I am watching a new TV show this fall. Oh scratch that: I am watching a multitude of new TV shows this fall! This is because one of my prime forms of entertainment is TV. But not any TV, oh no. Specifically, 1-hour TV dramas. I nearly never watch sitcoms and I would rather kill myself than watch “reality” “TV.” So I watch allllllll the 1-hour dramas.1
The first episode or two, I wasn’t sold, if only because it was trying so. damn. hard. to tug on your heartstrings. Like… if I feel like I’m being manipulated into crying, you are in trouble, because I generally love tearjerker drama and not because I’m too stupid to know it’s designed to elicit a very specific reaction in its viewers. It was just so heavy-handed about it.
But then after a few episodes, I got into it (there’s a pretty cool twist in the show’s conceit which I won’t spoil but yeah, cool and thought-provoking). And then… oh network TV, why do you do this to me?
Yes, one of the show’s key (hetero) couples had a pregnancy scare. And since This Is Us airs not just on “network TV” but one of the “big three” (read: ABC, CBS, NBC), it had to be handled in the time-honoured US network TV tradition: so unrealistically as to make your head spin.
So thanks to NBC, the couple (who have never been revealed to be particularly religious, let alone evangelical) deals with the scare by not even bringing up the possibility of abortion. Even though they have two children already and the wife expresses how much she was looking forward to getting back to work now that their daughters are not toddlers, not even the slightest hint that terminating the pregnancy is an available option (no matter how undesirable it may or may not be for that particular couple) is made.
I could have SCREAMED.
(This is before the recent US presidential election. Which of course is frightening to think may have mattered, even though it thankfully didn’t.)
My friend Ali tells me, however, that the CW (a “netlet” or smaller network than the “big three” but still considered moderately widespread and somewhat of a big deal) just aired an episode of the quirky musical My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend that handled the issue of abortion in a pretty normalized manner. And it was also handled well, apparently, during the first season of Amazon’s Transparent. So maybe there is hope that, someday, even though no one is forced to choose it, abortion’s existence as an option might get acknowledged on shows being made and broadcast on widely disseminated media. Because women fought and died for that option to be on the table, and not even bringing up its existence is offensive.
- Ha! I don’t even watch close to all of them but it certainly feels like I do. [↩]