Me & the TV

September 18, 2009

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When I can tear myself away from the latest Utne Reader and when no one is available to play chess by candlelight, I do, I confess, watch an occasional program on the idiot box.

I’m exaggerating, of course. But TV just hasn’t been a big part of my life, at least not since I was young and the sitter watched her shows for the entire eight (daytime) hours that my parents were at work. Thanks to her, I could probably identify more of the women who presented the prizes on “The Price is Right,” than I could, say, actors from “Dallas,” a show which most people my age watched (on purpose, I’m pretty sure).

During grade school I watched the same stuff that everyone was watching: “Happy Days” and “Laverne and Shirley.” “The Love Boat” and “Fantasy Island” on Saturdays. Maybe some “Eight is Enough?” Nothing that really stuck with me.

My high school was a boarding school with only one TV that I remember, located in the student lounge. We had about 45 minutes of free time at night after study hall – 45 short minutes when we could hang out with friends and make out with girl/boyfriends. The TV was pretty much ignored. These were, I believe, the “Miami Vice” days. I have never seen even one episode.

In college we were too busy protesting and deconstructing and drinking to bother with much television. I do remember watching the Gulf War, which was odd, and also  “Dawson’s Creek” – but only in an ironic, anthropological kind of way, of course (again, the deconstructing). But usually we watched movies on VHS. We, like Dawson, were film majors, after all.

My years spent in New York and Boston were so busy and fun and crazy that I can only remember one show that mattered and that was “Party of Five.” Po5: So unbelievably juicy and wildly manipulative; my then-boyfriend, now-husband used to call it “Party of Crap.” I cried like a baby during the finale. And then there was “Seinfeld,” so important, so ground-breaking… I hope I never see it again.

And that brings me to the Adult Me. Adult Me is watching some TV – still, not a lot by national standards, but I do have my shows (see below) that I watch on a regular basis. But is it sad that my TV watching has ramped up in the past five-ten years?

I don’t think so, considering the degree to which the quality of programming has also skyrocketed. Of course, I devoured “The Sopranos,” the early seasons of “24,” “Lost,” and “Six Feet Under” (best series ending montage ever. EVER!). Some day, I may even delve into “The Wire,” which some male members of my family consider to be the best show of all time. I do feel, though, that it is not the right show for me right now.

These days it is more about time, or lack thereof. We only own one TV which is off during the day, but gets switched on when Caralena watches her shows (yes, my kid watches TV and although she watches some good stuff like “Word World,” she also loves annoying fluff like “Max and Ruby,” which you cannot convince me is educational. But hey, she’s busy and active all day and needs to wind down – wait! Why am I defending myself? That’s a whole other blog post, one that I probably will never write.). Basically the TV is available from 8pm until when I go to bed. Two hours later.

On the very few occasions when I do turn on the TV and just flip through the channels, I end up being either pissed off (Fox News, and all those shows about “green construction,” where annoying home owners congratulate themselves for making a backsplash out of recycled glass while never recognizing that, unless your original backsplash was made of asbestos, it actually isn’t all that “green” to tear out a bunch of stuff that was totally fine and functional), or bored (shows about people putting in a new patio or shrub, or people who have buttloads of kids), or embarrassed to be alive (“Real Housewives of Atlanta”).

All of which was a long introduction to a short list of…

Fall Shows I Am Watching:

Glee: I’m not really at a point in my life where I’m looking for a lot of heaviness in my TV entertainment – I pretty much get that from regular life – so “Glee,” for me, is just what the doctor ordered. (I am having a little OCD issue where I cannot get the songs out of my head for days, which sounds silly but when I’m screaming “Streetlights…Pee-ee-poh-oh-oh-OHL!!” in my head at 4am it’s not so fun.) The song choices so far have been spot on, and it was some great casting to pull people from Broadway who have giant singing voices. I will admit that while I love the show now, I can see how I could get tired of the one liners and (purposefully, I’m aware) cliche characters. But for now, “Glee” is on my must-see list.

Mad Men: After all that crazy promoting I thought that this season of “Mad Men” was going to be a home run. Instead it has been…odd. But that is not necessarily a bad thing. For sure, the pacing has been erratic and characters seem to be featured and then suddenly dropped (like Joan – I want more Joan!), but hopefully it’ll all come together a little more in the weeks to come. I get that everyone is unsettled at Sterling Cooper and in their private lives but things have been eerily somber. If Don Draper’s world crashes around him, the show will either crash and burn or go to the next level. Remains to be seen.

Project Runway: For the most part, “Project Runway” has survived the move to Lifetime and Los Angeles. Heidi looks the same, Tim is still around, the challenges and overall format are basically the same. The biggest problem I’m having is the sporadic participation of Michael Kors and Nina Garcia. (I’m guessing they used to be able to just hop in a cab to judge the runway shows and it hasn’t worked out for them to hop on a flight every time.) They are definitely missed. Still, I like this show for the same reasons I always liked it: It’s fun to see what the designers come up with. That’s it! Deep, no?

Top Chef: I love this show. I don’t know why it works, since we obviously can’t taste, or even smell, any of the food that’s prepared. Somehow the combination of the personalities (although there aren’t many exciting people this season), the challenges, and seeing how much work goes into the preparation and presentation of a good dish makes for good TV.

I also watch “30 Rock,” which hasn’t started yet, and “Now” on PBS, which seems to not fit in on this list but I like for its non-hysterical coverage of various issues.

And on that note, off to watch “Glee,” then upstairs to read. Because let’s face it, even though I’ve now spent over an hour writing about television, a good book trumps most shows any day.

  • it doesn't surprise me that we are basically watching the same shows…except Glee. Based on raves from friends I tuned in, but I found myself wanting to like it rather than actually liking it. another looks is in order, perhaps.
    Oh and if you want some real fluff with some fashion thrown in for kicks – check out my guilty pleasure, Rachel Zoe. Chris catches me watching it and I am definitely embarrassed, but somehow I (or he) can't turn away. Ba-na-nas.

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