Connect with us

Editorials

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

Credit: Brooklyn Nine Nine

Published

on

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!

Do You Like Baby Storylines on TV Shows?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Editorials

Walker Season 4 Premiere Review – The Quiet

Published

on

Walker Season 4 Premiere Review - The Quiet

Walker returned to The CW for its 4th, and, likely final, season. 

Despite a 5-month time jump, the focus remained on serial killer Jackal, whom Walker and Trey were pursuing at the end of season 3, and the suspect that previously drove Cap. Larry James into a tailspin, effectively ending his marriage to Kelly before fate gave them another shot. 

Only this time around, Larry’s wife, Kelly, asks Cordell not to drag her husband down this road again—a promise he intends to upkeep, though, knowing Larry, he’ll figure out that his rangers are up to something and have no other choice but to get involved, especially since Trey’s tip for a detective reveals that Jackal, whose trail previously went cold for several months, is gearing up for “something big.”

This will be the overarching mystery of the season, while other weekly cases will also see our rangers getting into plenty of shenanigans, as they did with their pursuit of the Delmonico brothers. Also, props to all of them for taking part in a steak-eating competition and then jumping into a raid. It was bold of them, but it’s how Cordell wanted to spend his birthday, so I’m glad that despite the best-laid plans being uprooted, he was still able to feel the love from those around him.

A lot seems to have changed in the past five months, as evidenced by Walker and Geri’s steamy hook-up. Even when everything is going wrong, we can have faith in their love being a constant, which is what fans have been hoping for since season 1. 

There’s also Cassie, who blows back into town after taking a lengthy leave to go work for the FBI. She’s back with a newfound confidence about her abilities on the job, but she’s also struggling with a personal decision as she’s been offered a spot at Quantico, which means further uprooting her life and leaving behind her loved ones, er, Trey. 

Yeah, Trey and Cassie kind of addressed the elephant in the room—their feelings for each other—but neither of them was honest about it, so we’ll likely get something more truthful and heartfelt in the near future. 

Another lingering storyline is the break-in at Geri’s place that rattled Stella to her core. She hasn’t been the same since shooting and killing Witt, and it’s likely because she also lied to the police about having met him before. The officer who called her and Liam in over a “breakthrough in the case” said that the case was closed due to lack of resources, but the way he watched Stella sign the paperwork (and questioned if that’s “all she knew”) makes me uneasy—there’s definitely more to this storyline. What does he know that he’s not letting on?

As for change, I think that in the midst of all the “I’m Walker, Texas Ranger, you’re under arrest” in case you needed the reminder, we’re also continuing to see Cordell as a flawed human and a father coming to terms with the fact that he’s about to be an empty nester. It’s the next phase of his life—and one that brings about plenty of concern over the “quiet” that will allow his dark thoughts to flourish. Hopefully, Geri will be the light to cut through all of that. 

What did you think of the episode?

Continue Reading

Wild Cards

Vanessa Morgan Is Finally Getting the Recognition She Deserves With ‘Wild Cards’

Published

on

Vanessa Morgan Is Finally Getting the Recognition She Deserves With ‘Wild Cards’

I meant to write this post when Wild Cards first premiered on The CW, but time got away from me, and before I knew it, the season finale of the series was upon us! 

I’m not a huge fan of The CW’s decision to axe some of our favorite shows in its rebrand, but what does ease the pain of losing the likes of Nancy Drew is the addition of promising shows like Wild Cards

To be quite frank, Riverdale never did Vanessa Morgan much justice. She amassed a huge number of fans, who were mostly hoping to see her character Toni reunite with on-screen love interest Cheryl (played by Madeleine Petsch) in the later seasons, and while she was seemingly considered one of the “core” characters, she rarely got the storylines she deserved.

We knew she could act—but Wild Cards shows us the depth of Morgan’s talents. It lets her shine, dominate, lead,  and even carry the series, opposite her on-screen partner and potential future love interest, Giacomo Gianniotti’s Ellis. 

Morgan delivers with the role of Max, a whip-smart and very charismatic con artist who utilizes her special skillset to help a “down in the dumps” maritime officer get his mojo back—and, spoiler alert if you’ve watched the season finale, his badge and desk back. 

Despite his initial hesitation with the idea of her joining the force as a consultant, even Ellis comes around, amazed by her abilities and the way she’s able to navigate every crime scene and follow the leads to produce results.&nbsp

The two grow very close over the course of the season’s 10 episodes, largely due to Morgan’s delightful on-screen persona and presence. Even when it’s not clear whose side she’s really on (is she fully on board with helping the cops or does she have a larger-than-life plan up her sleeve to pull off her greatest con yet and help her dad George—90210‘s Jason Priestley—snag a “get out of jail free” card), you find yourself drawn to her and rooting for her because of her likable personality. 

Vanessa Morgan Is Finally Getting the Recognition She Deserves With ‘Wild Cards’

Credit: The CW

The series not only gets us invested in Max’s character—learning about her past—and what it entails for her future, but we also find ourselves rooting for Max and Ellis to finally get together… or even test the boundaries of that electric chemistry that they share (a moment that is, sadly, ruined when her husband Olivier (Dewshane Williams) blows into town). 

And it’s the mystery of Max that has all of us begging The CW to renew the series for a second season. We need more Max. We need more Ellis. We need more Morgan and Gianniotti. And we need answers. The good news is that Morgan told TVLine that season 2 of the quirky crime procedural is “very likely,” and trust that we put all our faith in her. 

