It’s always hard for me to start watching a new show. I am easily irritated, and TV shows and movies seem to bring out my hostility in a way that only actual news stories can match. For example: I abhor a laugh track. If I start watching something and there’s a laugh track, I am very unlikely to keep watching. Because honestly, if you have to prompt me to laugh, you’re just not funny enough.
Also: reliance on stereotypes. The clueless hippie. The absentminded professor. The ditzy blonde. The geeky boy-nerd who can’t talk to girls. The geeky girl nerd who blossoms once you put her in a dress and get her some contact lenses. The Jewish mother. The Arab terrorist. The evil stepmother. The stupid jock. The flamboyant fag and the bulldyke. The Black friend (always the first to die). The Asian friend (great with computers). The deathbed transformations. Amor vincit omnia. The plucky poor and the goodhearted capitalist. The man-hating feminist. The fiery redhead. Prince Charming and the rescued maiden. I mean, really. Use your imagination for a change instead of giving us this superficial junk.
Also: advertisements. I find commercials actively offensive. How dare you come into my house and tell me what to wear, what to eat, how to look, how to feel? How dare you play upon the very insecurities you helped create so some assholes can make even more profit on the products made by illiterate children in sweatshops? Commercials are the main (although obviously not the only) reason I stopped watching TV ages ago. My ex still watched it, but he had a shit-hot pair of Sennheiser headphones with soundblockers so we were both happy. Once we got divorced, I was happy to let the TV gather dust.
But then winter came. And I started getting sick. And also depressed (again. dear waggy dog, when will that cloud leave me forever?). And it was too much work to make art, too much work to read books, too much work to even play computer games. So I signed up for Netflix. No commercials! Shows on demand! Multiple seasons at once! When I look back at that winter, I feel like the whole time I was either shoveling snow, waiting in doctor’s offices, or wrapped in a quilt on the couch watching Buffy kick the crap out of some undead. I’m sure I did actually show up at work most days, but what sticks in my mind is the drone of the red cat’s purr on my lap, and how my startled jump when the vampires appeared out of nowhere would cause the Brindle Dog to look at me reproachfully and sidle off the couch for safer territory.
I don’t watch a lot of movies. Two hours seems like a long time to commit to something. Although when the weather is bad and work has been hard and my period starts and I feel crappy, I can easily sit there for five hours watching show after show, pausing now and then to let the dogs pee or fetch more popcorn.
It’s been two years this month since I signed up for Netflix. Now I use it as a barometer. Did I not watch TV for the last week? My mental and physical health are good; my energy is good; I am engaged with my life; I’d better enjoy this while it lasts! Did I come home from work and plunk on the couch for hours with the remote after a brief swing through the kitchen to feed the dogs? My health is suffering in at least a couple of respects, and it’s time to call a friend for an art date or call a doctor or at least do some damn laundry. Did I watch a show or two every day or two and otherwise get on with my life? That’s about average for me, and I can live with it comfortably.
One side of the couch is where I sit to watch TV. The other side is where I sit to read. Depending on how I fluff the pillows and which lamps I turn on, the Brindle Dog knows where to arrange herself for whatever I have planned next. Is the living room dark? Then she’s waiting by the kitchen door for me to head in and clear a space to draw. She loves Netflix, too. It’s the only time I sit still enough—for long enough—for her to have a nice long nap.