The Television Family

How many breakfast scenes have you watched in the TV series you follow? Those huge breakfasts with tons of food and the whole family reunited around the table. This doesn’t only occurs in shows about families like Six Feet Under, it also appears in The AmericansBreaking Bad, Homeland, The Sopranos, etc, and, although it may look like something irrelevant, having breakfast all together is one of the key images of contemporary series. Just keep reading.

Whatever the show’s themes are, American series are all about reuniting families and creating an stable home. We can even find it in science fiction, like Fringe, where the most important plot is not the peace between universes, it’s Walter Bishop’s love for his son Peter. The beginning and the end of the series.

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The Americans is another great example of this recurring motif: A show about KGB spies living on American soil in the 80s but, in its essence, it’s the story of two parents that’ll do anything for their believes, anything but putting at risk their household. Their head is with Mother Russia, but their hearts are with their children.

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Breaking Bad is an archetypical example of this mixture. The perfect balance between the rise of a drug dealer and his responsibilities as head of a family, and his attempts to keep these two situations separated. But like chemistry, life is about changes and nothing always remains the same.

There are as many examples as series (the next project by Damon Lindelof, The Leftovers, is about the disappearance of thousands of persons but I suspect it will probably deal with the breaking of as many families), but the main question behind is why?, why every genre will eventually include melodramatic elements? One possible answer will be the nature of television itself. That small box (or now, that not-so-small-anymore computer) was born in our living rooms, it watched us all growing up, crying and laughing comfortably in our couch, alone or with our family. It knows our deepest secrets, and so the characters that live within that screen also share theirs with us. They are part of our lives.

Television has always been surrounded by intimacy and families, so it’s natural that they have become the main protagonist of its fiction. Because we don’t just watch television, television also watches us.

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The Homecoming Queen.

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