May 2, 2011

Worth It

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A year ago, I was motivated to write Boom Roasted after I was overcome with a great sense of appreciation for television. The variety of content led me to comprehend different sentiments and feel immensely satisfied by the stories that I had watched. I had seen some of my favorite characters perish on Lost in a scene as tragic as the ending of “Romeo & Juliet,” watched fresh characters give us a new appreciation for our loved ones on Modern Family and cracked a ribcage from laughing as Tracy Jordan revealed the darkest repressed memories that enabled him to transform into an Oscar-winner on 30 Rock (“A puppy committed suicide after he saw our bathroom”).

The satisfaction I felt from these three very different programs led me to realize the true power of television: storytelling. The jokes, costumes, violence and music may entertain us, but it’s the timeless element of the human narrative that attracts us and our ability to relate them to our daily lives. As graduation approaches, several events on television in the last week have led me to reflect on another story — one of completing one arc and moving onto the next.

Last Thursday, arguably one of the greatest characters in the history of television departed. Although friends and family constantly reminded me that “these people aren’t real,” everything about the story of The Office’s boss Michael Scott was. The episode captured the dramatic transformation of a self-centered jerk to a lovable, respected, slightly more mature boss and friend.

Originally, Michael Scott based his self-worth on his uncontrollable need to be liked. He once said, “Do I need to be liked? Absolutely not. I like to be liked. I enjoy being liked. I have to be liked. But it’s not like this compulsive need to be liked. Like my need to be praised.”  Once, after his former boss was killed in a drunk driving accident, he proposed that the company erect a statue in his honor, undoubtedly setting the bar for his own farewell.  This followed a proposal to set aside a day honoring the man who once held his position (“I don’t understand, we have a day honoring Martin Luther King, but he didn’t even work here”). Michael’s need to feel special led him to host a funeral for a bird that perished outside the building, where co-worker Pam’s eulogy about the loneliness of the bird served as code for helping Michael overcome his isolation.

The sadness felt by his departure among his colleagues, like Jim and Pam who in past seasons would express dismay at his antics, was the perfect ending for this character’s quest to be liked. He started off rough, and was lucky to have his colleagues “parent” him along the way.  This was symbolized quite nicely when Michael was asked in his last episode which type of cake he wanted for his farewell party.  Instead of mint chocolate chip ice cream cake, which he had served for lactose-intolerant Meredith’s party back in season one, he asked the party planning committee members to choose their favorite flavor.

Several other arcs played themselves out on television in the past week.  In Great Britain, we witnessed the end of a picture of discord for the royal monarchy. The image of the freshly minted Duke and Duchess of Cambridge presented a symbol of a brilliant, modern future for a country steeped in historic traditions and familial strife.

And perhaps we’ve seen the end of the “silly season” in politics, as President Obama brilliantly skewered Donald Trump, the real estate “mogul” propagating the myth about his birth certificate, at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner on Saturday. “Now he can get to focusing on the issues that matter. Like, did we fake the moon landing?” the President said.

For the President, roasting Trump and catching Osama bin Laden the next day has garnered him well-deserved positive attention that has often evaded him. It was a tough decade since the terrorist’s actions so drastically forced us into a new age of vigilance and to question our own mortalities everyday. Television broadcasts captured people taking to the streets to cheer outside the White House and Times Square. On the Today Show, a man who had lost a relative and a close friend in the 9/11 attacks revisited Ground Zero.  “I had a thought today,” he told Matt Lauer. “[With] all the trillions of dollars that were spent on this war, at least today somehow it seems worth it.”  We have a lot to look forward to.

Original Author: Scott Eidler