As for the answers I mentioned we need, well, we need to know who killed Ellis’ brother, a murder that was the catalyst for him to get knocked down from his detective responsibilities in the first place. When he met Max, he was in a hard place, still trying to pick up the pieces of his brother’s death. And though he’s come a long way, surely, the fact that he can crack this specific mystery is one that he won’t be able to pass up. 

At the end of the finale—spoiler alert, again—Max convinced the authorities to help her pull off a heist that was two years in the works, hoping to frame her estranged husband Olivier after he steals a $33 million egg (he’s the one who betrayed her dad and landed him in prison), lessen her father’s sentence, and restore Ellis’ badge. However, there was a piece of the plan she didn’t share with Ellis—she swapped the real egg for a fake egg, and hatched a plan to disappear forever alongside Ricky and her millions. 

She didn’t expect Ellis to figure it out, though, this was one of the weaker points in the episode because she should’ve known him better than that by now, but she figured she’d be halfway across the country and it wouldn’t matter. What she didn’t anticipate in her plan is that Ricky, who was transcribing incriminating recordings from the mob as part of their safety-net policy, would find something on the drive about Ellis’ brother, namely, who murdered him. 

It’s at this moment that we see the biggest change in Max. She’s not the same person she was when the series first started. Her skills have become more valuable to helping than stealing, and she’s grown to care about someone other than herself and her father. She can’t, in good faith, leave with this knowledge and leave Ellis hanging. 

And that’s where we leave off—a promising cliffhanger on a promising series with two very promising leads. 

Your move, The CW.

Continue Reading

Editorials

Chicago Med Season 9 Episode 6 Review – I Told Myself That I was Done With You” Episode

Published

on

Chicago Med Season 9 Episode 6 Review - I Told Myself That I was Done With You" Episode

Chicago Med zeroed in on some personal situations for the doctors working in the ED, including Ripley (hey, Rip!), who treated an old friend from his past life, and Sharon, who was forced to come to terms with Bert’s diagnosis. 

Ripley’s past continues to haunt him, but it’s actually illuminating for audiences who are trying to get to know him on a deeper level. I feel like I know more about him than some of the other docs who have been here for years. When a drunk man waltzed into the emergency room, Ripley didn’t expect to have a run-in with an old friend he used to hit the streets with. However, while treating his friend, he also found the beginning signs of lung cancer, which was a diagnosis that he didn’t take too lightly. When Ripley pressed him to seek out treatment, things got tense, and a fight broke out in the ED, with Ripley’s impulsive behavior rearing its head. Eventually, Dr. Charles, without casting judgment, came to save the day, informing Ripley that his friend didn’t need a doctor in a white coat but rather a friend to look out for him. He wasn’t ready to accept his diagnosis now, but hopefully, after feeling supported, he’ll come around and get the necessary treatment. 

Zola is still finding her footing at Med, but what we’re seeing is that it’s not necessarily a bad thing because she feels strongly and passionately about taking down the corrupt system around her and fighting for her patients. She’s been told that jumping headfirst is a bad thing, but acting on instinct has proven to be beneficial, even if it does seem reckless at first. She’s prioritized her patients at every turn, she’s confident in the diagnosis she makes, and she saves lives, despite some unconventional methods. When the drug that she recommended was finally shelved, she viewed it as a win until Archer tore her up about it because it was replaced with a very expensive drug that would burden patients. It’s an odd approach considering a doctor should be happy if a drug that’s harming people or has adverse effects is taken off the market, right? Archer also didn’t stop to think about the consequences of his actions—bashing Zola and making her feel like she can’t trust her gut in situations where she’s seeing things clearly. It’s a skill to have. But her tenacity proved even more useful when she did a little more research and found the person who helped pull the drug was working for a company that produced the pricier one—thus piecing together that it was a sweetheart deal. It’s not exactly illegal, but being as perceptive as Zola is can be really useful to the hospital. 

Also, the chemistry between her and Crockett is getting heavier and heavier, especially as he begins to realize how much of an asset she is. Let’s get this romance going! 

Archer and Maggie teamed up amid Hannah Asher’s absence, and while he can rub people the wrong way, his advice about not holding on to a reality that didn’t exist anymore was crucial in helping Maggie move on from her divorce. She was avoiding going home and confronting the fact that Ben was gone, but it was necessary for her to move into the next phase of her life. Maggie was also inspired by a patient, who she helped convince to get her son a needed surgery so that they could both move into a more promising future together. It was sweet how the writers connected their stories—although they were so different, they both learned a great deal from each other.

And finally, Sharon Goodwin learned the truth about Bert’s diagnosis, and it was as everyone feared—he had Alzheimer’s dementia. The news is always difficult for everyone affected, from the patient all the way to his family, who will now be responsible for taking on the care. In this case, the burden was going to fall on Sharon, even though she was his ex-wife, and she knew it would take a toll on her personal life. Trying to navigate a new relationship while getting pulled into an old one is tough, but hopefully, her new partner will understand that this is something she has to do for her former spouse. The good news is that she has Charles, who has a history with Bert, and will be a good source of support as not only a friend but a therapist. This is going to be a long road for Sharon, but hopefully, a storyline that brings more awareness to the heartbreaking disease. 

What did you think of this week’s Chicago Med?

Continue Reading

Trending