Life Lessons from Your Favorite Shows

By Sarah W. Caron

Don’t pretend you didn’t cheer a little when Betty Draper Francis hopped into bed with her ex-Don on “Mad Men” last season. The cold, inattentive TV wife and mom proved that she really wasn’t any better than her philandering ex-hubby. But the whole cheating thing? Totally not cool. Still, some of our favorite TV shows can share some really great life lessons about drive, ambition and more.

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While we can’t really rely on television to set the tone for our morals and lives, we can catch a glimpse of lessons in our favorite shows. Here are some of our favorite lessons…


Did anyone really expect career-driven Julia Braverman-Porter to quit her job and be a stay-at-home mom? Probably not, but just like in real life, sometimes characters (and people) find that there’s something they want more than that thing they’ve wanted forever. For her, missing two important events for her kids made Julia totally rethink her life. 

Meanwhile, her sister Sarah Braverman is dating her boss – again. This isn’t the first time that Sarah’s crossed that imaginary line – but this time it’s costing her even more. Before she started dating Hank, the attraction between them (and her allegiance to her job with him) led to the ultimate demise of her relationship with fiancé Mark. 

“Parenthood” is a show that portrays a realistic and complicated view of life and families. One of the biggest life lessons reinforced again and again through the series has been to go with your gut – in life, love, career, family, everything.


Raise your hand if you caught on very early on that Deacon Claybourne was really Rayna’s eldest daughter’s father. That plot twist, which sent Maddie Conrad reeling and Deacon into a downward spiral of drinking, ended the show’s first season with a serious bang. But there’s so much more to this country music-focused drama.

And then there is Juliette Barnes, the rising country star who has won the hearts of teens everywhere – but wants to be more than a pop icon. She traveled a twisting, winding road along the show’s first season through whirlwind romances and breakups. And in the end, she was left grieving her mother – the woman she both loved and hated – who’d given her life to protect Juliette from scandal. 

The show, in its 21-episode first season, explored addiction, infidelity, trust, competition, divorce and so much more.  But one lesson that truly stood out was the importance of being truthful. It was lies and deceit that caused so much of the drama and heartache through the season – and the truth would have prevented so much of that (though it wouldn’t have made for such compelling television).


When Emily Thorne arrived in the Hamptons two seasons ago with perfect manners, elegance and a fabulous background, it all hid her true reasons for moving into the little beach house next to Grayson Manor: revenge. She’s really Amanda Clarke, daughter of the man who took the fall for the Grayson’s involvement in the crash of Flight 197, a deadly terrorist attack. Her father was murdered in prison to keep their secrets secret, but Emily has worked to uncover the truth.

OK, so “Revenge” might be best known for its twisty-turvy plot lines and ingenious payback of wrongs, but we can learn something from this show, too. Yes, really! See, there’s been a quiet undercurrent throughout the episodes that’s given a powerful lesson: Never underestimate the power of love. Heck, wasn’t it that love that led Emily to finally reveal to Jack who she really is in the season 2 finale?

“Mad Men”

When Don Draper pulled up at the rundown whorehouse where he’d spent a good portion of his childhood, it was a pivotal moment for the character who has walked through six seasons mostly upholding his successful businessman façade. But the truth is, he’s a man who came from nothing and managed to make a good life for himself – despite stealing another man’s identity to get out of the war. 

However, Don’s ingrained insecurities and tortured past are things from which he just can’t escape. Worse, it all keeps him from really, truly being happy. Perhaps that’s why he’s constantly falling into bed with women other than his wife (either of them, really). 

The biggest life lesson this show offers? You can’t escape your past – you have to deal with it. And hopefully, we’ll see Don deal with it in the show’s seventh season.

“Modern Family”

Remember when Gloria revealed she was pregnant and Claire had a priceless reaction – that she was really, really happy Gloria was going to get fat? What about when Gloria realized her ex was getting remarried and was insecure about her son’s relationship with his soon-to-be stepmother? These are the things that make “Modern Family” what it is: a hysterical comedy with an undercurrent of real life.

Families come in all shapes, sizes and makeups, and “Modern Family” brings that idea to the screen with its hilarious, fun brand of family life. But beyond the witty dialogue is a clan that truly loves each other. And that’s the biggest lesson of this hit show: Families stick together – no matter what.

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