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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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Editorials

Is Moose the TBK on ‘Riverdale’?

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Riverdale loves itself a good serial killer/villain.  
 
We’ve had the Black Hood, the Gargoyle King, Edward Evernever, the Stonies, the Auteur, and season 6 ushered in the Trash Bag Killer (referred to in short as TBK). 
 
Yeah, it’s a funny name, but there’s nothing funny about his obsession with stalking and tormenting Betty Cooper. 
 
His identity was somewhat revealed as Archie’s construction worker Dennis in one of the episodes, but that was clearly a fake out. Why would a man like Dennis care about Betty and Archie? Neither of them really questioned TBK’s identity or motives either, so it stands to reason that they know the real TBK is still out there somewhere keeping his identity tucked away in his pocket. 
 
On Riverdale Season 6 Episode 12, a fog spread across the murderous town forcing people to actually talk. Betty opened up to Archie about how she escaped TBK. It wasn’t much of an escape, however, as she reveals that he let her go after she passed his test. 
 
The test? Betty was tasked with helping him dismember a dead body. She seems only mildly torn up about it — chalk it up to being the daughter of a serial killer, I guess — while Archie shrugs it off at her attempt at survival. When there’s a murderous psycho standing behind you, there isn’t anything you won’t do, which is fair. 
 
Except there’s also a clue hidden in this story. Betty reveals that TBK let her go because her actions proved that they were kindred spirits. Alike. The same. Bonded forever. He also thinks that the world would be better with her in it. 
 
One of the things that immediately stood out in these flashbacks was how buff TBK is. The dude is ripped! (Last I remember, Dennis was not that ripped!)  When does someone that deranged have time to go to the gym? Or is it from lugging all the bodies around? I hate that this show forces me to have these disturbing thoughts, and yet here we are. 
 
The point is, TBK is much younger than we expected, and he’s into physical fitness. 
 
It’s likely not a coincidence that Moose shows up in town at the same exact time looking equally as buff. If you don’t believe me, this Twitter account did a little side-by-side, and it’s hard to argue with bulging biceps. 
 
Moose’s presence seemed innocent enough as he simply wanted to reconnect with Kevin, but there were a lot of sus moments that audiences likely overlooked. 
 
For starters, how did he get to the school when everyone was sheltering in place because the fog was so thick you couldn’t see a thing outside? We know TBK was in town because Betty saw a figure lurking in front of her house, though, Archie never ventured out to confirm the lurkers identity so it could’ve been anyone. 
 
Secondly, why did Kevin suddenly start having nightmares? Did Moose spike his drink?
 
And it’s all too convenient that Moose now has a job as a PE teacher, which means he cares about physically fitness and has time to workout. 
 
Moose then goes on to inform Kevin that he was fired from his trucking job when the Lonely Highway shut down and now he’s living with his dad, who recently got out of jail. We know that only sketch people are involved with the Lonely Highway.
 
And Moose isn’t impervious to the darkness as — reminder —  his father was the Gargoyle King who interrupted Moose’s first time with Kevin in the woods. Something like that has the potential to leave a scar, especially as Marcus Mason was clearly not supportive of his son’s lifestyle. Not to mention all that he went through while at Stonewall Prep (blackmail and manipulation) and the Army, where he enlisted at the behest of Mr. Chipping. 
 
 
It’s not fair to Moose who has consistently been getting terrible character arcs and deserves some happiness, but it’s hard to argue with the fact that the timing of his return to Riverdale is all too convenient and suspicious. 
 
Then again, Moose could be a red herring considering his motives remain questionable. Why Betty? Are serial killers simply attracted to her because of the serial killer gene? Or is she an easy target?
 
Hopefully, we’ll get more insight into the TBK as the season progresses because, as of now, he’s been the least compelling villain on Riverdale.
 
At this point, the only way to make TBK a worthy serial killer is to unmask him as someone we know. Someone we’ve all trusted. And someone who has a reason to cling to Betty. Wouldn’t it be crazy if Kevin ended up being TBK. He’s been so focused on criticizing Toni and Fangs for their gang lifestyle and trying to keep baby Anthony safe, but what if the fact that he’s constantly seeking out danger means he’s actually subconsciously Riverdale’s new threat?
 
