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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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Grey's Anatomy

Grey’s Anatomy Has Overstayed Its Welcome

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Grey's Anatomy cast photo

With every season renewal beyond Season 14 that Grey’s Anatomy seems to nab miraculously, the great grandmother of all medical dramas has seriously overstayed its welcome.

And I promise I say this purely out of love as a superfan myself, as someone who has seen every episode, some more than once.

I hate to compare it to this but remember Season 5, Episode 19, when the great aunt continues to be revived, and the niece and nephews seem like monsters each time they hold their breath, hoping she’s gone for good? Well, Grey’s Anatomy is the great aunt in this scenario, and the fans are the children. There, I said it.

Numerous TV shows have ended much too early, but it’s a rarity for a show to have lasted beyond its expiration date. And while there’s no one reason the show has gone downhill, these are some of the factors I think contribute to its decline.

Grey's Anatomy cast photo

Grey’s Anatomy cast photo

Shonda Rhimes Signs With Netflix

Many people don’t know this, but Shonda Rhimes, the original creator, and writer for the show exited and turned over her duties in 2017 when she decided to sign with Netflix.

She passed the showrunner title off to Krista Vernoff, who has been with Grey’s Anatomy since the beginning.

I’m not sure if I actually notice a difference in the writing, but it does seem like Rhimes’ exit in 2017 aligns similarly to when the show started to lose its steam.

Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but the show began recycling storylines, it lost important characters, and honestly, the drama between doctors began to go off the rails.

Original Characters are Replaced

The amount of times I’ve come across articles about Sandra Oh’s return is astounding. I’m not sure why everyone’s obsessed with theorizing her comeback. Oh has repeatedly said for years that she’s outgrown the show and will never return.

Cristina Yang on Grey's Anatomy

Cristina Yang on Grey’s Anatomy. Credit: ABC

However, without Cristina, there was no hope for the show. Sure, Derek was Meredith’s true love, but Cristina was Meredith’s soul mate. So her exit was quite the blow, and I don’t think the show ever truly recovered.

Oh’s departure in Season 10 left only a sputter of decent seasons in its wake. Cristina was a bulk of the humor and comedic energy, and without her, it lost a huge piece of itself.

Every few seasons, the show introduces new interns. We’re used to that. But, once they were forced to replace attendings and original cast members like Cristina, Callie, Arizona, and Alex, it brought less desirable characters to the forefront.

Amelia, Teddy, Owen, and Maggie are currently the main four alongside Meredith. Originally they were side characters, only meant to add drama to the lives of the original cast. But as original members began to leave, their storylines began to evolve and steal the focus.

Amelia, the other Shepherd, replaced Derek, and Teddy replaced Cristina.

Excessive Drama

With an entirely new shift in perspective, the new doctor’s storylines overshadowed any exciting patient cases. While in the first few seasons, there was a striking balance between special medical cases and doctors’ personal lives.

Owen and Amelia on Grey’s Anatomy. (ABC/Byron Cohen)

There used to be a formula. Midway through each season, there would be a unique and interesting patient case (hysterical pregnancy, sex accidents, etc.), and then the season finale would end on a major event like a shooting or plane crash.

Now, it seems the only major news we’re left with is whether or not Amelia will finally find true love, commit, and tie the knot. Or, who’s going to have the next baby.

And don’t even get me started on how absent Meredith was for this latest season. Meredith has never been my favorite character, but that doesn’t change the fact that the show’s named after her, and she is the main focus of the show. So, when all we saw was her on the beach and in a hospital bed, it definitely felt like we were cheated.

The only good thing to come out of Meredith’s beach rendezvous were guest appearances from old cast members. Seeing Lexi, Mark, and Derek on the beach brought back deep nostalgia for how the show used to be.

As Season 18 is now in the works, I truly hope the show can end peacefully afterward. It’s been dragged on long enough, and it would be the first show I’d ever wave goodbye to willingly.

Please, end the show before it’s too late, so I no longer have to continue watching it out of loyalty.

Now, what do you think? Should the show end? Don’t forget to leave your thoughts down in the comments!

