Hurricanes and Super-franken-storms

Well, it only took a month in the city for me to already have that “New Yorker” experience. Years from now, I’ll be able to say, “I was there when Sandy hit.” While we’re not completely in the clear yet, things are definitely better than they were Monday. No more scary winds outside that manage to move doors inside my apartment building and bring down trees in the park. Since I’m in the middle of Brooklyn, things weren’t as bad here as they were in the lower-lying areas, where there’s loads of flood damage, but thankfully the water’s receding, and hopefully, we’ll be able to recover quickly.

Naturally, with all my time inside during the storm, I started thinking about TV shows and severe weather. Dramas have been using weather to reflect climactic events in the lives of the characters for years. As a storm brews outside, a storm often brews in the hearts and minds of the characters (Dawson’s Creek, anyone?). Comedies have had similar scenarios, but they have to bring out the wacky as they juxtapose their characters’ situations against the storm. Sometimes, however, the real thing is just too devastating to work in a comedic format.

That’s what happened when Seth MacFarlane et al decided to do a set of crossover episodes for American Dad, Family Guy and The Cleveland Show. The premise was: a hurricane hits the eastern seaboard and affects all three families. Cue comedic hi-jinks.  Crossovers can be fun, and with Seth MacFarlane’s cartoons, the universes of the shows can completely merge, a limitation for “real people” shows. With potential for some great jokes (minus The Cleveland Show), I looked forward to the event…that is until a huge tornado outbreak occurred from April 25-28, 2011. Suddenly, May 1 didn’t seem like an appropriate air date for the shows, and FOX pulled the episodes. (Some would argue that there’s never an appropriate air date for The Cleveland Show). The episodes eventually aired in October, but they weren’t very good and I still felt a little uncomfortable watching them.

On the “real people” side of the comedic spectrum, How I Met Your Mother has successfully used weather to influence the plot. Ted did a rain dance in season one in order to score a date with Robin. A massive snow storm allowed the writers to flex their story-telling muscles in the fourth season. And, last year, they had a Hurricane Irene episode. The show’s production timing worked in such a way that they were able to flash back in the show and reflect a real-life event. Hurricane Irene ended up influencing the gang in big dramatic ways (SPOILER: Marshall and Lily conceive their child, which they did not end up naming Irene; Robin and Barney hooked up; Ted was). Since Irene wasn’t too big of a disaster for Manhattan, HIMYM was able to use it for the sake of storytelling. The same will most likely not be true of Hurricane Sandy. Heck, CBS delayed the show’s new episode because of the hurricane. (I mean, it wouldn’t really be appropriate to show “New Yorkers” having adventures in pleasant weather when actual New Yorkers were evacuating their homes and waiting out Frankenstorm).

Which reminds me, this has been a weird week for TV. All the Manhattan-based shows took on surreal tones. The scripted ones seemed out of place, celebrating Halloween or focusing on the election. All the live/variety shows either cancelled their broadcasts or performed to empty rooms…adding weird layers of funny to the experience. The Daily Show and Colbert Report just returned last night. There’s something cathartic about watching The Daily Show and Colbert Report after a major event, it helps me sort through my emotions. And, in the end, that’s what entertainment is for, right? To help us work through what we’re feeling. And, in times like these, we could all use a laugh.

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