may not be the sole focus of the series, but the team behind the rom-com found a way to involve them in a way that’s natural and easy to keep up with. Pretty soon, you find yourself rooting for the happiness of everyone at Hotel Fontaine—the staff and the guests.

The acting is also great. It’s just the right amount of feel-good so it never feels forced, nor do the character’s choices seem questionable. It’s all believable within the world they’ve created, aside from the scene where they are dining on a rooftop in the dead of a New York City winter without jackets or even sweaters. How are they not cold? As for the few over-the-top performances and characters, well, they also work—the prince’s bodyguard (AJ Zoldy) is a delight.

If I’m being perfectly honest, the magical thing about the film is that it’s a love letter to the community of people you surround yourself with: your found family.

The film doesn’t just settle for telling a story about two people who finally admit that they love each other because that’s tired and expected. Instead, it recognizes that romance comes in all shapes and sizes—in romantic partners, in co-workers, in friends, and even in new acquaintances that pass through your life for a brief moment (or stay awhile). 

Madelaine Petsch's Christmas Movie 'Hotel for the Holidays' Is an Absolute Gem Among Cliche Films

Credit: Amazon Freevee

The storylines come together seamlessly, and the themes of belonging and acceptance—in addition to staying true to yourself, finding the inspiration to pursue your goals and ambitions, and acknowledging that it’s ok to move and find happiness on your own terms, even if it doesn’t always please everyone—help the film stand out among the other cliche seasonal offerings.

Most importantly, Petsch shines… and it’s so deserved. The film allows her to show off her range of acting chops that, sadly, get stifled on Riverdale. The CW series may have been her mainstream big break, but it stopped working in her favor a long time ago, so it’s exciting to see her take on new projects and characters. 

Of all the Christmas films that I’ve seen in 2022 thus far, Hotel for the Holidays is one of the best. 

Check it out for yourself when it premieres on Dec. 2 on Amazon’s Freevee. 

Read On:

Your Guide to All the Must-Watch Christmas Movies of 2022

Freddie Prinze Jr. Is Back! Everything We Know About the ‘Christmas With You’ Heartthrob

Where Was ‘Falling for Christmas’ Filmed?

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