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The End of Heartwarming Television ... For Now

By Dustin Rowles | TV | April 11, 2016 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | April 11, 2016 |

I love the meditation on grief that is The Leftovers; I think Better Call Saul is television’s best drama right now; The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones are what they are — sometimes brilliant, sometimes infuriating genre shows — and shows like Empire and Scandal and Quantico capitalize on huge plot twists.

What television is increasingly missing, however, are real, complicated, lovely people with real, honest problems that they approach in real, honest ways. Jason Katims’ Friday Night Lights and Parenthood may have been the last of their kind (for a while): Good relationship dramas about good people trying in earnest to manage their families and the people within them. Those were shows that could make us cry over something besides an unexpected character death. They were warm, cozy episodes about people with whom we could relate, and not on a metaphorical level, but on a literal one.

We lost four more of those lovely, complicated characters last night when Togetherness aired its series finale, an episode that wasn’t designed as an end, but that felt like a natural way to go out. It was a heartwarming episode of television that found a way to organically bring its characters — bickering and separated for most of the season — back together in a sweet, believable fashion.

It may have been the last episode of heartwarming television we see for a while, because television has turned away from families and relationships and toward comic books and true crime and fantasy and zombies and plot-chewing series that have no chance of sustaining themselves beyond three or four seasons.

I miss heartwarming TV. When’s the last time we got misty or our eyes welled up watching a TV show? When’s the last time our solar plexes were gently wounded instead of being shattered? Now it’s all about throwing shit at our televisions in anger, or being driven to depression, or how many sex acts or moments of violence can be crammed into 42 minutes, and that’s fine. But it’s also crowding out poignancy.

Togetherness was one of the last of its kind … for a while. But it will come back around. Because people will always have problems in their marriages. Relationships will always fall apart. Couples will continue to argue. Children will always be a source of consternation. And we will continue to look to our televisions and laptops and iPads for characters with whose problems speak to us.

RIP Togetherness. You were a great show, and I wish more people could’ve found you.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.