Lesson from a TV Show Script
Go for their heart… then their beliefs
There are some TV shows that you like; some TV shows that you love; then there are TV shows that impact who you are. This story shares three TV shows and their scenes, which I remember like yesterday.
Quantum Leap (NBC 1989–1993)
Time travel within your own lifetime to right the wrongs of others’ lives is a cool concept; however, what really turned this show into an impactful one for me was one episode and one scene that just came together perfectly… and was made “right” in the series finally.
Sam had the opportunity to tell his best friend’s (Al) wife that he was coming back safely from the Vietnam war (he was M.I.A.). She thought he was dead, but Sam didn’t tell her he was still alive. It’s summarized online… the last scene description sums it up:
Al goes in to Beth, who is crying in her living room. For a moment, it seems as if she can hear Al, but she moves to the stereo and puts on [“Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers]. She dances alone and Al joins her, unable to touch her [as he is a hologram from the future]. He tearfully begs her to wait for him and tells her he loves her. He moves to kiss her, and he [then] leaps with Sam. At that instant she says his name and cries.
Powerful. Every time I hear the song “Unchained Melody,” I think of of this episode. What it must be like to be away from the person you love the most or can’t get home and be with your family… or just saying a forever goodbye, even though no one can hear you. It was a very heart-felt episode.
The show’s writers must have felt the affect of this episode from the fans, as the series finale had Sam leap back into that scene and reassure Al’s wife that her husband is returning home from the war. Bravo.
Chuck (NBC 2007–2012)
Nerdy computer genius receives top secret data and has to help spies on missions, while working a tricky romance with his handler… I can buy into that premise. Well… I could totally relate to that kind of fantasy. The building of the relationship wasn’t cheesy or on and off, but it did evolve over time.
It was a classic future planning and what “dreams were made of” type of thing, but it all came crashing down when she had her memory erased by a villain in the last few episodes. It was an incredibly sad moment that had me staring at the TV in disbelief, as I watched the backbone of the entire series crumble and the goal-line I’ve been waiting to see them cross seeming like it will never happen. WTF.
“Chuck, tell me our story…”
It came down to the final scene in the series… Chuck back on the beach with Sarah trying to save the person he loves the most, no matter what. Chuck’s friend hinted that a kiss at the right time could retrigger and unbury those suppressed memories and restore everything… my draw dropped for what seemed like a long time… and yep, I did tear up… you have to believe!
Ironically, both of the above shows are somewhat similar in nature and ran for 5 seasons… crazy technology capabilities, sci-fi-ish approach, and go-with-the-flow feasibility. Shoot, Scott Bakula from Quantum Leap even had a role in Chuck as Chuck’s dad!
Those were awesome shows that really sucked me in, but now, there is a third… History Channel’s historical TV drama, Vikings (2013-present).
But it’s different with Vikings compared to Quantum Leap and Chuck. There’s not really a long-term romance, one single moment that means everything, or too many tear-jerking moments between people. It’s beyond just heart…
It’s belief. It’s respect.
While the Vikings TV show is fictional in order make it interesting and watchable TV, the basis for the events, relationships, village life, going a-viking, etc. is all grounded in historical fact.
According to the series companion hardcover book, the research conducted through the various viking sagas, historic accounts from England and France, and archeological experts, great lengths were taken to make the show as historically accurate as possible.
This is where things took a turn for me.
Three, Unforgettable Scenes
SEASON ONE. A lot is shared about the viking culture and way of life; however, getting a glimpse into their belief system and Norse gods gave me a different draw-dropping experience. In episode eight, the story goes that every nine years the vikings gather at the Temple of Uppsala to sacrifice various animals in groups of nine… including humans that volunteer!
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WTF. I couldn’t do anything but stare in disbelief, because I was so shocked that there were (maybe still are) people who truly believe that killing themselves pleases “the gods” and will help their culture. But, that’s why they did it… the sacrificees believed they were doing the right thing for the right reasons… not much different in Christianity or any other religion/culture.
SEASON TWO. The fighting continues, and the need for more and more power never ends. In episode seven, yet another draw-dropping experience where I couldn’t take my eyes off the TV, because it was so shocking… the torture, execution method of the BLOOD EAGLE.
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This is a method where a person’s ribs are cut away from the spine from the back, while the person is still alive. OMG… and WTF, again. And there was a crowd of people that endured watching the torture of someone going through this… it was their way of life and the necessary punishment for the crime committed. Sheesh.
Obviously, this is much different than the majority of today’s cultures and tolerance levels, but at the time, it was acceptable and the right thing to do. The fact that these types of things were right in the eyes of our ancestors amazes me and is mind-boggling, which is one reason why I find it so fascinating to study.
SEASON FOUR. At this point, the life of the main character, Ragnar, is coming to an end. I read the book, The Sagas of Ragnar Lodbrok, that contains the Old Norse stories of Ragnar and his sons, which was one of the resource texts used by the show’s writers.
The writers prepared the send-off for its title character in the most respectful and emotionally impactful way. It spanned several episodes, and they did not rush the moments that needed to be slow… like a pan of the camera in silence for a minute.
True to the saga, the writers incorporated a key phrase from the book as Ragnar was being tortured over a period of days before his death in a pit of serpents or vipers (again as portrayed in the sagas):
“The piglets would grunt now, if they knew the old pig suffers.”
This foreshadowing statement is the foundation for the activities of Ragnar’s sons and what will become of England in the centuries that followed.
In the very last scene where Ragnar speaks, his speech to the English crowd is pretty amazing and revealing:
It gladdens me to know that Odin prepares for a feast. Soon I shall be drinking ale from curved horns. This hero that comes into Valhalla does not lament his death.
I shall not enter Odin’s Hall with fear. There I shall wait for my sons to join me. And when they do, I will bask in their tales of triumph.
The Aesir will welcome me. My death comes without apology.
And I welcome the Valkyries to summon me home.
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The acting by Travis Fimmel in this scene is incredible. Aside from the reading and research that I’ve done, just looking at these last words shows how similar the Norse religions were/are to Christianity.
Odin was a god of war, and a warrior’s goal was to feast with him in Valhalla… similar to heaven with God and Jesus. The clan of gods will welcome him home… similar to God’s disciples, and the Valkyries are essentially angels.
It’s not hard to believe that many vikings converted to Christianity, as there were many similarities and a more focused spirit awaiting them.
What’s interesting to me is that two different cultures have so many beliefs in common… like how pyramids exist in Egypt, South America, and China, yet those cultures never interacted with one another.
Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and have a greater appreciation for history, but I am intrigued by the viking culture and their contribution to our modern-day language, holidays, and behaviors… and how the show’s characters and actors bring that history to life.
All of these shows hold a special place in the way that I think about things and interpret areas of life. Moving from seeing different types of emotions with Quantum Leap and Chuck to respect for different beliefs with Vikings was a significant shift in what is deemed impactful.
While Quantum Leap and Chuck could be related to in similarity, Vikings is a show that is full of contrast. Being able to explore such extreme contrast to my own beliefs and way of life has made me a stronger person.
- The more we think we’re different, the more the same we are.
- Human emotion and belief systems are too powerful to truly comprehend.
- Try to understand why others believe what they do.
- Do what you think is right, and always stand by the people you care about.
Don’t assume that watching TV shows is always a passive activity. There are some good ones out there that have great writers with great intentions portrayed by great actors.
I wonder what the next impactful show will be?
Written by Shaun Holloway.