Some background: I have an addiction of which I am not especially proud; it’s called Hulu. If you have not yet discovered Hulu, more power to you; you are clearly a more highly evolved person than me. Or, at least a person who uses his or her spare time more efficiently. It’s not even like I have spare time! But, in the evenings, after the kids are in bed and I am cleaning up the kitchen, making lunches, and going through my never-ending “to do” pile, I go to Hulu and select an episode of a television show to run in the background while I go about my business. This sounds harmless, right? Well, the problem is that Hulu has introduced me to an array of shows I would not normally watch. Some of them are OK (“Lie to Me” and “House“), some are surprising (another “Law & Order“?), and some are embarrassing to admit I even know exist (“Hell’s Kitchen“? Watching it makes me feel as if I’m cheating on Tom Colicchio). Sometimes, I stumble across gold: the original “Battlestar Galatica“! But, largely, I end up selecting shows for which I have little or no interest in an effort to have some background noise. Under this strategy, I watched an episode of “Private Practice” last week, and it has been bothering me ever since.
The Problem: Now, I am not a fan of “Private Practice”. I cannot get behind shows that are medical in nature, since they always focus on dramatic story lines (brain tumors, rare diseases that have no cure in real life but for which a miraculous cure is found in tonight’s episode, risky surgery, and on and on) that leave me unable to sleep and sometimes even a little grossed out. I had watched “Private Practice” when first aired and thought it was OK, but didn’t love it enough to commit (though I did really like Amy Brenneman).
The episode I watched the other night included a story about a little girl named Betsy who was about 8 years old (you can see it here). Her father, who recently died, had worked with the main characters at their medical practice. She was left at their office by a family member who could not care for her. She needed someone to take her in–this grieving little girl was all alone in the world. The characters who professed to love her father and miss him greatly went back and forth about caring for her. And, in the end, not one of them would commit, so they turned her over to social services and she was sent to foster care. One of the main characters, Violet, ended the discussion of poor Betsy’s fate, crying out something like “we’ve done a bad thing here.” And, the show ended.
Did the writers and producers intend to portray the entire cast as selfish, self-absorbed, and insensitive? They were all so consumed with one another and themselves that not one of them stood up for Betsy or really followed through on their love and admiration for her father. Now, I know that if they were not ready for kids, they shouldn’t have them, but (a) several of the characters are already parents and (b) one of them was even a pediatrician! They could have stayed on as Betsy’s guardian or made arrangements for her to go somewhere safe–not just turned her over to the state. That poor little girl. I was so disturbed by the show. It touched a deep fear, I guess. This fear, this worry that a child is left adrift, without anyone to adequately care for him or her. Now, before you get all worried about my sanity, I know it’s a TV show; I know it’s not real. But, things like this happen. People stand by and watch as children go without, go without comfort and safety, security and love. In the end, I will not watch “Private Practice” again. After all, the way it’s going, the next time we’ll see Betsy is when she shows up as the bully in an obligatory episode about bullying or as an irresponsible teen driver in a show about texting and driving.
And Now: Despite being upset, last week’s “Private Practice” episode didn’t help break my Hulu habit, though. As I write this, “Law & Order” is running in background (for the record, the new “L&O: Los Angeles“, isn’t that bad, but I miss S. Epatha Merkerson); hopefully, it will just make me more selective about what I watch or maybe I’ll just stick to comedies.