What’s TV good for? Learning life lessons, of course


Amy Fenster Brown and the TV-inspired decor in her home office.

By Amy Fenster Brown, Special To The Jewish Light

I love television so much that it inspired my home office décor, as you can see from this photo. Television can simultaneously be a huge waste of time, a way to stay informed, and educational, depending on what you’re watching. 

Which category do your favorite shows fall under? In an effort to prove I haven’t wasted years of my life, I searched for lessons buried in some of the best episodes. 

‘The Facts of Life’

Television’s most perfect show featured a gem in Season 7 titled “Doo Wah.” Airing in 1985, this episode really highlights the totally awesome ’80s with big hair, pop singer El DeBarge and clothing that prematurely aged young ladies. Oy, with the satiny blazers and gigantic shoulder pads! Poor Tootie looks like a 40-year-old carpool driving mom who has a side gig as a linebacker. 

In this episode, the girls win a teen fan magazine contest, singing backup with El DeBarge (ironically to a song titled “You Wear It Well” which, of course, they didn’t). Natalie is firing comebacks and wisecracks left and right, solidifying her reign as “The Facts of Life’s” most supreme character. The chubby, funny friend with the quick wit and gift of gab always brings a smile to your face. She’s at the top of everyone’s party invitation list. 

Beth Shalom Cemetery ad

This bring us to our lesson: Take a minute to think about who you are with when you feel your best. We all need a Natalie. 

‘The Brady Bunch’

If there is any show that teaches us lessons in every episode, it’s the “The Brady Bunch.” Between sibling rivalry, first crushes and using your exact words, this show was jam packed with advice we never asked for. You’d think “Mom always said, ‘Don’t play ball in the house’ ” was the most important lesson, because you should always listen to what your mother tells you. 

Instead, let’s go with the episode titled “Katchoo.” Jan, the long-suffering middle daughter, cannot stop sneezing when Tiger the dog is around. Immediately everyone assumes Jan is allergic to Tiger. The Bradys realize it’s time to change (and finally put Jan’s needs before Marcia’s, thank you very much). As Tiger is being sent “away,” Jan grabs the mangy mutt’s flea powder and … cue the excessive sneezing! You guys!!! Jan is allergic to the flea powder, not to Tiger!!! What have we learned here? 

Jumping to conclusions is rarely a good idea, and sometimes you need to dig deeper for answers.

If a family can afford a live-in housekeeper, they could probably have afforded a house where six children don’t have to share one bathroom.

Tiger needs a freakin’ bath.

‘Sex and the City’

The wildly popular show about four single women navigating life and love in New York has one standout episode with a life changing lesson: He’s just not that into you. 

In an episode titled “Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little,” Miranda has what she thinks is a good date with a dude, but he doesn’t call her for second one. So she does what many of us would do: justifies it with information made up in her head. Maybe he’s busy at work, or maybe he’s scared of getting his feelings hurt. 

Carrie’s then-boyfriend, Jack Berger, lays it on the line and tells Miranda, “Maybe he’s just not that into you.” Seems harsh. But man, oh man, isn’t it the most freeing fact in the wide world of dating! As Berger states, if a guy wants to see you again, he’s making plans for the next date. If not, well, he’s just not that into you. 

Once we learn that, and accept it, we can move on to whatever is next. Try it in romantic relationships, toxic friendships or job interviews that go nowhere. You’ll feel free in no time flat!


Jerry Seinfeld’s philosophy for his sitcom was that nobody hugs and we don’t learn anything, but we did anyway. Plenty of Seinfeld’s most popular episodes teach us valuable life lessons, like what names rhyme with a female body part, or what it takes to be “Master of Your Domain.” Who’d-a-thunk we’d learn grammar lessons from Jerry and the crew? 

In an episode called “The Sniffing Accountant,” Elaine, a book editor, is dating writer Jake Jarmel, whose manuscript she is editing. Elaine gets super annoyed when Jake fails to use an exclamation point at the end of a very important phone message he wrote down for her. They fight about it and break up. Then Elaine, as his editor, throws a ton of exclamation points in his manuscript for revenge. 

What’s the non-exclamation point here? That overuse of exclamation points is annoying. A great current example is social media, where exclamation points are scattered about like sprinkles on a birthday cake. “Steak and corn for dinner!” is not nearly as exciting as you think, Bucko. Also, we don’t care what you’re having for dinner!!!!