And then there’s always Percival Pickens, though, that would be kind of lame, wouldn’t it?
 
Who do you think is behind the trash bag mask? And why! Sound off in the comments! 


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Best Shay Mitchell Movies and TV Shows to Watch

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Best Shay Mitchell Movies and TV Shows to Watch

All the Reese Witherspoon TV Shows You Have to Watch

Shay Mitchell has amassed quite a following on social media with her hilarious and relatable TikTok videos, but on-screen is where she delivers the real gold and pours herself into the most challenging roles.

Here are the best movies and TV shows starring Shay Mitchell to add to your must-watch list:

 

Pretty Little Liars – Freeform

Shay became a household name after bringing Emily Fields to life in the ABC Family/Freeform mystery drama. Emily and her best friends attempted to solve the mystery surrounding their best friend’s disappearance while fielding text messages from a digital stalker at every turn. Shay’s portrayal was also pivotal as it brought to life one of the best LGBTQ characters for the network! 

 

Dollface – Hulu

After being dumped, Jules (Kat Dennings) rekindles her female friendship with Madison (Brenda Song) and the eccentric Stella (Shay) and re-enters the world where your girlfriends trump romantic relationships. Each character brings a certain personality to the series, but Stella is definitely the most vibrant and worldly. 

 

You – Netflix

In its first season of the psychological thriller, Shay tackled the role of Peach Salinger, the best friend of Joe’s (Penn Badgley) first obsession Beck (Elizabeth Lail). And you know that any friend of Beck’s is an enemy of Joe’s. 

 

 

The Possession of Hannah Grace – Sony Pictures

Shay flexed her horror muscle as cop-turned-morgue worker Megan Reed, who accepts a delivery of a disfigured cadaver during the graveyard shift and is plagued with horrifying visions as she’s possessed by a demonic spirit. 

 

Mother’s Day

The film revolves around several different mother’s day events, including one with Sandy (Jennifer Aniston), a single mom that finds out her ex-husband is marrying a younger woman, Tina, played by Shay.

 

 

 


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7 Hottest Moments Between Thony and Arman on ‘The Cleaning Lady’

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Arman and Thony have an intense and electric bond on The Cleaning Lady

While they let the passion get to them on a few occasions, they’ve mostly kept things PG. So, how can there be so many “hot moments” between them, you ask. Well, good question!

When it comes to these two, it’s not only about the physical connection but the emotional as well. It’s about every longing gaze, stolen glance, and forbidden touch. It’s about all the times Arman helps Thony at his own discretion, and in turn, it’s the loyalty and support she extends to him. 

Here are the hottest and steamiest moments between Arman (Adan Canto) and Thony (Elodie Yung) on The Cleaning Lady Season 1! 

 

Season 1 Episode 1

Not only does Arman spare Thony’s life, but he “hires her” as the cleaning lady in order to justify keeping her alive. He sees something in her that not only piques his interest but also reminds him of himself. When Thony stands up to him at the airport hangar for the first time, she’s setting the scene for their season-long tug-and-pull dynamic. Arman acknowledges that she’s a woman that “commands respect” while noting that he’s “offering that to her.” He also reminds her that as immigrants, they need each other, and she needs him as he can play a huge role in keeping her son alive. It’s a key scene in order to establish the ground rules between these two power players — even if they are told at every turn that they have no power. 

THE CLEANING LADY: L-R: …lodie Yung and Adan Canto in the ìTNTî premiere episode of THE CLEANING LADY Monday, Jan. 3 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2021 Fox Media LLC. CR: Ursula Coyote/FOX

 

Season 1 Episode 1

When Arman risks his own life to save Thony’s after he realizes he’s basically walked her into a trap, it’s one of the first moments where he admits, subconsciously, that he cares for her. After the explosion, she pays him back for saving her life by saving his, which is when she reveals that there’s much more to her than meets the eye. Arman is impressed with how well she works under pressure, but Thony once again reminds him that it’s a give and take relationship. “You want me to work for you, protect me. Give me the respect I deserve. And if anything happens to me, swear my son will be protected.” He gave her his word… and he never lied. 

