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May 23, 2019

A Wake-up Call

ABC family drama television series A Million Little Things is being honored by the Television Academy for a lot of big reasons. 

By: 
Samantha Gilbert


A Million Little Things is a show is about a million different things, but at its core, it's a show about people. People with whom an audience can relate: people who are struggling below the surface. People, who appear to be and technically are successful on the outside, but have palpable feelings of emptiness on the inside.

This is a show that dives deep into human interaction and exposes what people may be dealing with underneath the politely robotic "I'm fine, how are you?" exchange.

The pilot episode introduces the audience to four friends portrayed by Ron Livingston, James Roday, Romany Malco, and David Guintoli: a successful real estate developer, a cancer survivor, a prosperous commercial director, and a newly sober and musically talented stay-at-home dad, respectively.

The events that unfold throughout the season are set in motion after one of the friends commits suicide, leaving his family and his buddies to navigate life and laughter without him and try to understand some of the factors that led to his ultimate decision.

Created by D.J. Nash, A Million Little Things does indeed, take on heavy, complicated topics, but it navigates them with humor in a deliberate and genuine way. It's deep and it's real, and yes, it can be devastatingly sad, but it's also clever and, at times, laugh-out-loud funny.

A Million Little Things explores the different reasons behind the thoughts, feelings, and events that can cause self-decay underneath a healthy looking exterior of outwardly perceived happiness: decay to the point of death. but also death to the point of life. From the ashes of tragedy, rise new growth and compassion, introspection and empathy arise.

It is a wake-up call in its most unfortunate form.

The essence of the show really powers home the notion that there's hardly ever one, single reason behind anything. No thing is one thing. With any feeling or action there are a million little things to consider, no matter the subject, and, there are always a million little things for which to be grateful.

For 17 episodes, A Million Little Things tackles the big issues and the tough conversations with poise and honesty, providing numerous fictional examples of countless real-life stories.

One storyline explores "coming-out" conversations that continue to be extremely difficult for those wanting to be honest about their sexual orientation and the fear and anxiety they experience while considering the potential repercussions from family and loved ones.

Another takes a close look at depression brought on from a loved one that has attempted or committed suicide. It examines the shock and guilt experienced by a person who believes they should have seen the signs and how the "why" in its entirety is not always so black and white, nor is it obvious.

The complex topic of depression is also explored from the standpoint of a character who feels he has no justifiable reason to feel depressed. With a successful job, a solid marriage, and loving group of friends, his own outward success makes him ashamed to admit to experiencing dark times, so he suppresses those feelings to the near point of self-destruction.

Yet another narrative delves into what it's like to have cancer: the painful and demanding process of chemotherapy, the effect a diagnosis it has on relationships with loved ones and the emotional, physical, and mental toll it takes on the individual.

The writing in A Million Little Things expertly delivers tragic, heart-wrenching punches, then ices them with rational and quick-witted banter, making the audience care that much more about the characters.

Showing people, even fictional people, dealing with these very real issues serves in taking another important step further towards breaking the existing stigmas around mental health, continuing the many conversations already being had, and hopefully, starting more that are waiting to be had.

All of these characters have fought to get where they are in life, and yet, all feel trapped in one way or another. And whether the individual latent sorrow stems from guilt, shame, or fear, they are all experiencing pain, not unlike a lot of people out there watching from their living rooms, making A Million Little Things highly relatable.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, over 47,000 Americans died by suicide in 2017. An additionally estimated 1,400,000 suicide attempts were made.

These are numbers that are, sadly, on the rise and they are becoming statistics that are having an impact nearly everyone.

Because of A Million Little Things, this painful reality is being portrayed in a conscientious and genuine way through scripted television. Open and honest conversations unfold that can potentially serve a greater purpose than entertainment: perhaps they can be of some assistance to viewers who are trying to have such conversations of their own.

This is a thought-provoking program that induces self-rumination, but also makes one want to pick up the phone and check in on an old friend. It allows its audience to consider the various definitions of fulfillment and happiness so they seriously ask themselves what is truly important.

For these and perhaps a million other reasons, the Television Academy is proud to recognize A Million Little Things at the 2019 Television Academy Honors.


For the award presentation and acceptance video, click here.

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