Have you ever learned a life-altering truth that changed everything for you?
Let me start by making two observations. First, the fact that I am writing a column about television is somewhat ironic since my family did not have a television until I was in junior high. I like to think I’m making up for lost time with how much I enjoy the medium now. As you read this column in the weeks to come, you’ll find reviews of series or season premieres, discussion of how television content relates to and reflects our lives, and occasionally a call to turn the TV off for a moment, a day, a week or as long as it takes to check back in with the living of your lives. Perhaps the most important thing you should know about my approach to television is that while I am certainly aware that a great deal of evil is showcased on television, I also believe that a great deal of spiritual truth can be found in mainstream, small screen offerings if we are looking for it. I hope you will enjoy reading my thoughts in this vein, but more importantly, I hope my thoughts become a springboard for your own personal consideration of television and life through the lens of faith.
My second observation is this: now might be the most awkward and frustrating time of year to begin writing a column about television. In just a few weeks, there will be more than 20 new shows premiering, in addition to returning favorites. As for this weekend, I can tell you that Jeanine Mason is the season five winner of Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance. But although this show is number four on the TVGuide.com list of most popular shows, my personal loyalties belong to the top two—American Idol and Dancing with the Stars, respectively—and to the preservation of my own ears, which cannot handle the screams of Mary Murphy. Consequently, I am not as well-equipped as I could be to offer commentary on the So You Think You Can Dance finale.
Most of the other shows that aired this weekend were reruns, but USA Network presented the Friday night season openers of Monk and Psych. I decided to explore the possibilities of Monk for the column, partially because some of my coworkers have taken to calling me Monk—I clean and disinfect shared phones and keyboards before I use them. This is an overstatement, but even so I figured I should become familiar with the full range of implications wrapped up in this comparison.
The opener of Monk’s final season was a very weird episode and is unquestionably the weirdest show I have seen in quite some time. In an episode titled “Mr. Monk’s Favorite Show,” the obsessive detective, who is brought to life by Tony Shalhoub, discovers that one of the young actresses on his favorite childhood television show about a wholesome family has grown up to be someone who has a long list of conquests and enemies and is capable of murder. Monk is depressed after finding out, so his assistant, Natalie (Traylor Howard), tries to cheer him up with his favorite show. It once brought him very real happiness, but now that he knows the truth about the lives of the show’s cast, he can’t go back to his innocent enjoyment.
Throughout the episode, the plot is interrupted by Monk’s fantasies about being a character on the show. First, he fantasizes about being part of what he sees as the perfect family he never had. After he learns the truth about the show’s cast members, he imagines having an opportunity to be on the show and tell them off for disappointing him. While these moments are least connected to reality, they illuminate an important principle that impacts us every day: Sometimes discovering the truth totally changes our perspective.
Have you ever learned a truth that changed everything for you? Maybe you, like Monk, learned a disappointing truth about someone you loved or respected and could never quite go back to the way things were. It can be devastating when this happens, but there is hope. The truth can change people for the better, too. This is what God does best. He presents us with a truth that can change our lives for the better, and no matter where or how far our journey takes us, we can never escape the truth once we know it. So … you think you can dance over that? I just might.