Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard the miraculous news about the USAirways jet making an emergency landing in the Hudson River in New York.
But what’s struck me as being noteworthy – nearly as noteworthy as the wonderful news that everyone made it safely out of the plane – is how intense the reaction and response to this event has been. The pilot of the airplane has become a folk hero, with dozens of Facebook pages springing up in his honor.
It occurred to me that we’re a nation that has, in the last decade, seen two wars, a host of catastrophic events (9/11 and Katrina being the two most visible examples) and a long, tenacious political campaign that bled nastiness and dissonance every day. AND the icing on the cake, of course, is the financial collapse that has had an enormous impact on nearly everyone.
I think after all of that, people are ready to embrace a happy story like the story of Flight 1549.
Of course, this had me thinking about the stories we see on daytime. I’ve been railing about the dark themes I’ve seen on all of the shows for years, particularly General Hospital, which to me always seems on the verge of venturing into snuff film territory (yes, an unpleasant thought but an accurate one) and often features darkness, misery and misogyny in heaping doses daily.
Serial dramas live on conflict and challenges, but the most compelling shows leaven the high drama with an equal amount of joy – whether it’s romance or comedy. I’ve talked before about Desperate Housewives, Brothers & Sisters and Ugly Betty here, and one thing I love about those shows – and miss about my daytime shows – is that they may all have drama, conflict, bitter enemies and the occasional homicide, but they ALSO each have humorous elements we see in every show, as well as loving, stable characters that fill the protagonists with joy.
I’m not suggesting every show introduce an annoying Pollyanna character who skips around town talking about daisies, puppies and kitties. But it’s a simple equation – difficulties in life are leavened by humor and joy. Those feelings make us relax, bring us vulnerability and leave us feeling hopeful – or at least ready to fight the next battle.
I hope some of the writing teams realize by the overwhelming response to this joyful story that a happy story – or a happy ending to a long, challenging path for characters – might just draw the viewers they’re targeting as much as those dark, depressing stories would.