It’s said William Shakespeare wrote King Lear when he was in quarantine during the bubonic plague. Not me. I watched television. I also read that sitting is the new smoking. And watching TV for more than three and a half hours a day is excessive. I think I have to stop reading.
I’m awful at crossword puzzles and hate most board games. I cook to eat, not create. And I’m filled with envy for those who’ve used these past few months to learn a language…or master a new skill. As time evaporates, I’m static, drawn to a screen that provides company and comfort, a numbing break from the uncertainty and upheaval outside. Delight me, don’t darken my day is my mantra as I scroll through hundreds of options.
Comparing the old Perry Mason with the new version? That’s creative, right? Watching the Ken Burns’ National Parksseries counts as an intellectual pursuit, no? But then what about the cheesy quiz shows and Frasier reruns? Ugh. To whom am I rationalizing?
I’ve found life’s suffering too immense to watch stories on evictions or COVID in prisons but nine hours of Lenox Hill was one of the highlights of June. Forbes reported the news makes 43% of us feel worse. That’s why I get most of my news from the CNN crawl, muted while riding my exercise bike…short and to the point, sort of like how communicating by texting has replaced phone calls.
Surprisingly I discovered I picked documentaries and edgy stand up (Hannah Gadsby… Marc Maron…John Mulaney…all extraordinary) over movies many nights. Not what I would have predicted. Suddenly I had no tolerance for rom coms, always my guilty pleasure, and certainly not for movies where the hero dies at the end.
As I sifted through the channels this spring, I was aware of protecting a very vulnerable heart.
When I speak to my friends, the first question exchanged after how are the kids, is what are you watching? Their tastes, like the books and restaurants they recommend, define them. The conversation most often leads to bragging rights about how quickly they gorged on the latest 40 episode series just discovered. It reminds me how some of us used to tout how little we slept, like it was some kind of badge of honor. However appealing their suggestions, I find myself unable to commit to a weeks-long deep dive into anything.
Nothing’s on, I complained much of my life, about the offerings on TV. Then like the number of cereals and salad dressings in the supermarket, suddenly there’s an overwhelming embarrassment of riches and everything is on. A ridiculous number of choices accompanied by a never before expanse of time to fill. I kind of like that my husband and Bill Gates share a love for Ozark. I envy those who haven’t watched The Crown yet. My sister spends nights hypnotized by the black and white world of the movies of the 1930s. I am in awe of every late night host, (especially Stephen Colbert) as they heroically wring humor, insight and comfort from this chaotic time of reckoning.
In April, the average viewer logged in 41 hours of TV time a week. That’s why we can’t remember April. Thankfully, just when we’re beginning to exhaust the programs we were dying to watch, summer offers us the opportunity to make some memories. As the option of watching a squirrel run up a tree competes with Anderson Cooper and Bea Arthur, I’m betting on the squirrel. At least until sports return. And the Presidential election moves into high gear. And we get to see all the brilliant, inspiring work created while I watched MASH. Let the games begin.
By the way, 60 hours of the Australian series A Place Called Home was lauded by FIVE completely different friends whose opinions I respect. Just saying…