Emotional Torture on TV

When I was in my mid-twenties, both my little sister, Sam, and I were living with my parents.  One of the things that would happen regularly at that time, was that Sam and my mom would watch Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice.  Nearly every episode of both shows would end with my sister sobbing and saying, “it’s emotional torture!”  That was how she described the shows, because they broke her heart every week, but she was so invested in the characters and stories that she couldn’t stop watching.  I would laugh at her, because I thought she was being ridiculous.  Why would she continue to watch something like that?

This season, I found out why.  I started watching the show This Is Us on NBC, and I feel myself being slowly brought to the brink of devastation every single week.  I will say that This Is Us tends to have a good amount of uplifting moments, and it isn’t just one hour a week of depression.

I continue to watch every week, wanting to know what is happening with the Pearson family.  I’m invested in each of the different storylines, and need to know what is going to happen next.  This week’s episode (spoiler alert) kills off my favorite character, William.  He is by far the most interesting, and deepest of the characters, followed by his son, Randall.  William is a soft spoken musician and poet, turned junkie, turned parent and he is a mixture of intellect, wisdom, and missed opportunity.  From his introduction on the show, we know that he is sick and dying, and so we knew this was coming, but as this show tends to do, it totally destroyed me when I watched it.

The whole season is leading up to how Randall’s adoptive father, Jack (who rounds off my top three characters) is going to die.  It’s in the past, but they have been building for us to see how it played out.  I think that Jack’s death may be the thing that persuades me to stop watching.  It’s not that I don’t like the show otherwise, but I’m not nearly as hooked on Kevin’s (Randall’s adoptive brother) love life, and while I do find Toby and Kate’s (Randall’s adoptive sister) romance is amazing, but I’m not sure I can take any more ups and downs.

This won’t be the first show that I’ve been forced to quit because I’ve been TOO into the rollercoaster ride.  I had to stop watching Law and Order: SVU after about ten seasons, because I was screaming at the TV, and feeling a pit in my stomach every episode by the end.  To be fair, This Is Us doesn’t create such a visceral reaction in me, and there is more of a feeling of progression, so I may have to consider that when deciding if I’m gonna stay or go.

I think that the show’s best bet in order to hook people for season two is to build up to another death, and ultimately that will become too gimmicky.  William and Jack’s deaths are organic, and not forced, and killing off anyone but Toby (DO NOT KILL TOBY!) would be to much to keep the earned feeling of realism that the show currently has going for it.

Ultimately, I have to decide when the show becomes more ‘emotional torture’ than it is worth.  For right now, I’ll continue to watch every week, after all I need to know how Jack dies!

2 thoughts on “Emotional Torture on TV

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