Pop Culture Pet Peeve: When TV characters don't eat their breakfast

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From the very first episode, Breaking Bad showed us what kind of show it would be: A show that appreciates breakfast. Walter, Skyler, and Walt Jr. sit down at their dining room table in the pilot with plates full of eggs and toast in front of them. And then they eat.

This shouldn’t be anything special, but on TV, it is. So often, perfectly good breakfasts are left untouched, or a character takes one bite and then they’re off. Tell me, reader, would you really look at a plate of steaming hot waffles that your parent so thoughtfully made for you, take one lousy bite out of them, and then leave? No. (Unless you’re not a breakfast person, in which case, you’re excused.)

Trophy Wife is, sadly, guilty. In “The Breakup,” when Kate and her friend Meg are horribly hungover, Warren takes the opportunity to playfully gross them out. “Do you guys want my eggs? They’re super runny,” he offers as he lifts up a piece of the egg with his fork. Kate and Meg gag, and his dad takes away Warren’s plate. “Why don’t we get something on the way to school?” he says. Why don’t we get something on the way. He just took away a plate full of food from his son and is now saying Why don’t we get something on the way. Insanity.

Back in Gossip Girl‘s day, breakfast scenes were commonplace, especially at the lavish Van Der Woodsen residence. Spreads usually included crepes, eggs, yogurt parfaits, sticky buns, tarts, Bloody Mary pitchers — you know, just your basic, everyday breakfast. The spread itself thematically makes sense, because the Van Der Woodsens are wealthy and all about that fancy, excessive lifestyle. But that doesn’t make it any better that they barely touch any of the food on the table. If you’re going to have every breakfast food on the planet prepared for you, it’s probably proper etiquette to eat at least some of it. And aren’t the rich and famous supposed to be into etiquette?

It’s not just the Van Der Woodsen household that wastes perfectly good breakfast food on Gossip Girl though. In a season 6 episode, Serena and her boyfriend Steven sit at his dining room table with stacks of pancakes in front of them. Does Steven so much as look at them? No, he finishes a conversation with Serena, picks up his briefcase, and leaves. As if he is too good for those pancakes! No wonder Serena ended up with Dan.

Then there’s Modern Family. On this season’s “First Days” episode, Phil prepares a hearty breakfast for his kids complete with pancakes, eggs, and bacon. His kids are living the dream. But Luke and Alex sit at the kitchen’s bar with their plates just sitting in front of them. Alex glares at a textbook as her plate of food gets cold nearby, and Luke doesn’t even pretend to have a distraction: His hands are utensil-free, his pancakes sad and alone.

I get why breakfast scenes exist. They show a bit of normalcy, they show us that hey, these families are on TV but they have routines just like you. And I get that it doesn’t actually matter to the narrative whether the characters eat their breakfast. It’s a TV show, after all! But I love breakfast. I may even be at a Leslie Knope/Ron Swanson level of breakfast-loving. (By the way, Parks and Rec, A+ on your breakfast scenes.) So it hurts my soul to see these great meals go unappreciated, especially as I sit in my bed eating instant oatmeal for breakfast.

Maybe the people of the TV world are just a whole bunch of anti-breakfast people. Maybe one day I’ll accept that and stop giving the abandoned scrambled eggs on the screen my sympathy eyes. Or maybe I’ll continue pushing the No Breakfast Left Behind agenda, forever wondering how anyone could even dream of leaving a homemade piece of French toast uneaten.


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