Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Meet the parents (but briefly)

As first-world problems go, a dental possible-emergency plus finals plus a possible apartment search,* all converging at once, is certainly up there. What was supposed to fix all this was an episode of "Gossip Girl," the one in which Serena was set to explain what she meant when at the end of the last episode she confessed to killing someone. Well of course she didn't kill anyone, which is extremely disappointing. The show is back to its illogical ways, with everything happening either too quickly or too slowly for you to care what's going on.

But the real issue here is addressed in the Gawker recap of the episode. Praising the actress who plays Mrs. Van Der Woodsen, Richard of Gawker writes, "You've almost made me care about the parents!" With teen shows, you never care about the parents. I remember finding the parents-related scenes of "My So-Called Life" excruciatingly dull. Same with the inferior but at times riveting "Dawson's Creek." At the time I thought it was an age thing. But now that I'm ancient, it seems just the same. Parent drama is simply no fun. If I had to guess why, it's because the 'teens' on these shows are played by 30-year-olds (while the parents look not a day over 40), and have all sorts of grown-up relationship mess. Real-life parents should be able to identify with the 'kids' just as much as their children do. So it's not clear which demographic the parent plot-lines are meant to entice. Another reason the parent-plot always stinks is that in its attempt at being the realistic angle that grounds the show, it is always very... realistic. The marital troubles of 40-year-olds, the whole 'will this marriage work?,' is just dull, dull, dull compared to first loves and hard drugs.

So what's the alternative? Leaving parents out altogether, as is done in noted teen dramedy "Sex and the City," is an understandable approach but ends up leaving too many unanswered questions, even when the teens themselves are actually 40-year-old women portraying the same. Can't there be some token nod to the parents' existence without delving into their predictable marital woes? Estelle Constanza aside, no TV parent has ever merited as much screen time as he or she's been allotted.

*The strangest thing on Craigslist, apartment-wise, has to be the listings that focus on the toilet. Either only showing a photo of the toilet, or advertising "porcelain toilet" as one of the place's key selling points. I get that in NYC, amenities that have long since become the norm for the US middle classes are rare for even the wealthy. But toilets?

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