Now I’m sure that I’m not the only one who likes to watch American television. I enjoy watching hits like The Big Bang Theory and The Walking Dead as much as anyone else, although I must admit that I have avoided the Kardashians.
We enjoy these shows, of course we do, we’re human, and after a hard day’s work at the shop, the office, school, college or university we like to sit back relax, and dive into a world away from reality where we can be intrigued by gripping story lines, emotional character plots, and a world away from our own. Yes, we like to watch television, and escape from the stress of our lives for an hour at a time. (Or if you’re watching on Netflix, 3-6 hours at a time).
My personal preference for television is crime dramas. I enjoy sitting back and watching Major Crimes, Law & Order and NCIS.
But I have found an interest for TV Producer Dick Wolf’s Chicago Series, which over 4 shows covers the work and lives of Chicago’s heroes. Chicago Fire shows you the lives of the firefighter at Firehouse 51. Chicago PD highlights the operations of District 21, the patrol officers and Intelligence Unit. Chicago Med which looks at an Emergency Department, and the Doctors and Nurses who save lives daily. And the new series soon to be aired is Chicago Justice, taking the battle into the courtroom and following the Prosecutors of Chicago.
Now as I have followed this series I have noticed something, many of the story lines and events of these shows can be related to real life events. In Chicago Fire, firefighters and paramedics respond to a call, only to encounter an active shooter incident. Also, a suicide bomber detonates a grenade inside a hospital Emergency Department. In Chicago PD a patrol officer shoots a suspect, when a gun cannot be found, the local community protests against the police. Even in the series premier of Chicago Med, the Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel starred as himself opening the new Emergency Department.
Another major TV show that has shown some sense of reality is the successful spin-off Law and Order SVU. I have watched many episodes of this great show and have seen similar occurrences, in Season 17 of SVU we saw two storylines which correspond with current events. One of these storylines was the shooting of an unarmed African American teenager by four Police Officers, later on the courthouse is surrounded by crowds waving banners with Black Lives Matter written on them. In another episode, SVU Detectives work with State Police to apprehend to serial killers who escaped from a prison in New York state. This is obviously a reference to the 2015 Clinton Correctional Facility Breakout. And in Season 18, the character of Lieutenant Benson makes reference to the Orlando Shootings and the killing of 5 Police Officers in Dallas.
Now these are all events that have happened in the United States fairly recently, and it seems like our television has incorporated them into this universe. Active shooters are a serious issue in the United States, and many US Police Departments have issued the public with safety videos, giving them advice on what to do if they are ever caught up in an active shooter incident. Another major issue that seems to be shown in these TV Shows is the growing tensions between the police and local neighbourhoods. Relationships with the police are strained, and local communities are angry about the number of unarmed suspects shot by the police. In places such as Ferguson and Baltimore, communities have started to riot. TV shows are not just basing storylines off of these events, some of this reality is making its way into television, such as the mentioning of the Dallas and Orlando shooting.
So we can now say that parts of our reality in 2016 has made its way to television, but is it really a good thing that it has?
Well, it seems like our television producers think so. If our favourite works of fiction seem like they are happening on our world, you feel as if you can relate to this world, and gives it a sense of realism, and some say that TV feeling real makes it more enjoyable. It’s seems as if we’ve left the idea of Miami Vice and TJ Hooker and have moved to more subtle realistic plots. Realism in television is a good thing, as we want to live the fictional worlds that we live.
However, let’s be honest, we all love the ability to escape reality every so often. I can’t wait to see who Negan has killed in The Walking Dead, and the zombie apocalypse is pretty unrealistic. Reality is bad enough, we don’t want more of it as we come home to relax. We don’t want an Overdose of Reality. So let’s keep a part of our entertainment.
In my own opinion, for television we need a little bit of both. I mean I like to see that my favourite TV shows are looking at a hint of realism, and are not ridiculously unrealistic, (Let’s be honest the only ridiculously unrealistic material on TV is actually reality TV.) But at the same time as much as we enjoy the serious of Mariska Hargitay in SVU, we need to laugh at James Roday in Psych. Both are different shows with different levels of Realism, but both of them are just as excellent.
It just shows, television can be realistic, but let’s not overdo it.