Here at Healthy Living, we're big fans of many of the nominated shows and stars -- but we're even bigger fans of the healthy ways you can incorporate a little TV into your life. Case in point: Watching reruns may give you a little boost in self-control. Watching while you're on board the treadmill can make the time pass a little faster. And if you're in the mood for some plain old couch time, at least the commercial breaks are built-in reminders to stand up and move those muscles every once in a while.
However, if you search just a little deeper, your favorite TV show might be even better for your health than you'd think. We found some surprisingly smart health lessons in a number of episodes of the shows nominated for outstanding comedy series and outstanding drama series. Click through the slideshow below, whether you'll be watching the awards presentation or not. Then tell us in the comments what we missed!
"The Big Bang Theory"
Physicist Sheldon Cooper, played by Jim Parsons, confronts a fear of birds in one episode called <a href="http://the-big-bang-theory.com/episodeguide/episode/509/The-Ornithophobia-Diffusion/">"The Ornithophobia Diffusion"</a> in the most recent season of CBS’s hit comedy. And while a number of Sheldon’s idiosyncrasies are made up for the sake of a good laugh, phobias are <em>very</em> real and can be incredibly <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/30/unusual-phobias-odd_n_887984.html#s301163&title=GELIOPHOBIA__Fear">disruptive to everyday life</a>. It’s important to know that <a href="http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/phobias.html">phobias can often be treated</a> with medication, therapy or both, according to the NIH, and that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/emily-kaufman/confronting-my-fear-of-snakes_b_1866307.html">confronting smaller fears</a> can be inspiring and freeing.
"Curb Your Enthusiasm"
While not as heavy-hitting as some of the other lessons on our list, <a href="http://www.hbo.com/curb-your-enthusiasm/episodes/index.html#/curb-your-enthusiasm/episodes/8/74-the-smiley-face/synopsis.html">Larry David's version of himself</a> in this HBO comedy does have something to teach us. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/26/sunscreen-guide-2012_n_1545553.html#slide=1024659">We've said it before</a> and we'll say it again: It's very important to apply sunscreen correctly! <em><a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMhXExzguWM">Photo source</a></em>
In PBS's surprise hit, we see the effects of the <a href="http://virus.stanford.edu/uda/">1918 Spanish Flu pandemic</a>, which killed as many as 40 million people worldwide, according to Stanford. The Crawley family is not immune -- but, as many critics have pointed out, they had a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/leslie-gerwin/flu-season_b_1332409.html">tidy and mild experience compared to what happened in real life</a>. However, the (relatively) happy ending to the "Downton Abbey" run in with the Spanish Flu may undermine the real lesson to be learned. "It really was a major event in modern human history,” Richard Danila, an epidemiologist with the Minnesota Department of Health told MinnPost. "Outside of wars, there weren't many events seen like it. <a href="http://www.minnpost.com/second-opinion/2012/02/downton-abbey-gets-flu-%E2%80%94-does-it-get-it-right">So to downplay it at all is wrong</a>." The article continues: <blockquote>“Cleaned up” depictions of the pandemic may also contribute to complacency, he added. If we misunderstand what happened in 1918, we won’t be fully prepared for the next major pandemic, which many pubic-health professionals believe is long overdue.</blockquote>
This new comedy, created by and starring Lena Dunham, follows a group of young women living in New York City. In one episode, Dunham's character, Hannah, finds out she has HPV. While some strains of the virus <em>can</em> <a href="http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/HPV">cause genital warts and certain cancers</a>, most do not and eventually go away on their own, according to the National Cancer Institute. Hannah spews out a number of statements about HPV throughout the episode that critics and viewers alike have pointed out to be <a href="http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/14/tv-show-girls-adds-to-the-muddle-on-hpv-testing/">simply untrue</a>, as the <em>New York Times</em> reported. But "Girls" missing the mark on some of the concrete facts about HPV drives home two lessons. First, we still need more awareness around testing and preventing this and a number of other sexually transmitted infections. And second, don't believe everything you see on TV.
Actress Claire Danes stars in this drama series as <a href="http://www.sho.com/sho/homeland/cast/17762/carrie-mathison">CIA officer Carrie Mathison</a>, who has <a href="http://www.nimh.nih.gov/statistics/1BIPOLAR_ADULT.shtml">bipolar disorder</a>, a mental illness that affects nearly three percent of American adults, according to the National Insitute of Mental Health, but isn't often depicted on TV. While a number of media sources have commented on this positive portrayal of a person with bipolar disorder, Carrie still faces an on-air version of the stigma experienced by many struggling with mental health issues in real life every day. “Her words go unheeded <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/04/10/homeland-and-shameless-television-tackles-bipolar-disorder-with-realism.html">when her condition is discovered</a> by her employers,” writes The Daily Beast, and she fears she’ll lose her job, writes the <em>LA Times</em>, so she <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2011/dec/19/health/la-he-unreal-homeland-20111219">turns to her psychiatrist sister for treatment</a>. Dispelling stigma is a slow process, but perhaps seeing realistic portrayals of mental illness on TV can inspire us all to keep an open mind.
Much has been said and written about the copious amounts of smoking and drinking on nominated drama "Mad Men" (including by January Jones’s character Betty, while she was pregnant, no less), but the latest season of the award-winning show offered some exemplary healthy behavior. Betty, in an effort to lose weight after finding herself turning to food for comfort, joins Weight Watchers to get back to her old self. While no one particular diet plan is right for everyone, Betty’s experience illustrates some of the most important rules of weight loss: she drops the pounds slowly, only <a href="http://tvrecaps.ew.com/recap/mad-men-s5-ep8-betty-weight-watchers/">down a half pound at her first meeting</a>, and makes some smart changes to her diet. We see her eating a grapefruit, rather than finishing her daugther Sally’s ice cream sundae, and husband Henry comments on how she's serving more fish and less steak for family dinners.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, playing Vice President Selina Meyer in HBO’s new comedy, attempts to launch a healthy eating initiative (in an <a href="http://www.hbo.com/veep/episodes/01/06-baseball/index.html#/veep/episodes/01/06-baseball/synopsis.html">episode of the show called “Baseball”</a>) named “Let’s Get Moving,” in what was a probable nod to First Lady Michelle Obama's <a href="http://www.letsmove.gov/">Let’s Move</a> campaign. The fictional launch isn't a huge success, according to the show's website, but, as you well know, it's a life-saving idea nonetheless. If Americans don't get moving, all 50 states could have <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/18/us-obesity-2030-americans-obese_n_1893578.html">obesity rates above 44 percent by the year 2030</a>, according to a recent report.
Note: "Game Of Thrones," "Breaking Bad," "30 Rock," "Modern Family" and "Boardwalk Empire" were also nominated in these categories.