 


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Netflix

17 Forgotten LGBTQ+ TV Characters

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No matter who you are and who you love,  you certainly know the iconic LGBTQ+ TV characters like Grey’s Anatomy’s Callie and Arizona or Schitt’s Creek’s David and Patrick.

But since Pride month is finally here, we figured why not list off some of the lesser-known LGBTQ+ characters that are equally as powerful.

And maybe you’ll find some new queer TV shows to watch along the way. 

1. Fran- Shrill

Lolly Adefope as Fran on Shrill. (Credit: Shondaland)

Simply put, Fran’s a Sagittarius queen on Shrill. Although not always that way, Fran successfully depicts the internal challenges of coming out in an immigrant family. Raised in a traditional Nigerian family, she’s had to suppress herself during her early years, but once she felt ready to come out, her entire personality blossomed into the Fran we know and love.

2. Levi Schmitt- Grey’s Anatomy

Jake Borelli as Levi Schmitt on Grey’s Anatomy. (ABC/Richard Cartwright)

When Callie and Arizona left the show, there was a gay-ping hole that needed to be filled. Thus, Levi Schmitt was born. His storyline might not be as prominent as his predecessors, but his characterization has since grown, and he’s made his own place in the Grey’s Anatomy family.

3.  Edie Palmer- Almost Family

Megalyn Echikunwoke as Edie Palmer on Almost Family (Credit: Fox)

Sadly, Almost Family was cut short. But Edie Palmer’s character showed the struggles of coming out later in life in the midst of a marriage with a man. We’re sad we didn’t get to see the evolvement of her story, but if you haven’t seen the first season, make sure to add it to your list.

4. Gael Martinez- Good Trouble

Gael Martinez - Goop

Tommy Martinez as Gael Martinez on Good Trouble (Credit: Freeform)

It’s a rarity for a show to portray a bisexual man, but it’s so important. Gael on Good Trouble is suave, sexy, and totally comfortable in his sexuality. Coming from a traditional Latino family didn’t make his coming out particularly easy, but with the support of his sister and friends, he’s able to find his way.

5. Maggie Amato- Younger

Debi Mazar as Maggie Amato on younger (Credit: TV Land)

Maggie on Younger is the OWL (old wise lesbian) that every queer woman aspires to be. An artist and a true OG of Brooklyn before it was totally gentrified, she’s not tied down to anyone and prefers to play the dating field of NYC. Because who wouldn’t when they’re surrounded by the largest pool of datable women?

6. Titus Andromedon- The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Titus Burgess as Titus Andromedon on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. (Credit: Netflix)

The diva that steals the show, Titus on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is the stereotypical flamboyant gay man. Somehow managing to survive in NYC as an aspiring Broadway performer. He may not give off the “straight” vibe Broadway wants from him, but his wardrobe is certainly better.

7. Abbi Abrams- Broad City

Abbi Jacobson as Abbi Abrams on Broad City. (Credit: Comedy Central)

In Broad City, the show explores the fluidity of sexuality effortlessly without putting a huge emphasis on labels. Both leads date men and women, but Abbi’s understated coming-out moment mirrors the actress’s own personal experience.

8. Darryl Whitefeather- Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Pete Gardner as Darryl Whitefeather on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. (Credit: The CW)

In this fun and musically driven show, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend does an outstanding job including multiple queer characters into its small cast. Darryl Whitefeather is an older man, who discovers he’s bisexual early on in the first season after he divorces his wife and finds he has feelings for White Josh.

9. Rhonda Johnson- Blackish

Raven Simoné (left) as Rhonda Johnson on Blackish. (Credit: ABC)

Rhonda’s not a series regular, but she does show up on the occasional episode of Blackish. She’s able to keep her sexuality a secret from her family for so long, that Dre, her brother, doesn’t totally believe she’s gay. Until he realizes that her–roommate– is actually her partner.

10. Victor Salazaar- Love, Victor

Michael Cimino as Victor Salazaar on Love, Victor. (Credit: Hulu)

Love, Victor is a coming-of-age show set in the same universe as the movie Love, Simon. This time centering around, Victor, a Latino boy whose traditional parents aren’t as accepting of homosexuality. With its Season 2 coming out in a few days, the emphasis will on the family dynamic after Victor comes out.

