I don’t always love travel on TV. But when TV gets it right, TV gets it really right. See:
Kerri: When I started thinking about this theme, the idea of leaving one’s home, or moving away, or even leaving temporarily (like on a trip or adventure) one thing became abundantly clear: on a TV show, generally, at some point, this is going to be part of the story. So, instead of really digging in to one specific example, I decided I’d just throw out as many of my favourite examples as possible. Really, though, leaving/departing/traveling/moving is about a shift in momentum for the characters involved. It gets them going and it starts them on a specific path (no matter where it happens in the story). The journey might happen at the very beginning of a show like, say, on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Lost, Deutschland 83, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend or my new CW favourite The 100 (sexy future teen prisoners are sent to a post-radiated-apolcolyptic Earth to see if it is survivable. And are sexy while doing it – you should be watching this!), where someone leaves the place that they are currently living for a new place. (I wanted to talk briefly about shows that start with a move back to the place/home that a character left but I’m going to run out of room. For great examples of this see Playing House and Justified). There are probably a million examples of a journey starting a show. This is the way the show introduces us to our main characters, a new setting and the other characters they meet in this new place. The show begins with a fresh start/clean-slate and this fresh start comes with its own set of challenges.
Alternately, a journey can happen at the end of a show, ending with a new beginning, like say (unintentional as this ending was) Freaks and Geeks where Lindsay heads off in a bus with Kim and some Dead Heads. Freaks and Geeks was always about discovering that no one is just one thing and Lindsay’s journey of self-discovery was always the heart of the show, so her continued search, the way we (and her parents and Sam) see her off, not knowing where she is really heading is a fitting end. In this kind of ending-journey, we don’t know what happens, we don’t know what becomes of these people. We end in a state of movement.
A journey that starts or ends the story of a TV show is great but I think I’m most intrigued when a journey happens in the middle of a show, like say Halt and Catch Fire where, at the end of the second season, the whole Mutiny gang picks up and moves to California. We don’t yet know what the results of this move will yield but it’s fascinating to consider and we get to find out. Friday Night Lights is all about moving, leaving or staying from the place you’ve known all your life, the place you’ve been trained to love and also hate, it’s what will take you forward or hold you back. The decision to leave or to stay is such a deeply ingrained part of these characters and the show as a whole. The story of Angel was a journey that happened in the middle of one show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and continued into its own world – and interestingly it was a move in both location, genre and tone. Or, think about all of Don Draper’s trips to California and his late series road trip on Mad Men. Or, better yet, the delightful trip that Betty and Don take to Rome in episode 8 of the third season, “Souvenir”. When you aren’t known by anyone you can become anything, at least momentarily. Similarly, in one of my favourite episodes of The Simpsons, “The Summer of 4 Ft. 2”, the family goes on a vacation to a beach house and Lisa decides to change her persona. Lisa thinks that she can re-invent herself – and she does, to a degree – but she also learns that the reason people like her is that she is a good person. A fresh start is sometimes a good way to discover that you are who you are wherever you go.
Katie: Two moments came to my mind when Jane asked me to write about traveling, and both moments involve singing in the car: one of my absolute favourite activities. This first video is a compilation of a moments in How I Met Your Mother, where Marshall and Ted listen to the cassingle, “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by the Proclaimers. The tape is jammed in Marshall’s radio and it’s the only music they can listen to. This running gag is introduced during Ted and Marshall’s “origin story” and is cited by Ted as the moment they became friends.
The second moment that came to mind is from That 70’s Show. In the episode, Kitty takes Eric to the hospital for career day and he witnesses how different his mom at work. She is a competent nurse: strong and respected. One of Kitty’s patients dies that day, and Eric is deeply disturbed. This video is from the ride home, where Kitty explains how she copes, without saying anything: