Over the last few years I’ve made a concerted effort to watch less TV and spend more time reading and writing.
Because that’s what all the productivity experts on the internet told me to do. Less leisure. More work. They told me if I want to become a successful writer, I’d have to eliminate distractions, turn off the boob tube and get serious because writing is serious business, only the truly dedicated welcome success and no legit writer spends their Saturday afternoons watching four hours of Impractical Jokers when there are things to write.
So I severely cut my TV hours. No Breaking Bad. No Walking Dead. No Game of Thrones. (And thankfully the Philadelphia sports scene has been pretty grim lately so it wasn’t terribly hard to miss a few games).
And I’m pretty sure that when I told people I didn’t really watch TV, while they politely nodded they were secretly saying, “You think you’re better then me?” (Ironically, a line made famous by the last show I was ever addicted to–Seinfeld.)
For years Cindy hinted that we should find a show together. Our show. Curl up on the couch, husband and wife and experience one of our great American privileges…TV.
But nothing ever came of it. We never found a show to satisfy a mutual desire to veg.
Recently, Cindy asked me to watch NBC’s This is Us. She kept telling me how good it was. How much I would enjoy it since it’s about thirtysomethings. People with jobs and kids and family drama. People like us.
“People like us?”
“Yeah, people like us.”
“That sounds terrible.”
And on I went, not watching TV.
But finally, on a lazy day between Christmas and New Years ( I say “day” because between those two holidays no one really knows what day it is) I submitted. I put down the books and laptop and sunk into the couch to watch an episode with my wife.
And 20 minutes later, I was hugging a pillow and wrestling tears.
This is Us is fantastic television. It’s a masterclass in storytelling. The show examines the disjointed lives of the Pearson family and it’s episodes seamlessly weave together the past and the present with humor and gravity.
The characters are conflicted and tortured people. People like us.
Over the next few days Cindy and I binged the last 10 episodes together. ( Yes, my first TV bingeing experience… And no I don’t think I’m better then you!)
After us married folk meet the demands of our day, marriage is often attended to meagerly, if attended to at all. And the more children, the more responsibilities we stuff into a marriage, the less attention the marriage receives.
And the glint of those early honeymoon years– the quiet candlelight dinners, the weekend trips, the romantic rendezvous become amazingly distant and almost forgotten memories, like scenes from your once favorite but now canceled TV show.
Twelve years and three children later, most days Cindy and I struggle to find our time. After we both come home from work, “our” time is often a quick recapping of the day’s events while we clean up dinner dishes, coach our children through math homework, referee wrestling matches and do other adult things like pay bills, fold laundry, pick up toys and clean up spills ( I feel like I’m always cleaning up spills).
As life unfurls, I can feel the dynamic of our marriage changing. Changing in that we see and speak to each other less. It’s not intentional. Trust me, I love spending time with my wife, but our life, our responsibilities demand that we give our attention elsewhere.
Since it’s genesis, from tube to plasma, TV has had great bonding power. TV watching is always best when its a shared experience. But binge watching This is Us with my wife, a show about the importance of family and community, reminded me that marriages, even stable ones need new, shared experiences.
So maybe the living room couch doesn’t sparkle with romanticism. In fact, our couch sparkles with forgotten Lucky Charms and lost Shopkins. But maybe the couch is the weekly (and not so secret) rendezvous we need.