11. Dani Clayton- The Haunting of Bly Manor

Victoria Pedretti as Dani Clayton in the Haunting of Bly Manor (Credit: Netflix)

In a beautifully written show about love and loss, set against the backdrop of a mild thriller, The Haunting of Bly Manor stories Dani as she grapples with her sexuality after an incident that leaves her haunted by her past.

12. Lionel Higgins- Dear White People

Tyler James Williams as Lionel Higgins on Dear White People (Credit: Netflix)

Lionel from Dear White People is an important representation for Black gay men. Homophobia’s not something he often faces, instead his own flaws inhibit his dating life. However, he doesn’t need a relationship to distract from his three-dimensional characterization.

13. Frankie Coyne- Workin’ Moms

Juno Rinaldi as Frankie Coyne on Workin’ Moms (Credit: CBC)

Workin’ Moms is a comedy that depicts the realities of motherhood. One of the series regulars, Frankie, struggles with postpartum depression, ultimately leading to a split with her wife. She navigates singledom, dating women here and there, while also trying to build her real estate career.

14. Toni Shalifoe- The Wilds

Erana James as Toni Shalifoe on Amazon Prime’s The Wild (Credit/Amazon)

When The Wild’s dropped on Amazon Prime, the characters were easily lovable. Especially Toni, with her spitfire and confident personality she won over many gay hearts. She’s out and proud, and doesn’t let Shelby’s homophobic tendencies take her down.

15. Mae- Feel Good

Mae Martin as Mae on Feel Good. (Credit: Netflix)

In this comedic series that draws on the comedian Mae Martin’s real life, Mae is a drug addict who is having a hard time with sobriety as she’s too focused on her new relationship with her closeted girlfriend.

16. Elena- One Day at a Time

Isabella Gomez as Elena Alvarez on One Day at a Time. (Credit: Netflix)

Elena’s the social justice warrior of the family in One Day at a Time, and figures out she likes girls early on. She comes out to her family and the different generations seem to handle it differently, but it doesn’t stop her from being herself.

17. Eric Effiong- Sex Education

Ncuti Gatwa as Eric Effiong on Sex Education. (Credit: Netflix)

With his impeccable fashion that is sometimes gender-bending, Eric on Sex Education shows that you can be gay and actively religious. And despite the teasing he endures at school, he doesn’t stop being proud of his identity because he’s already been in the closet and it was dark and lonely.

Please comment below with any characters that you think should be on this list!


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Coffee Table News

Sara Ramirez Joins the ‘Sex and the City’ Reboot as Non-Binary Character

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Sara Ramirez Joins the 'Sex and the City' Reboot as Non-Binary Character

HBO Max’s Sex and the City reboot has officially snagged Grey’s Anatomy alumni Sara Ramirez as a new cast addition.

The star is replacing Kim Cattrall’s iconic character, Samantha.

Ramirez, who identifies as nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, will portray Che Diaz, a queer, nonbinary standup comedian. Che is the host of a widely popular podcast that will regularly feature Carrie.

The 10-episode series titled And Just Like That… will follow the original cast, including Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), and Charlotte (Kristin Davis), during a new chapter in their lives. It will examine how their friendship has shifted and evolved since their early 30s.

The decision to include a nonbinary character is a progressive move for the series and was inspired by Cattrall’s refusal to join the reboot. The actress called for the show to provide greater inclusivity and suggested that her character be replaced by “another actress–possibly a woman of color.” Executive director Michael Patrick King certainly delivered hoping to make some necessary amends to former episodes. 

In the original Sex and the City, Carrie made some questionable and problematic comments about the LGBTQ+ community. Notably, the line: “I’m not even sure bisexuality even exists. I think it’s just a layover on the way to Gaytown.”

Hopefully, Carrie takes this opportunity to learn from her past homophobic beliefs and we see a shift in her perspectives.

It’s exciting to see an aged classic rewrite its troubled past and take ownership of its outdated content. Now, we can properly look forward to a trendier and more millennial-esque show.

What do you think of the casting addition?


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