By Joe Rector
I’ve always been a person who is easily moved by movies, the sappy kind. The same goes for television shows. I watched every episode of “West Wing” and now wish this country could have the same kind of leadership regardless of what party provides it. I never miss “This Is Us.” Evidently, I’m not the only one who likes the program. Each week’s episode leaves me teary-eyed, and I pine for things from my earlier years. What is it that makes these programs so appealing?
For one thing, “This Is Us” brings back strong feelings for those loved ones who have passed. My dad died when Jim and I were 13. We pretended that he would recover from the cancer that ate away at his body, but in our minds, we knew he would not survive. When Mother was diagnosed with the same thing, Dal, Jim, and I braced ourselves for a repeat of what happened years before. Maybe worst of all, my older brother’s bout with the very same lung cancer and prognosis in many ways crumbled my world. Viewers of “This Is Us” know that the dad has died, and we watch as adult children struggle with that loss so long ago and empathize and sympathize with them.
This new program offers positives. It presents family as an ever-developing thing. No family that I’ve ever known has been static. Each day brings new events and problems, and they alter family interactions and decisions. When mother passed, our biggest concerns weren’t dividing property or making funeral arrangements. We fretted about making sure that we boys and our families stayed firmly together. For a few years, we met during Christmas and when Dal and Brenda came to Knoxville at Mother’s house. It was the place where the spirit of a family that began years before still remained. Not until after Dal died did we stop getting together. We don’t stay in touch with each other as much as we should, but we know family will be there whenever the need arises.
This weekly drama always leaves me longing for my children. I miss those times when they were toddlers and we enjoyed each other. I wasn’t the best dad that ever lived, but I did what I thought a dad should do. Like the dad on the show, I was there when my children were born; I saw them take their first steps; I proudly watched as they reached goals and earned awards. I also shot them “the dad look,” railed against their misbehavior, and demanded they do better.
Most of all, “This Is Us,” as well as “West Wing” offer hope. It gives us a few minutes each week to watch what is good and have hope. In the case of my children, I have hopes that they will find the same happiness in life that I’ve experienced. I hope the good lord blesses them as much as He has blessed me. Most of all, I hope that my grandson’s future will be as bright and promising and stable as mine has been.
Television is fiction; however, sometimes the programs that air copy real life in many aspects. It’s when that happens that a show develops a huge audience that feels each and every success and failure. I suppose these presentations let us know that at least someone understands where we’ve been. That makes sitting down in front of the television screen something more than a waste of time.