Here’s an argument that you don’t hear every day: television can actually be good for you.
Like eating vegetables or running on the treadmill.
In fact, a few hours of the right programs can make you a more “thoughtful, nuanced and fascinating person,” writer Anna Nordberg believes.
Anna (a self-proclaimed “TV junkie”) penned a rather interesting column at OZY.com this week, in which she tips her hat the “golden age of television” and points out that “TV criticism is now better than literary criticism and, dare I say it, more fun…TV is character-focused, and at its best, it makes you think hard about the human condition — why people do the things they do, even if they’re wrong.”
It isn’t exactly science (and I doubt she has any sort of degree in sociology) but Anna does put up a pretty fun list of five show that she feels we could all learn valuable life lessons from.
1. BREAKING BAD
What you learn: That ”the ends justify the means” is never a good philosophy.
The story of a chemistry teacher, Walter White, who is diagnosed with terminal cancer and starts cooking meth to provide for his family, it starts out as the tale of a good man who does bad things for a good reason, and turns into the story of an evil man who does bad things but still lies to himself that it’s for a good reason.
2. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER
What you learn: The agonies of adolescence, even if you’re a superhero.
While it was a supernatural show, the most crushing episodes dealt with the things we all deal with at one time or another: heartbreak, losing a parent, struggling with self-esteem (yes, heroes have this problem, too). And in the age of the antihero, it feels refreshingly subversive to watch a show that is unabashedly about heroism.
3. THE WIRE
What you learn: Good and evil aren’t as simple as they sound.
The passion project of Baltimore Sun police reporter David Simon, this is really a show about the American City, and its seasons each reveal a different layer of urban life (the docks, city hall, the schools, the newspaper). Throughout, the notion of what makes someone good or bad is totally turned on its head.
4. FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
What you learn: The same thing you would from reading Middlemarch.
Every facet of the human condition is exposed through the lives of high school football players and their families in the fictional town of Dylan, Texas, but it never gets maudlin. And the relationship at the center of it, between Dylan Panthers coach Eric Taylor and his wife, Tammy, is the most realistic portrait of marriage on TV, period.
5. MAD MEN
What you learn: Reinvention has its price.
Don Draper steals another man’s identity and rebrands himself as an unflappable Madison Avenue advertising exec, but over six seasons set in the turbulent ’60s, Don’s ability to lie to everyone, including himself, wears thin.
Nice job, Anna! It’s a great list — but far from complete.
Now if you don’t mind, I would like to add a few other shows that can teach us all a thing or two.
What you learn: Crime doesn’t pay.
What you learn: You CAN get pregnant your first time. Use protection!
REAL HOUSEWIVES OF (EVERYWHERE)
What you learn: Flaunting money makes you look like an asshole.
What you learn: Sometimes, greed is good.
What you learn: Cheating always catches up with you.
What shows have you learned character building lessons from? Let us know by leaving a comment below.
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