When Gilmore Girls was dropped from the local channel, it left a hole in my day. So I checked out the series that replaced it in its time slot, Party of Five (I know, I know: I’m 15 years behind the times. Just humor me).
First let’s get something out of the way: Yes, Pof5 engages me; you could even say I’m hooked, because I want to know what happens next, and I even — I admit it — analyze it when I’m not watching, i.e., “Charlie should’ve moved them to Seattle”; “Why does Bailey have to go to college 2,000 miles away?” “Julia was so out of line talking about Justin to his mom”.
So while there’s no question that I enjoy the program, there’s a disturbing undercurrent running through it: Do viewers get that the way the characters operate in their relationships is a model of how not to do relationships? I’m not referring only to the incessant cheating; I can deal with that. It’s that every couple seems to have two modes: Deliriously in love, or quarreling, the latter always seeming to stem from an innocent remark from which offense was taken, along the lines of:
Character A: You need to act responsibly here…
Character B: Responsibly? Excuse me! What do you know about responsibility?!
Character A: Look, all I’m saying is that maybe it wouldn’t be the end of the world if you’d…
Character B: Oh! Like you’re so perfect! I suppose you expect me to…!
It’s disturbing to think that young viewers may think that the above is a normal relationship pattern. Not to mention that the emphasis in Charlie and Kirsten’s almost-wedding seemed to be on one thing: forsaking all others. Not joining their lives, compromising, working as a team, putting each other’s happiness first…but forsaking all others, as if marriage is nothing but a relationship version of traffic law, i.e., just don’t exceed the speed limit, and you’ll be fine.
All in all, simplistic, served up as realistic. I know: It’s “just” TV; we can’t expect it to reflect real life. Yet we can’t ignore that it does feed into viewers’ — especially young viewers’ — concepts of what to expect from real life. I’d like to think that my kids will dig deeper and shoot higher than do the Salingers.