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Watching Television Shows

My earliest memories of watching television was at a time I was having a weird transition in grammar school and learning English. I am native to New York (born and raised), however, at home, my parents spoke to me in mostly Mandarin Chinese so my understanding of English was very sparse in kindergarten and first grade. I didn’t even know how to read English until sometime in first grade when I had ESL classes. I took to flicking on the television set and was drawn to the visual and audio playing out on-screen although I understood almost nothing of what the people were saying, lol.

I grew up in the ’90’s, so the two shows I really took to were Family Matters and The Fresh Prince of Bel-air. I was in love with the Winslow family on Family Matters and the character of Steve Urkel (played by Jaleel White) was hilarious. I didn’t know what to make of him at first… He was so nerdy and weird and so utterly infatuated with Laura Winslow. Sometimes how he mooned over her was annoying, in addition how he would mess things up and make people mad, but I always felt bad for him when he looked truly sorry. The funny part is when the plotline about Steve’s alter-ego came about, I seriously thought the actor was a different person because I didn’t recognize him to be Steve’s actor without the overalls and dorky glasses on. As for Fresh Prince of Bel-air, I was curious about Will, the protagonist, as I had never seen someone with as much personality as him. People of the younger generation probably cannot imagine a time where it wasn’t so easy to get exposure to all sorts of media, but basic television channels were my only way besides VHS tapes I owned. Being that I was still kinda young when I began watching Fresh Prince, there were jokes in the show I didn’t understand till I was older, haha. Such as understanding the character tropes, like Hilary being the stereotypical “valley girl” in how she acted and spoke, and Carlton as the archetype of a posh, uppity rich boy. Lol I laughed every time he did the “Carlton”. 😂😂 Uncle Carl (played by James Avery) was my favorite. The actor passed away some years ago. 😢 And omg, I’m telling you I was obsessed to death with the show theme song, which I would sing along to and even memorized all the lyrics.

I do have vague memories of liking Full House and the Olsen sisters. I had a major crush on Uncle Jesse (played by John Stamos). Maybe because I was so young at the time, but I felt connected to the character of Michelle Tanner despite that sometimes her behavior was really childish. Like that one time she tried to hold her best friend Teddy captive in her room (she tied him to a chair, lol) because she didn’t want him to move away with his family. But I think I outgrew the series just like how the Olsen sisters got tired of being a twin act in television and movies. I got into Sister, Sister at an older age, which featured real-life sisters Tia and Tamara Mowry. This show was my escape into what high school might look like for someone in a fictional world although the series opened my eyes to some serious real-life issues.

There was also Sabrina the Teenage Witch, which I loved because of the idea of magic existing in a world where most people aren’t aware of it. The craziest plotline was Sabrina being introduced to her doppelganger (as all women in her family have one) and then the two of them had to undergo a trial to find out which of them was the “evil” one. The series was good but kind of inconsistent with their cast members, where some characters were written out off-screen or disappeared with no explanation. I found it sweet that Sabrina ended up with Harvey, her first love, in the end, as I never quite got over their separation and none of Sabrina’s subsequent boyfriends could top him, in my opinion. Lol I remember I was so excited when Britney Spears appeared for an episode. I was such a bubblegum pop fan then. No one probably remembers the short-lived American girl band Eden’s Crush, but I squealed with joy seeing them guest star for one episode.

Similarly in the category of witches and magic, Charmed was my drug of choice to watch a sexier and sometimes more adult version of Sabrina that gave all sorts of “don’t mess with me, I’m a badass woman” feels. I only started tuning into this show regularly after Prue Halliwell (played by Shannon Doherty) was killed off, while previous times I had only seen an episode or two in passing. I really liked Paige (played by Rose McGowan) right off the bat and I am still salty about the fact the showrunners never had an on-screen reunion between all four Halliwell sisters.

Overall, I think it took me a long time to even figure out what kind of television shows I liked watching, and which shows I only watched because it was popular and trending. I am still really picky about my shows. I can count many that I watched many episodes of because it interested me at the time, like Smallville, Dexter, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Supernatural, Downton Abbey, Friends, Sherlock, Doctor Who, and others, but I can’t say these shows still have me hooked now. My long-standing favorite for years now has been the one and only Once Upon a Time. Yes, there are aspects of the show I feel unsatisfied by, but what show doesn’t have its flaws? I could say the same for Game of Thrones as the show cut out a lot of book-only stuff that could have been epic on-screen. Besides these two shows, I’m on-and-off with The Walking Dead. This show has seen a lot of line-up changes but the dynamic on the show is different too. It did kill me a little that a certain character went out in Season 7 as he did in the comics. Perhaps it was unavoidable.

Netflix gave me an alternative for television like I never expected! There are shows on there I would have never found had I not seen it on Netflix. Like The Magicians. It is like Harry Potter meets Narnia for adults with lots of comedy and poking fun of certain tropes that exist in fantasy. There are definite f-bombs and adult humor, though, which might not be for everyone. Black Mirror is a binge-worthy series but each episode has a different feel to it. My personal favorite was “San Junipero”. Netflix is also where I got into true crime dramas; The Killing (U.S. version), Broadchurch, and Happy Valley. If you are into Game of Thrones and Doctor Who, you might find yourself seeing some familiar actor alumni on Broadchurch. 😊


Prompt 241 from NY Times Blog: What Television Shows Have Mattered to You?

Featured Image by Jens Kreuter.

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