THE CLEANING LADY: L-R: Élodie Yung, Adan Canto and guest star Alonzo Ortega in the “TNT” premiere episode of THE CLEANING LADY airing Monday, Jan. 3 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2021 Fox Media LLC. CR: Ursula Coyote/FOX

 

Season 1 Episode 2

With Luca dying in her arms, Thony realizes she’s out of options and seeks out Arman and the club, who rushes to her aid and brings her to a private doctor that’s paid off by Hayak. Arman doesn’t just drop Thony off — he carries Luca inside, takes her burden, and sticks around to make sure that she’s okay. While he’s offering a shoulder to cry on, he realizes that he trusts her enough to open up about his past, which reveals that he understands Thony’s predicament all too well as he’s done the unthinkable to protect his family, too. The moment humanizes him in Thony’s eyes and the eyes of the audience. And when he sees that she looks at him with judgment for the career that he chose, it almost seems like he wants to become a better man for her. 

THE CLEANING LADY: L-R: ƒlodie Yung and Adan Canto in the ÒLionÕs DenÓ episode of THE CLEANING LADY airing Monday, Jan. 10 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2021 Fox Media LLC. CR: Michael Desmond/FOX

 

Season 1 Episode 6 

When Arman notices that Thony is upset about Luca’s procedure, he comforts her. He allows her to have a full-on breakdown (one of Thony’s only moments of weakness in the series) and cradles her in his arms. And all those heightened emotions lead to a very unexpected yet passionate kiss. I mean… really passionate. You cannot fake that kind of chemistry! Thony stops things before they escalate to the point of no return, but it’s enough to satiate all the fans that have been long shipping the couple. 

 

Season 1 Episode 7

When Thony informs Arman that she can’t afford the surgery and the liver donor, Arman offers to pay for the surgery, assuring her that he couldn’t have secured a huge deal with Thony’s intel from the FBI. “I’m in too deep now,” he says with an adorable smile, which definitely implies that he’s not just doing this for Luca. However, when Thony mentions that she’ll have to “talk to her husband” who has arrived in the U.S., Arman’s whole demeanor changes. The guy has absolutely no poker face, but it’s because he simply can’t hide himself or his emotions in front of the woman he loves. And while the moment isn’t exactly “hot,” it does reveal just how bad Arman has it for Thony. Plus, he’s still willing to pay for the surgery even with Thony’s husband in the picture, which is admirable. 

 

Season 1 Episode 8

The kiss right before Luca’s surgery was perfection. Unlike their first make-out session, this kiss was rooted in trust, honesty, and longing. Arman risked everything to get Thony and Luca across the border in a private jet because he cares about her so much and knows he might not have her around for much longer. The kiss is prefaced by a sweet talk where Thony reveals so much happened in Vegas that she’d like to forget, which prompts Arman to suggest, “hopefully, not everything.” “Not everything,” Thony admits. 

 

Season 1 Episode 10

Arman and Thony are like the modern-day Bonnie and Clyde. In one fell swoop, they worked together to take down Hayak and stole the $6 million from the gun sale after agreeing to help the FBI make the arrests. The action-packed episode didn’t allow for any real romantic moments, but the very fact that they trust each other enough to get into bed with the FBI while pulling one over on FBI at the same speak volumes. 

Also, the longing gaze and hang caressing while Thony visits Arman in jail is enough to make fans go crazy waiting for more #Armony (should we make that a ship name?). 

The Cleaning Lady Season Finale Review The Crown Season 1 Episode 10

THE CLEANING LADY: in the ÒCrownÓ season finale episode of THE CLEANING LADY airing Monday, March 14 (9:01-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2022 Fox Media LLC. CR: Jeff Neumann/FOX

 

Come on, FOX. Give us a second season!

I’m sure there are plenty of other moments I could’ve mentioned — which ones would you add to the list? Weigh in in the comments below! 

You can read all of The Cleaning Lady reviews right here! 

13 Steamiest Moments Between Rio and Beth on ‘Good Girls’


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