14 February 2011

The Funny Thing about Death

Death is not uncommon on TV. You have death on all those CSI-style shows, death on dramas, even some death on some comedies. Occasionally, it involves the death of a main character. More often, it happens to a tertiary character, and perhaps they delve a bit into how that affects the main characters, but it often seems like it's forgotten about quickly.

Recently, How I Met Your Mother really flipped the script. And I think it was awesome.

This show has always tried to show life of the typical late-20/early-30something. Much like Friends, but, to me, a little more tangible. Perhaps because I am around the same age as the characters on the show, and going through the same things, but perhaps because seems a little more real (they drink a lot, they wake up unsure of the events of the evening before, they sit around and watch TV with their friends...). The premise has always been around Ted, one of the main characters, and his search for his Mrs. Right, and how his friends are there throughout his process. The real heart of the show is found with Marshall and Lily, the married couple. And, most especially, Marshall, who always seems to be there for his friends, in the least-schmaltzy way possible. 

Ok, enough with that. If you haven't seen the show, you should. 

A few weeks ago, watching this show, I sat feeling like I was punched in the gut all over again. I went through the bulletin boards on the web, and found that I was not alone. And I think it was what the show wanted -- to be as real as possible. 

Everyone experiences the death of a loved one differently, but the way Marshall lost his dad really...well, it put me back to the morning I got the call that my own dad had collapsed at work, and then was greeted by my mom telling me he didn't make it. My response was similar to Marshall's, "I'm not ready for this." My brother's response was equally similar, "My dad is dead?" Both filled with shock, neither ready to believe it. 

Many on the interwebs didn't like this. Why, HIMYM is a comedy! Why should we deal with sudden death! This is inappropriate! But for many of us who had gone through something similar, this was so spot on we had to disagree...the show has always tried to imitate life, and in this, it really did. When you hit that early-30s stage, you've likely dealt with death several times over...and chances are good, someone in your group has lost a parent, either through sickness or sudden accident/natural causes (though I still see nothing "natural" about a 50-something dying suddenly, but that's neither here nor there). And, when it happens, the wind is knocked out of you. And, chances are good, that all you want to do is make your friend laugh. 

There is no way to sugar coat it -- death is a part of life. Comedy is a part of tragedy. There is sweetness and awkwardness and sadness all mixed together...and for a television show to be as close to real life as possible (but a lot more entertaining), I think it is important to show this aspect.

So, yes, this caught me off guard and found me curled up crying for quite some time, but I really appreciate it. I appreciate it giving me a sense of normal. It may seem silly, but seeing my "life" play out on the small screen, seeing people talk about it on the web, it made me feel less alone in my experience.

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