The TV shows that cater to the middle school set are often…how do I say this gently…well, they are often very bad. Like…painfully bad. Not all of the shows, but a lot of them. Perhaps it is because there are several stations that target that demographic—creating lots of airtime to fill—and…with the abundance, maybe not the greatest writing. Or acting. Or directing.
I know this because my son is a middle schooler and watches some of these shows—which means I do, too—or at least I’m around hearing them, and you know what I hear the most by far? The laugh track. It is used incessantly on these shows—in my opinion, to make up for the weak attempt at broad comedy. Laugh! This is funny! Are you laughing?? You should be! Don’t you hear everyone else laughing?
Whether a laugh track in TV or a dramatic, swelling score in a film, we are subtly (or often not so subtly…Victorious, anyone?) cued to respond in the way we are “supposed” to respond.
Having recently gone through a “Full House” phase at our house, we know that when the violin music is cued, the lesson of the show is sure to follow. It’s as predictable as Donald Trump’s hair.
What if our real lives were so blatantly cued?
Of course, there’s not a lot of music that comes out of nowhere to direct our emotions—except maybe for the ice cream truck on a warm summer day, where you hear the high, melodic notes of a childhood jingle, and you suddenly find yourself chasing after a really slow-moving vehicle that continues to elude you until you’re out of breath and can hardly gasp out “Choco Taco.”
Or, unless you’ve got it on Spotify, I doubt you hear the theme from Rocky pushing you to persevere when you’re working out, right? (Which is why you should just stop because who wants to do one-handed pushups without Bill Conti?)
But what if we had some additional “direction” on how to respond in certain “scenes” of life?
What if when I tell my son for the one-gazillionth time not to drop his backpack by the stairs, the violins begin…and I know to look very solemn and speak to him about how responsibility is a cog in the wheel of morals, and he knows to listen intently, and then reply, “Gee, Mom, I never really understood until you said it like this…It would be my honor to put my backpack away properly. Also—I’d like to make dinner tonight. Please pour yourself a glass of wine and read a bit while I get to it.”
Cue the music, baby!
I know I could have benefited from a laugh track when I was a kid having to tell my mom why I had to stay after school. “Well, see…I was making a dunce hat instead of studying, and Mr. Weslock saw me and told me that was an ironic use of my study time…” Cue the laughter! Hilarious! What a kid! Instead, I got the classic, “Wait till your father gets home” that could have been completely averted with some canned guffaws.
Or what if you are having a conversation with your spouse that you may not be giving 100% of your attention to, and the emotional music grows and you realize, uh-oh…I think maybe I should actually listen, and then he or she shares with you that reservations have been made for a special night out, and then you go and have a lovely, romantic time where you agree that you should both move to the south of France where you can sit on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, eat delicious cheese and crusty bread, drink Pinot Noir (more wine!), and watch the sunset every night, and you’re so glad you knew to pay better attention because otherwise you might have simply exasperated your spouse and eaten leftovers instead?
Yeah, not so much, right? Real life is a lot messier and less cooperative. We try our best with the cues life does give us, but we still don’t know the script until the scene is happening. And often our best lines are ones thought of long after it’s over.
Frankly, I’m glad for it. Though I do absolutely love an emotive musical score, I’d rather have my feelings be my own than be told what to feel and when.
Living a laugh track life would be just as hollow as it is on sitcoms. Let’s hear it for the genuine, messy, even awkward times of real life where the true cues come from our hearts and we trust in one another to respond honestly—even if sometimes it’s a bit bungled. Better bungled than bogus.
(Did anyone cue the crescendoing music that signals this post is over?? Darn. Well—it’s over. Scene.)