Ask anyone, absolutely anyone, of any nation, color or creed what the most important thing in life is and you will (almost) always hear just one answer:
We’re hard-wired to have an insatiable desire for the warmth, love, closeness, belonging, identity and support of Family. So when the pain of Narcissistic Abuse makes our families too painful to tolerate, and we go No Contact, it creates a vacuum.
For years now, I’ve found myself seeking out and bonding with new families. Oh, they don’t know I’m there. I’m that “fly on the wall” I always wanted to be. But I know my surrogate family is always there for me, welcoming me unjudgmentally into their warm, beautiful world when my real life is just too painful, too stressful, too worrying.
They are, of course, television families. The best thing about them is they never bash boundaries, never shame, never try to control.
Yes, it feels a little silly, but somehow these TV families fill the aching hole in our hearts. They have all the “plusses” of family without any of the negatives of trying to negotiate real relationships with real people in real toxic families. I don’t think I’m alone in seeking out surrogate pseudo families given that so many TV shows are centered around families and family life.
Here are just three of my favorite families:
All Creatures Great and Small
Set in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, All Creatures Great and Small brings the real-life adventures and misadventures of Yorkshire veterinarian, James Herriot, to life. At the center of this series is the unlikely family centered around Herriot’s employer, the completely eccentric and forgetful vet, Siegfried Farnan, who claims that, “A good driver doesn’t really need brakes.”
The jester in this little ménage is Siegfried’s utterly irresponsible younger brother, Tristan, who has three, no four, passions: booze, floozies, Woodbines and campanology (bell-ringing) which is really just another excuse to drink to excess. Oh…and the he regularly flunks his veterinary college exams as well.
Mrs. Hall, their irascible unless properly flattered “Den Mother” serves up the most delectable looking English fare, washes their socks, keeps the house spotless and otherwise takes care of every creature comfort for this quasi-family in which Herriot becomes the third “brother.” When Herriot married Helen and moved her into the family home/office/surgery they all shared, it was like they all married Helen. They all kissed her “Good Morning” and kissed her “Good Night” (on the cheek, of course.)
Was it a perfect family? No. But the distance, the level of disconnect provided by the TV screen makes Siegfried’s tempers and getting that “saintly look on his face and you know that any moment now he’s going to forgive you. For something he’s just done!” somehow charming. They all gathered at eventide for a drink and a chat ’round the fire in their cozy sitting room. I was there too, silent, in the corner, drinking it all in with delight.
They were my first adopted family.
The Big Bang Theory
Everytime I realize that The Big Bang Theory is about to end, I start crying. It’s not the end of a show. It’s the end of a family. My family. Their family.
The genius of TBBT is that they made it okay to be me. They expressed what I was too ashamed to say outloud. Like when Sheldon says, “If outside is so good, why has man spent thousands of years perfecting inside?” Yes!!!! Or in the pilot when he says …
Sheldon: I have a very wide circle. I have 212 friends on MySpace.
Leonard: Yes, and you’ve never met one of them.
Sheldon: That’s the beauty of it.
Leonard: I’m going to invite her over. We’ll have a nice meal and chat.
Sheldon: Chat? We don’t chat. At least not offline.
Sheldon made it okay to be introverted. To be bookish. To be indoorsy. A “houseplant” as we’re so often called. He made it okay! On what other show would you frequently see characters reading books!? Oh wait…I saw Kourtney Kardashian read a book…once…on KUWTK.
Not only that, but TBBT helped me to understand the eccentricities of super-smart, geeky, nerdy men. Instead of finding my husband’s eccentricities annoying, now I found them charming and funny. TBBT was all the marriage counseling I needed.
And now, that family is going away too.
When I found out my I-hate-television husband had actually purchased sherry to sip while he watched Frasier, I knew it had to be a good show. So I binge watched all eleven seasons and fell in love with the Crane family.
In Niles Crane, I gained the sibling I never had. I saw how we eldest/only children are so dead-serious about everything. Too serious. How we think twice and thrice before we speak so our honesty is lost before we ever open our mouths. Niles had that Little Brother shoot-from-the-hip honesty I envied. I would’ve loved to have Niles for a brother.
In Marty Crane I gained that father-figure who keeps everyone grounded. Who keeps them from making life so damn complicated. I liked Marty. Everyone liked Marty. He gave good advice, but wasn’t controlling and meddling. My favorite Marty quote is, “Life isn’t hard, Frasier, you make it hard.” Ah, touchè!
And in Frasier, I met my twin. Like me, he takes life deadly, damn seriously. Like me, he thinks, re-thinks and overthinks everything. He wants to figure out everyone. The real motives behind their actions.
More than anything else, he wants to figure out himself. He craves peace and never finds it. He craves high self-esteem and instead buoys himself up with everything haute — Chateau Certair ’75, Aramani suits and Frette hand towels direct from Italy with the tulle lace insert.
I wanted to move in with the Cranes. Plus, the food is good.
I know they’re not “real” but television families can somehow fill the void left when a relationship with your biological family proves just too painful to bear any longer.
They give you a place to go. A home. An escape where, despite the drama onscreen, there’s always a buffer. They can’t hurt you, but they can somehow love you. Even though every show eventually ends, those families will never go away. They’ll always be there if you’ll only push “Play.” I find that tremendously comforting.