Someone told me once that too much TV is a bad thing and a waste of time. While I certainly agree that sitting for hours at a time with little movement and lots of junk food isn’t doing your heart or waistline any favors, TV can be valuable and good for your mind, if not so much for your body.
At the very least, some of the best shows can teach a life lesson or two.
I have specific tastes — no “Toddlers and Tiaras” or “Jersey Shore” for me, thanks. Preferably, I like the geeky-type shows, and nowadays, there’s quite a few that could be labeled as such. While each is packed with its own themes, both obvious and underlying, there are some overall lessons I’d like to share that some of the more popular ones can teach everyone. Hopefully, you might even find a new show interesting enough to fill a few of your summer hours.
“Doctor Who.” This British TV show has unequal parts science fiction, fantasy, comedy and drama, depending on the episode writer. The story focuses on the adventures of a human-looking alien called the Doctor who travels around time and space in his spaceship that looks like a blue telephone box but is bigger on the inside.
After a long break of about two decades, it started up again in 2005 and has rapidly become a favorite in the international geek scene. I think the one element that makes this show so good is the characters. Sure, the endless plot twists are cool and all, but . . . the characters! With the Doctor changing actors every few seasons (long story) and the companion(s) who join him changing up even more often, there are a lot of great characters to choose from.
Everyone has their favorite (for the record, mine is Christopher Eccleston’s Nine and Donna Noble). But honestly, I can’t tell you how fun it is to see female characters saving the world, various galaxies, the universe and sometimes even the highly intelligent male title character. For example, if you haven’t watched it, one female companion rips apart the fabric of time and space, another travels an apocalyptic version of Earth on her own for a year while being hunted by a seriously crazy overlord, and one ends up as the last character standing between a classic villain and the destruction of reality.
Not only that, but these women who join the adventures are quite often normal people, the type you might see behind the counter at Costco. It’s just that one day, someone took their hand and led them into situations that required them to be their best selves — and, most importantly, told them that they could do it.
And that’s perhaps the No. 1 lesson that “Doctor Who” can and has taught to its viewers: Everyone has the potential to do great and wonderful things. Often, all it takes is someone to believe in that potential and say, “You matter. And you can do anything.”
“Sherlock” and “Elementary.” I’m perfectly aware of how different these two Sherlock Holmes adaptations are. Just hold out with me for a second.
“Sherlock” is another British show about a modern-day Sherlock Holmes and John Watson duo. It’s a fun, fresh take on the Sherlock Holmes mythos, and we can’t say no to Benedict Cumberbatch, who starred in this year’s “Star Trek Into Darkness,” or Martin Freeman of “The Hobbit.”
“Elementary” is the American response to “Sherlock.” Also a modern-day take, its twist is a female and non-white version of John Watson, played by Lucy Liu.
I’m making them sound vague and similar to one another because I’ve seen a lot of arguments on which one is supposed to be better, and in case you’re wondering, one isn’t better than the other. They may use the same original body of work as inspiration, but they both bring something new and fresh to a story that’s been adapted so many times that I’m sure both Shakespeare and Doyle are up in literary heaven taking bets on what’s going to happen to their franchises next.
So what’s the lesson behind these two? Well, besides the obvious lesson of not getting so attached to a show that you have to try to bring down another one in comparison because it does stuff differently, the lesson here is that everyone has a story to tell. It might be something you’ve heard before, but you should still keep an open mind about it and give it a chance. You might find yourself enjoying it more than you thought.
“Community.” You might know this as the show that was supposed to be canceled but wasn’t because its fans sent up such an uproar to keep it on the air. This series is a comedy about a diverse group of students attending a community college and all the fun stuff that they go through.
It might sound simple, and I even had my doubts about it once, but after giving it a try, I can see why its fans were so determined to keep this series going. One of the best lessons “Community” teaches is that anyone can make friends. There will always be someone out there who shares your same interests, who accepts your quirks, and who likes to be with you because of who you are. It might take you a while to find them, but if you look, then you will find them. Or they’ll find you. And you will be a better person because of it.
“Game of Thrones.” If there’s one thing new and old fans alike should know about “Game of Thrones,” it’s that it’s not so much a game of figuring out who’ll actually end up on the throne when the final body count arrives as it is a game of who’s going to die next.
It’s at the point nowadays that it’s not even a spoiler to tell someone which character got ticked off the list of the living this week, because you should sort of just assume that no one’s safe and if they aren’t dead now, then it’s only a matter of time. Doesn’t matter if they’re good, bad or neutral — no one is safe in this series. Which I guess is sad, sure, but hey . . . that’s life.
The lesson here is about as simple and obvious as they come — people die. Sometimes unfairly. Sometimes horrendously. Sometimes unexpectedly. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get attached to them. In fact, this show probably wouldn’t work as well as it has if viewers didn’t get emotionally invested in the characters.
By no means is this even a fraction of some of the great TV programming that geeks adore. After all, where’s “The Walking Dead” and “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” (you think I’m kidding, but I’m not)? Well, those will have to wait for Part 2, to come in a few weeks. Until then, I hope that, if geeky shows aren’t your thing, you give one of them a chance. There might be something you may learn — and you’ll have a bit of fun and tears while learning it. After all, those are the kind of lessons that stick with you long after the season finale.