As we move forward into a new year, everyone seems to be making their own lists of the best and worst that 2009 had to offer. I am no exception. I have a definite best television moment and a definite worst television moment in mind to share with you, but as I contemplate my most and least favorite television experiences of the year, I am looking forward with even more excitement to the television to come in 2010. Namely, I eagerly await the return of the best in mindless entertainment—the television phenomenon we know as American Idol. At the same time, I am intrigued by the possibilities of two new shows premiering in January. While it is impossible to say exactly where they will take us, both Fox’s Human Target and the CW’s Life UneXpected, at least initially, have the potential to lead us into an exploration and deeper understanding of trust.
My favorite television experience of 2009 was, without question, an episode of Glee entitled, “Wheels.” In this episode, the William McKinley High School glee club learns about what life is really like for their fellow glee club member, Artie (Kevin McHale), who is in a wheelchair. It is rare enough to see people with disabilities as consistent characters on any television series, but to see one portrayed, as Artie is on Glee, with such authenticity and respect is something I have never seen on network television. Further, as the rest of the glee club attempts to navigate high school in wheelchairs to identify with Artie, the logistical struggles they encounter are portrayed accurately and humorously.
This, my favorite television episode of the whole year, highlighted two important points. First, this episode showed that, regardless of our particular abilities or disabilities, everyone has dreams for his or her life and is ultimately looking for a place where they are accepted. Second, through its humorous take on very real difficulties, the episode reminds us that life doesn’t have to be sad or depressing even when it is hard.
On the other hand, my least favorite television experience this year was burned into my brain by the CBS drama Three Rivers. In theory, I knew ahead of time that this show would tell the story of an organ transplant, which meant that in almost every episode someone would have to die. Somehow, I simply failed to consider how truly heart-wrenching these stories would be to watch. I should also explain that my criteria for worthwhile television viewing require shows to be either entertaining or life-changing, with the best shows balancing both.
So there I sat watching an episode titled, “Code Green”—my first, the show’s fourth—with these fairly reasonable (I thought) expectations. Then, a bus full of high school football players crashes, leaving many injured, one a very young organ donor, and me, practically bawling, wondering who thought this was a good idea for a television show. If you’ve watched Three Rivers and liked it, please post a comment and tell me why, because I don’t understand its appeal. Not even the presence of “the great [and very nice-looking] Dr. Yablonski” (Alex O’Loughlin) on screen could fully redeem this episode in my estimation.
However, in a few short days, all of 2009 will be behind us, and we will be left to embrace new experiences and opportunities in 2010. Two new shows with premieres in January seem poised to challenge our ideas and actions related to trust. Fox’s Human Target appears as an action-packed drama on track to help us consider how we respond to the need to trust someone else for our safety. Life UneXpected on the CW has the potential to open an exploration of what happens when trust must be rebuilt in family relationships. I know, it’s the CW, but I’m going to give it one chance in good faith. We will have to watch and see if either of these shows live up to their seemingly positive potential.
This is my list of favorites and (not so favorites) list for 2009 and early 2010. What’s on your list?