Who doesn’t love a good heart-wrenching twist? Sure, we tell ourselves that we want to be happy, that we want to be optimistic and view the world as a place full of cream teas and roses and baby’s first smiles. But in reality, we want to be crushed. If it wasn’t the case, shows like Game of Thrones wouldn’t be among the most viewed of all time, and instead the annual Emmys would be swept up by the Teletubbies year on year.
But they’re not. Because nice things are nice, but they're also boring. Some of the greatest television moments are the gut punches that hammer home the stakes. The moments that make you cry, or furious with rage at the injustice of it all. Sometimes they can be shocking, sometimes they can be brutal, sometimes they can just be heartbreakingly sad. In all cases, they stick with you.
And television, rather than movies, is where these moments really stand out. We spend comparatively so much longer in these fictional TV worlds than movies that a sudden calamitous turn can hit so much harder than in any other medium.
Grab a handful of tissues and a family sized bucket of ice-cream, it’s time to visit the most devastating moments TV has to offer.
10. Big Bird Finds Out Mr Hooper Is Dead - Sesame Street
When considering devastating TV moments Sesame Street is unlikely to be the first show to come bounding into one’s mind. However, one episode in the shows hugely influential run stands out as significantly more serious and mature than any other. Will Lee (Mr Hooper) died on December 7th 1982, and rather than recast the role, or say that Mr. Hooper had retired or moved away, the producers decided to teach their young audience about the difficult topic of death.
In episode No. 1839, Big Bird (and the audience) learns that his friend Mr. Hooper has died. The episode goes to great lengths to show exactly what death means, and healthy ways of understanding and dealing with the loss. The showrunners make the incredibly ambitious decision of showing the characters grief and the reality of the sadness when a beloved friend passes on. It didn’t shield kids from the realities of the world, but taught them to remember the positive contributions a person made after they’re dead. The stark honesty and simplicity of the episode is surprisingly touching, particularly when Big Bird discusses how it feels to continue without Mr. Hooper:
‘We can remember him and remember him and remember him as much as we want too... But I don’t like it. It makes me sad’.
This is a show for preschoolers remember, and it’s doubly devastating when you consider that this is a real death that occured, not only character in the show.