TV has come a long way since the days of I Love Lucy and Gilligan’s Island. Modern television has discovered new ways to plumb the hearts of viewers, and while classic shows will always hold a special place in history, many new programs are outstripping them in terms of depth, emotion, and meaning. For Christians, this can offer some surprising opportunities. Today’s society is plagued by issues of race, gender, and human morality. Believe it or not, television can help us better understand these struggles. While they will never take the place of scripture, the right shows allow viewers to build empathy, and teach them to approach hard questions with better understanding.
If you need any examples, just take a look at these five extraordinary shows!
As I’ve written before, American Crime is a series all Christians should be watching. Each season of the crime anthology takes a hard look at a different segment of American culture. The first season explores the concept of hate crimes, the second examines sexuality, and the third unmasks modern slavery. Though hard to watch, American Crime goes to great lengths to show that we are all fallen creatures searching for grace. It’s a brutal, yet hopeful glimpse at the world Christians have been called to witness to.
This is Us
Some people love it for the touching moments and heart-wrenching twists, others can’t stand the emotional puffery and sickly-sweet plotlines. Regardless of which camp you fall into, there’s no denying This is Us is changing television in ways no one anticipated. In particular, this NBC drama has been applauded for its stunning depictions of grief. Blogger Lisa Aleppo reflected how each of the characters handled their mourning in different ways. Some needed time, some asked to be alone, others wanted to be surrounded by those they loved, and all of them needed their family. This kind of insight shouldn’t go unnoticed.
Relevant Magazine recently called Blackish one of the most important shows on television. It’s not hard to see why, this family comedy has succeeded in dishing out plenty of laughs while also pushing serious conversations about race and social justice. Given many of the events which have taken place in our society over the past few years, Blackish has become an unexpected source of wit and wisdom. Christians searching for better ways to understand their neighbors need look no further than Dre’s interactions with his colleagues. Awkward conversations are sometimes necessary, but honesty and humor can go a long way toward reconciliation.
Planet Earth II/Blue Planet
These twin documentaries have set the bar for nature programs, and left viewers breathless with their majestic shots of animal wildlife. Still, Planet Earth is not without its dire warnings. The series encourages viewers to remember that they are a part of this world, and as such, their actions have consequences. Our negligence could mean the destruction of an environment God commanded us to steward wisely, or the perpetuation of criminal activity through violent poaching. In its own way, Planet Earth is only repeating a lesson the Bible already taught: it’s not about you!
It’s rare to find a comedy which can walk the line between entertainment and reality. Mom is one of the few shows that manages the task with any grace. Centered on a dysfunctional young mother trying to get her life together after years of addiction, Mom handles the subject of substance abuse with all the weight it demands. There are laughs for sure, but also sobering moments when characters fail or lose friends due to overdoes. Christian audiences shouldn’t expect storylines to end neatly, but then, the same is true for real life.
**Photo credit: ABC, NBC, BBC, CBS