What is it about television shows? I’m not an addictive person by nature, but I find it impossible to simply watch TV. For starters, it mostly bores me, and I’ve never been very good at watching without doing something else at the same time (eating, primarily, but also, at various stages in my life, playing computer games, writing, researching, doing homework, doing sit-ups, you get the point…).
But then, every once in awhile, something jumps out at you. Someone recommends a show and you rent a DVD (this is usually a few years after the show has been popular), or you stumble across something (again, this is usually ages after everyone else has discovered it), and, suddenly, without warning, without being given a fair chance to stock up on canned foods and powdered milk because you’re not leaving the house anytime soon, you’re hooked, in a seriously unhealthy way. There’s something that happens in the brain, and all you can think is: I. Must. Watch. Every. Episode. Of. This. Show. That. I. Can. Get. My. Grubby. Hands. On. NOW.
It’s a fickle addiction, though, a fragile relationship, and before you know it you’ve watched every single episode ever made, and all the outtakes, and all the special deleted scenes, and all the interviews with cast members, and all the tribute videos on YouTube, and there’s a brief period–a week, maybe–during which you feel bereft, as if a piece of your soul has gone missing somewhere amongst the empty Chinese takeout boxes in your lounge. And then you’re so over it. Like, come on, give me something good to watch.
So you tumble into a new addiction and stay up all night watching your beloved characters negotiate their way through whatever new scenario has been created for them, and when you finally fall into fitful sleep, you dream of them, you become one of them.
I guess you could say that I’m not a casual television-show-watcher. A casual drinker I may be, but I never have just one watch. There’s no such thing as just one watch. If I like a show, I have to have it all. I’m not saying it’s healthy (and I’m certainly not saying it’s as destructive as other addictions, so I guess I should count myself lucky), but that’s the way it is.
Over the years, I’ve had these obsessions often, and over the silliest things, sometimes. It pains me, as someone who considers herself well-read and literary, who doesn’t own a television, who believes that you can never have too many University degrees, to admit that at various points in my life I’ve loved and watched with religious but transient intensity South Park, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Veronica Mars, the X-Files, Law and Order: SVU, NewsRradio, The Office, The Sopranos, Sex and the City, and dozens more, some of them even more embarrasing to name (I refer, as I sometimes do, to the quote in my “About Me” section). With the Man and I, it’s been House, Gilmore Girls, Spooks, CSI, Mad Men, Teachers, and, most recently, 30 Rock, which we’ve been watching with great zeal ever since we reluctantly agreed that, since everyone else though it was like, the best thing ever, we should, for the purposes of remaining culturally aware, probably take a look at it. And sure enough, within viewing the first few episodes, a hundred previously-puzzling references suddenly became clear in my mind.
Of course there are always those classics–for me, The West Wing comes to mind–that stay with us longer than a week. But for the rest of it, well–it’s all in the name of cultural education, really it is.
(and yes, you get two posts today, because I broke my [already rather tenuous] resolution to write one a day yesterday!)