I grew up in a world of magic. A world where female characters are strong and brave, true love exists and the possibilities are endless. Most children grow up wanting to play a sport or play an instrument or a write book, I grew up wanting to be on TV. Well, not necessarily on TV more like behind TV. I want to write the stories like the one’s that inspired me, I want to create someone’s favorite character, heartbreaking moments and happy moments that will have people using a box of tissues.
TV shows taught me life lessons, they helped me grow and change and I will forever be indebted to them. TV has become my home away from home. Some characters are my best friends, some my worst enemies. I have travelled to the highlands of Scotland, nervously cheered on the Dillon Panthers and even killed some walkers in Atlanta. I’ve done it all.
So, where did this obsession begin? How has sitting on my couch for hours watching TV changed me?
One of the first TV shows I remember watching week after week was Lizzie McGuire. You could call it my first “obsession.” I would sit inches from the TV set and watch as Lizzie, Gordo and Miranda navigated the terrifying world of middle school. I was six when the show first began airing, but by the time it ended in 2004, Lizzie and the gang had taught me all I needed to know about middle school. I knew that there were some girls, like Kate, that would try to drag you down, but ultimately you can find the good in anyone. Never fall for a paper boy named Ronnie, he will break your heart, but your best friends will be there to pick up the pieces. And I even learned that taking a bucket of green paint for your best friend will ultimately lead to you wearing a red unicorn sweater for your school picture. Lizzie McGuire helped me see that being kind and generous is much better than knocking someone down and middle school can be hard for anyone, even Lizzie McGuire.
Full House is the first TV show I remember binge-watching. Before the days of Netflix, I would ask to stay up late so I could watch Full House re-runs on Nick at Nite. I’m pretty sure I asked every single relative for Full House DVD’s one year for Christmas. I consumed it at a rapid pace and fell in love instantaneously. When I started watching Full House I was ten, the same age D.J Tanner was when we meet her in “Our Very First Show.” Before even completing the first season, I related to D.J on multiple levels. Meanwhile, Stephanie and Michelle were the little sisters I never had and Danny, Jesse and Joey were the babysitters I wanted everyday. Of course as a ten year old, I didn’t really grasp everything Full House was teaching me. It wasn’t until this past year, junior year in college, when my roommates and I re-watched Full House ahead of Fuller House. As I sat re-watching Michelle saying goodbye to Teddy as he moves away, Stephanie navigating her first “make out party,” and D.J dealing with the anxiety of taking her SAT’s, I realized that the life lessons, complete with sappy music and a speech by Danny Tanner, had left a lasting impression on me. All of those moments and how they dealt with growing up affected me more than I ever realized. I learned to be myself, love my body, and lean on family and friends. I learned more by watching these 30 minute episodes than I ever would’ve on my own.
My best friend and roommate, Pavlina, can tell you that somewhere along the way, I became Barney Stinson. At some point during my 20 years on this planet, I acquired Barney’s mannerisms, his witty humor, and absolute love of making people laugh. Pavlina describes me as a mix between Chandler Bing and Barney Stinson and at this point, I can’t argue with her. In 2008 when I was thirteen, I discovered one of my favorite TV shows, How I Met Your Mother. I binge-watched the first three seasons by ordering the Netflix DVD’s ahead of the season four premiere. From the moment I met, Ted, Lily, Marshall, Barney and Robin, I had found a group of friends. I spent every Monday night with them until the series came to an end in 2014. One character in particular seems to have left a lasting impression: playboy Barney Stinson. Yes, if you ever met me on the street, I would be the farthest thing from Barney, but somehow his humor mixed with mine and I can’t seem to shake it. I once said “Legen….wait for it….” and didn’t say “Dary” for three days, “Challenge Accepted” is part of my everyday vocabulary and I use his facial expressions daily. The most important thing How I Met Your Mother and Barney taught me though? Undying loyalty to your friends. Outside of your family, your friends are the most important thing in the world. You share everything with them. Barney imparted his unconditional love for his friends on me (as I hope Pavlina can attest to). So, when you walked in on me laughing along with Barney as he picked up hot girl after hot girl in MacLaren’s Pub, little did you know I was being shaped… for the better.
Whenever I went through a significant change, I turned to a TV show to help get me through it. When I started high school I switched schools for the third time. I decided to attend my local public high school, moving away from the private schools I had grown accustomed to. Changing schools is hard. There’s no other way to put it. So, when I started high school I found Gilmore Girls. Once again, I binge-watched the entire show on ABC Family the summer leading up to my first day of high school. I instantaneously connected with Rory Gilmore, a bright young woman who wants nothing more than to be a journalist. I fell in love with Stars Hollow, Connecticut, Lorelai and Rory’s iconic mother/daughter relationship and every quirky character that stepped on screen. I loved it all. Watching Rory navigate her new high school, fall in love, make new friends, fight with her mother, live life to the fullest and screw up here and there, made me less scared about the life events I was approaching. You hit high school and you suddenly grow up. Important life events like high school graduation, college, picking a major, finding a job, all seem to be rolling at you downhill. Rory, Lorelai and Stars Hollow helped me navigate the crazy world I was journeying into. I learned to not take life too seriously. To have fun and follow your heart. Gilmore Girls helped me pursue my passions and of course, brush up on my pop culture lingo. For any young girl trying to maneuver through life, do it with Gilmore Girls. You can thank me (and them) later.
All of these TV shows impacted my growth, but there is one TV phenomenon and person that led me to discover the wonderful, creative side to TV: Shonda Rhimes. When I started watching Grey’s Anatomy in 2009, the hit ABC drama was already well established. I binge-watched the show and marveled at the wonderfully diverse cast, the stories that were being told, the relationships being presented, all in the confines of a Seattle Grace. Characters like Cristina Yang, Callie Torres and Mark Sloan were beautiful, diverse and well-rounded individuals that were created to tell even bigger stories. I loved every second. One of the things that stood out to me watching Grey’s was the name after the opening title card: Shonda Rhimes. A woman. For the first time, I remember googling “Shonda Rhimes” and it was with one google search that I began to aspire to be the woman who created this world. Since 2009, I have watched Ms. Rhimes build her “Shondaland” empire and introduce the world to some of the fiercest, strongest female characters I have ever seen. From Meredith Grey to Olivia Pope to Annalise Keating, every female character on “Shondaland” is strong, independent and flourishes without the help of a male character. With my new TV show (and apparent first Google search), I finally realized I could make a career out of my “TV obsession,” as family and friends were deeming it. I could be the one to write the entrancing stories, create the perfectly flawed and human characters and even the enemy that would make your spine tingle. I could do that. I set my sights on studying screenwriting, entertainment journalism, studio TV and anything else that could get me to work in television. A world where I felt like I could create something truly magical and touch the lives of so many people.
So, next time you see me sitting on the couch for hours devouring the latest season of Arrow, getting into a heated and cry-inducing discussion about The Walking Dead or re-watching One Tree Hill for the fourth time, you may think twice about asking me to shut the TV off.
I have been shaped by the characters I have grown to love, the settings I’ve explored, and the visionary work I have witnessed on TV. I have seen all of this from the safety of my couch. I learned to tell time with Loonette on The Big Comfy Couch, I shopped for my first bra with Lizzie McGuire and got through my first week of college with Rory Gilmore. I fell in love with Glenn Rhee. I admired Brooke Davis and Felicity Smoak for their strength. TV shows are so much more than moving pictures to me, they are what transformed me.
This is my giant love letter to TV shows, thank you for teaching me, for shaping me, and for helping me grow. I thank you 110 percent.