If you’ve ever said the phrase, “it’s just TV” or “get over it, X show isn’t real,” I can bet that we aren’t going to get along well. It’s never been “just TV” to me (or “just a book” or “just a movie”). You may think we watch too much TV (sure) or that it rots our brains (sure, a lot if it does), but TV means so much more to me.
My favorite shows have taught me so much and they’ve been a great source of comfort in my life. TV can show us we’re not alone. It can make our futures seem brighter. It can educate us to be less rude to someone we might have judged too harshly. It can show how dumb you’ve been acting or how right you were to trust your instincts.
We connect to our TV shows and our TV characters so strongly because each tells a story. Some bring us in because they are so fantastical, they allow us to escape. Some bring us in because they are so real, it seems like we’re watching our lives. But all successful shows (we can discuss what I mean by successful later), share something in common — their stories resonate.
They make us feel — feel happy, sad, inspired, appalled, excited, scared, known, lost. And those feelings are real.
As I think through my powerful relationship with TV, I think through literally hundreds of characters who have been by my side when I needed them most. Narrowing down a list of shows that demonstrates how much TV means to me has been remarkably challenging. While just thinking about shows that are special to me (not even all that I watch religiously), I came up with 23. Don’t worry, we won’t cover them all (right now), but I want to mention a few that have meant so much.
I must start with Friends, because though I had other favorites earlier and ones that have met me where I am better (this is political talk for: “I’m going to get Girls better than my mom when I’m wandering in my 20’s and she’s settled and successful”), Friends was truly my first great love and one I will always cherish. Friends is great—we all love it. We all could probably go on about what made Friends such a great show. But the reason it is so beloved by me is simple—the Friends were my friends.
In 8th grade, we had just moved to a new state and my sister had just left for college. And I was 13. At a time when I felt more alone than I ever had before, the Friends really were a huge part of my life. Watching reruns every night gave me the reliability and laughter I so needed. Thank you, sweet friends, for always being there for me.
Oh, Gilmore Girls, you sweet unique flower. Gilmore Girls is so lovely for so many reasons, but I loved it for helping me grow up as Alice as I could be. Gilmore Girls showed me that being smart is cool. It made me want to consume more and more knowledge and pop culture—both so I could get the jokes, but also because the joy it brought was so clear. Also, be nice to your mom, even if you’re a teenager. Moms are the best. And you can mess up and get back on track. And, most importantly, bad boys are fun, but let them go until they get their shit together. You can take them back once they write a book. #TeamJess
Okay, Gossip Girl is horrible (not you, Blair! You are a queen). But Gossip Girl inspired my favorite recap series of all time — the Vulture Reality Index. I kept watching through the end (yeah, like four of us really did watch them all) just so I could read each week’s recap. Thanks for showing me that writing about TV is the highest goal!
I love The Mindy Project and all its little quirks. I feel known when I watch The Mindy Project. You can be a smart, successful woman and still care about Kris Jenner (exhibits A and B). We don’t have to fit in these sad serious boxes our whole lives. Silly things are so fun to care about and it doesn’t make you any less significant.
Also, she is all about that real talk. Shower sex is never a good idea. Thanks for being honest, Mindy, while giving us just enough wish-fulfillment.
Leslie Knope! You beautiful, tropical fish! (Calm down, superfans — I know that’s Ann.) Leslie Knope shows how cool it is to care. I hate when people think they are too cool to care a lot about little or big things. Caring about your little group of friends and your little local community is what makes the world better. Care a lot, you guys. It will hurt sometimes, but everything worthwhile does.
Also, you can have girlfriends you aren’t bitchy too. Women do love each other!
Lucky for me, I only relate to some of Girls now (#humblebrag). But Girls really paints a picture of how hard it is to grow up and they aren’t wrong. But what I love most is how well they portray female friendships born long ago.
There’s this scene in Season 3 when they go to the Hamptons and have a HUGE fight – yelling all the horrible thoughts held too long inside. The next day, they’re sitting silently waiting for the bus and they just begin to do their previously choreographed dance, all while remaining silent. My heart breaks watching this scene because I too have said the worst things imaginable to the girlfriends I have loved forever and then just moved on with a new scar to carry. I’m glad I’m not alone.
Oh, Mister Rogers! Thank you for teaching us how to be a good neighbor and always being there with answers when we were most scared. I’m so lucky to have known you.
These are just a few of my great loves and just a peek inside to why I love them. Soon, on Alice McAlex, I’m going to write each one a love letter (okay, not Gossip Girl) and I hope you’ll follow along. I love you, sweet TV shows, and I’m ever so grateful for your friendship.
*Featured image source: NBC. Originally seen on Entertainthis.USAtoday.com