I don't watch much television anymore. I have my TV viewing whittled down to a handful of shows that I intentionally watch. And none of them are "reality" shows, because a) there is no reality in reality television, and b) I often find fictional characters to be far more likable than the regular folk who manage to make their way onto whatever show will have them.
So I'm left with scripted television, my preference, anyway, if for no other reason than I like writers to be employed. I also like actors to act, directors to direct -- you get the idea.
At its best, TV can be an art form that brings people together to share a common storytelling experience, much like the campfire days of old. At its worst, well, did I mention reality television?
This brings me to...death, my happy topic for the day. Or more specifically, how beloved characters are bumped off TV shows for various reasons and the lessons we can learn from their departure.
It always amazes me that I can become so emotionally invested in fictional characters that I cry as if I've lost an actual friend. I do know it is all pretend, and yet, I'm on the ride 100 percent.
Such was the case this past Sunday on The Good Wife, when we were blindsided by the sudden, shocking, and violent death of Will Gardner, perhaps the most central character to the show besides the good wife herself, Julianna Margulies. I had not read a thing about Josh Charles' departure from the show, and so the awful surprise was genuine, kind of like a real death of that nature would be.
It's not that TV death is a new phenomenon. I remember Radar announcing that Henry Blake's plane had been shot down on MASH. And Diana Muldaur's character plummeting down an open elevator shaft on LA Law. (To this day, I still look before stepping into an elevator, so thanks for that one, LA Law writers.)
I mourned the ill-fated car rides of Claire Kincaid on Law & Order and Mrs. Landingham on West Wing, not to mention the unforgettable farewell of Detective Bobby Simone on NYPD Blue, which, even though it was not a surprise, left audiences bereft in a way that carries impact to this day.
So I've been thinking about Will Gardner's demise this past Sunday on The Good Wife and why it struck such a deep chord in me. And I think it is because of unfinished business.
We like to go about our days oblivious to the fact that they are numbered and that the exact number is unknown. We take for granted. We leave unsaid and undone. We think there is time. So when we are reminded that there isn't, it comes as a startling realization of our own mortality. And that calls into question everything we are doing with our lives.
Yes, we know intellectually that tomorrow is not guaranteed, but we don't live like we know that. So we put off, frequently, what is most important to us. And sometimes, we are lucky enough to get a wakeup call. Other times, we are left with unfinished business.
That is what Will's death on The Good Wife symbolized for me -- a ticking clock. We all have relationships in need of repair, healing, and forgiveness. We all have I love you's that have not been uttered enough. We all have dreams we harbored that could use some dusting off and going after.
The abrupt end of Will and Alicia reminds us that, in the blink of an eye, all possibility can be taken away from us for good. So yes, the ill-fated lovers break our hearts because of the sheer Romeo and Juliet of it all. But more importantly, they remind us to make the choices we can live with, regardless of the hand fate deals us.
So maybe our beloved Will and Alicia were destined to remind us to say, "I'm sorry," or "I forgive you," or "I love you, even though we didn't work out."
Whatever our unfinished business is, we would be wise to see to it now. And if that's the take away from a TV show, then everyone involved in The Good Wife used their gifts wisely and their platform for good.
Kudos to the brilliant Josh Charles for bringing such a complex, flawed, but still uniquely loveable character to life. He will be missed.