My Favorite Shows and Why I Love Them
You know, lately, I've thought a lot about why my favorite shows are my favorites. As I made a list of all of them, despite all of them being radically different on the surface, I noticed a core underlying element within each program. That element being, these shows are populated by wildly eclectic characters- in terms of beliefs, worldviews, sexualities, values, etc.- who come to form a family. Throughout this piece, I'm going to delve deep into why I love the shows depicted below, and how this through-line takes form in the context of their worlds.
Let's start with Ted Lasso (2020-2023). This recently-concluded sports dramedy follows a naive football coach (portrayed by Jason Sudeikis) who moves all the way to England to coach soccer at AFC Richmond. Though Ted is a classic fish-out-of-water and has no clue what he's doing, his mentorship, friendship, and overall positive outlook change the lives of his coworkers and players.
What I love most about this hilarious, heartfelt show is that Ted is A) not a superhumanly upbeat person and has his own insecurities and issues to work through, and B) everyone he comes into contact with doesn't quite get on his wavelength, but the longer he spends time with them, and the more he lets them truly get to know him, he develops a bond with his fellow staffers and his team that will last a lifetime. Moreover, when Ted shows his full self, flaws and vulnerabilities included, each teammate and coworker/friend does the same. Everybody's got their own messiness, and it's only because they acknowledge that, that the positive outlook of both Ted and the show itself feels plausible. That's why it's so important here that the characters are so different, in my opinion.
Next, there's the 80s-era reboot She-Ra and the Princesses of Power (2018-2020). In this series, She-Ra (voiced by Aimee Carrero) fights against the Horde, who want to take over the universe, with her friends- mainly Bow (voiced by Marcus Scribner) and Glimmer (voiced by Karen Fukuhara)- as well as the other princesses of her home planet, Etheria. A simple setup, but what makes this stand out amongst others of its kind is the very casual way it presents each character's different qualities. If someone's gay, that's not presented as a problem for the show to capitalize on. Or, Bow is a very emotionally available, warm-hearted guy, whilst also knowing when it's time to be brave and take charge, a blend often not considered stereotypically 'masculine'. At the end of the day, the series embraces not just their differences, but how those qualities make them ideal companions in their fight against the Horde.
Another fish-out-of-water series, Schitt's Creek (2015-2020) tells the story of the once-wealthy Rose family- Johnny (Eugene Levy), Moira (Catherine O'Hara), David (Dan Levy) and Alexis (Annie Murphy)- who suddenly find themselves broke. Forced to move into a motel located in a city Johnny once bought as a joke, the Roses experience a massive culture shock as they take advantage of their only remaining asset.
What is so unique about this series is how much the Rose family, warts and all, are gradually embraced by the citizens of Schitt's Creek. Nobody is an outcast because of their ambitions, their sexual identity, their background. Everyone fits in, to the point where the town becomes a source of major personal growth for each member of the Rose clan. It's a big-hearted show about self-improvement and diversity that is also hysterically funny.
Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005-2008), another animated fantasy epic, is one I was most late to the party on. While it was ultra-popular during its three-year run on Nickelodeon, I never cared much to check it out until earlier this year, towards the end of my studies at SCAD. For those unfamiliar, it follows a brother and sister named Katara (voiced by Mae Whitman) and Sokka (voiced by Jack De Sena), members of the Water Nation, who unearth a long-lost Avatar named Aang (Zach Tyler Eisen), befriend him, and enlist his help in the war against the tyrannical Fire Nation. These characters have such different personalities and qualities- Sokka doesn't have powers like his friends, Aang is interminably positive whilst Katara is more of a realist- yet when it matters most, they coalesce into a loving, strong unit. Additionally, much like She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, every character's noteworthy differences lend wonderfully to their abilities as members of the team. Throw in some spectacular animation, epic storytelling and breathtaking action sequences, and you have a series that has earned its everlasting popularity.
Last but not least is my current favorite show, Firefly (2002-03). This cult classic sci-fi show takes place five hundred years in the future, where Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) and the crew of his ship, the Serenity, go around the outer reaches of the galaxy taking any job they can, legal or illegal. Their main goals are to keep gassing the tank, putting food on the table, and bolster their bank accounts. When they unwittingly take on board two government fugitives named Simon (Sean Maher) and River Tam (Summer Glau), the crew finds themselves desperately on the run from The Alliance, a fascistic regime who controls the Verse, as everyone refers to it.
Big surprise, every member of this crew is such a contrast to one another. Jayne (Adam Baldwin), the weapons expert, is about as cynical, self-serving and stupid as they come. Kaylee (Jewel Staite), the mechanic, is eternally optimistic. Inara (Morena Baccarin) is a Buddhist, bisexual courtesan who is very sexually liberated (a pretty bold, ahead-of-its-time concept for an early-2000s series). You get the gist. All of their ways of living, thinking and navigating the world around them consistently contrast and clash, but in the end, they all recognize they're on the same boat, the same team. In a world where one organization wants everyone to think, talk and act the exact same, this is a group who always makes room at the table for their individualities.
So why do all of my favorite shows share this same overall quality? I think it's because I've often felt different from other people. Heck, I AM different from a lot of people. I struggled for years with social situations due to my autism (to some degree I still do, but I've come far). When I realized that I was bisexual, I spent so long feeling like an outsider, to where once I attended SCAD and was exposed to a wider variety of people, I started to not feel like an outcast anymore. I met more folks who were on the autism spectrum, who were part of the LGBTQ community, who had similar but also different interests and passions for me. Throughout my four years of college, I went from someone who hated himself because he was 'different', to realizing I'm not so different from other people as I thought, and finally arriving at a place of security in who I am. Because I cultivated such a distinctive friend group, they helped me embrace my individuality, even if they weren't aware of it. Honestly, I wasn't aware of this for such a long time, much less how it tied into my leaning towards shows like these. But for that reason, they will always hold a special place in my heart. If you haven't seen them before, check them out ASAP.