I’ve written before about how Gilligan’s Island was the first rerun that really made an impression on me, something that I totally fell in love with even though I was so young. It is most likely responsible for my love of reruns today.
It’s also one of the earliest indications that shows with a found family vibe were going to be in my wheelhouse.
Maybe it’s my own strong desire to belong somewhere, but those shows that feature a group of people coming together to form a family get me on a soul level.
Look at Gilligan’s Island. Seven people thrown together in an unlikely and extreme situation, forced to survive. Okay, that’s a dramatic explanation for a sitcom, but it’s not wrong. They have to come together as a family to survive. Sure, they bicker and quarrel and many times want to drown Gilligan after one of his fuck ups, but ultimately, they care about each other. This never would have happened if they hadn’t gotten shipwrecked. They’d have completed their 3 hour tour (with an unnecessary amount of luggage) and then gone their separate ways. Fate (and Sherwood Schwartz) threw them together and gave them a bond that even being rescued couldn’t break.
But it’s not just that extreme found family vibe I’m looking for. Chosen family is a kind of found family and that works for me, too.
Take for example another early love of mine, The Monkees. It’s a show about a band trying to make it. Obviously, these four guys came together to form a band, so they must have at least known and liked each other before they moved into a beach house together. It’s less fate and more struggling dream that has them scraping together rent and playing gigs. But they’re no different than four brothers, squabbling on occasion, but always having each other’s back. Just look at the episode “Success Story”. Davy’s grandfather is going to take him back to England and the fellas do everything they can to keep him in America. After all, they may not be blood, but they love each other like they were.
It’s this found family/chosen family vibe that could account for my love (at least in part) of cop shows. Be it partners, a team, or a whole squad room, you end up with people who come for the job and stay for the family.
Barney Miller is a great example of this. There’s a squad room of detectives who are paid to be there, but the nature of the job means that they have to have each other’s backs. It’s inevitable that this would eventually extend into their personal lives to an extent. When the final episode sees the precinct closed and everyone split up, you still get the sense that even if they aren’t working together, and maybe if they never see each other again, they all hold a very special place in each other’s lives. The way blood bonds family, they’re bonded by experience.
CSI: Miami not only has a similar vibe, but even has Ryan saying that they’re his family in the final episode.
Starsky & Hutch are akin to blood brothers given how many times one has been near death and the other has bailed him out. Adam-12 has a similar feel even though most of the series focused on the mundane aspects of the job. When you’re riding in a car with a guy for 8-12 hours a day, there’s only a couple of ways your relationship is going to go.
Emergency!, The A-Team, The Golden Girls, Stargate: Atlantis, F-Troop, Magnum PI…the one thing they have in common is that they all have a found family/chosen family vibe.
And I simply cannot get enough of it.