Of the 25 or so shows listed as "Season Series" on our family's DVR, a few are shows that only I like to watch. I got thinking as I looked at my list of shows. I started wondering which ones I could let go. I started asking, "Do the shows I like do anything to make me a better man? Do they teach me anything? Or are they just filler, a means to escape for a few hours a night?" If they were only filler, I deleted them.
Of the shows that were left, I could honestly say each one meant something to me personally. Some are shows I watch not only because they entertain but specifically because I like what a specific character shows about being a man in today's society. Here they are:
1. Friday Night Lights - Coach Taylor
I only started watching FNL this year. I had heard how great the show was from a number of friends and so when the entire series -- minus the final/current season -- became available on Netflix Instant, I started watching. I was instantly hooked for one reason: Coach Taylor. I could do an entire post on this guy. I watched this character and wanted to be just like him. I can say that I have never felt that way about a fictional TV character before in my life. Here are some qualities Coach Taylor has that every man should admire and emulate: totally faithful to his wife, leads his home, loves his job, works hard, makes time for his family, is a consistent father, has principles he will not back down from, keeps his word, picks his battles, admits his mistakes, preaches and practices honor and humility.
Quote: "Listen to me. I said you need to strive to better than everyone else. I didn't say you needed to be better than everyone else. But you gotta try. That's what character is. It's in the try."
2. Modern Family - Phil Dunphy
He often takes things too far (it's a comedy, after all) but Phil Dunphy is a well-meaning, lovable, earnest goof. He isn't afraid to risk and try something silly. We all shouldn't take ourselves so seriously. When we screw up, we should admit it, apologize and move on. He also loves the hell out of his wife and kids.
Quote: "I am brave. Roller coasters? Love 'em. Scary movies? I've seen Ghostbusters like seven times. I regularly drive through neighborhoods that have only recently been gentrified. So yeah I am pretty much not afraid of anything. Except clowns … I am not really sure where the fear comes from, my mother says it's cause when I was a kid I found a dead clown in the woods. But who knows?"
3. Justified - Raylan Givens
Sure U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens has a lot of bad qualities. He can be reckless, promiscuous, hot-headed and arrogant. However, I do admire his bravery. He's also matter-of-fact, down-to-earth and super smart. I like that he tells everyone exactly what he thinks while being a gentleman about it. Another lesson I take away from this show is that it's important to keep working on our flaws.
Quote: "Glen, I don't want you to speak anymore, 'cause once you start lying to me there's gonna be a river between us with no bridge to cross."
4. Parks and Recreation - Pawnee, Indiana
I don't have one particular man to highlight from this show, but I love the fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana. The reason watching PnR makes me better is that I can see how a group of totally different people (race, gender, religion, politics) can work together to accomplish things for their community and become friends in the process. I want to be able to be like that.
Quote: "I believe I said that I thought we worked well together, and that I might disagree with your philosophy but I respected you. And I said that you'll get a lot of job offers in your life but you only have one hometown."
Bonus Quote: "One time when I was in high school a guy's mom called me and broke up with me for him. There was another time when I was on a date and I tripped and broke my kneecap, and then the guy said he wasn't feeling it, so he left and I waited for an ambulance. One time I was dating this guy for awhile, and then he got down on one knee and he begged me to never call him again … Another time a guy invited me to a beautiful picnic with wine and flowers. And then when I tried to sit down, he said, "Don't eat anything. Rebecca's coming." And then he broke up with me."
5. Southland - Ben Sherman & Lydia Adams
This is no "feel-good" drama. The show is intense and gritty and harrowing most of the time. We see the worst parts of L.A. mainly through the eyes of rookie cop Ben Sherman and detective Lydia Adams. Both have great qualities I admire and hope to learn myself such as protect your own, trust your gut, stick your neck out for your principles, get people help if they need it, and, sometimes, you have to make a hard judgment call and be okay no matter the outcome.
Quote: "Now you know what you're capable of. Everyone -- when they get out of the Academy -- they think its all black and white, but its not. We live in the gray. We live there."
6. The Amazing Race - Various
I don't always watch this show but it's a tradition my wife and son have together so I do sit in frequently. Here is a list of what I have learned: never yell at your wife, never purposely cause obstacles for other people, karma will come back to get you, don't call people names, violence doesn't solve anything, you will look stupid on TV if you argue, treat your significant other with respect, listen, listen, listen, and never get into a cab with an old Indian guy.
Quote: "I'm trying not to projectile vomit all over you."
How about you? What shows do you watch and for what reasons? Do you like to escape or learn or both?
This post was originally published May 18, 2011.
Born in Salt Lake City, Brett Merritt lived in twelve different homes and four different states by the time he was nineteen. He served his church mission in Alabama and is currently an average primary teacher. Brett has a B.S. in English and is a Content Editorial Director by day. A huge supporter of the performing arts, he spends his spare time writing, acting, improvising, and watching a lot of films. He lives in Provo, Utah where his brilliant wife and kids patiently watch as he tries to be a better Modern Mormon Man. Twitter: @brettcmerritt.