Wednesday, April 21, 2021


Before the pandemic, I wasn't a huge TV watcher. I'd tune in every Sunday night for Masterpiece and watch a movie on Friday and Saturday, and maybe take in a show that everyone in the family enjoyed once or twice a week, but otherwise usually spent my evenings reading, writing, or projecting. I think. In reality I find it hard to remember how I used to spend any of my time pre-pandemic, and I find it hard to imagine having the energy to do anything other than zone out in front of the boob tube. All that changed with the apocalypse. The need to escape into the normalcy...if somewhat zany normalcy...of other, imaginary, people's lives overpowered any desire for productivity or self-improvement. In looking back over the first thirteen months of the pandemic year, I've had a hard time remembering all of what we watched, so I thought I'd attempt to take an inventory here.

Comfort TV

Familiar characters. Known plot points. Memorized lines and jokes. This is what I craved most of all, so early last April I instituted Friends Night every Monday, when we would watch one episode of Season 1 of Friends. I figured the 20 episodes of the first season, which would take us into September, would get us to the end of the pandemic. While this was way more realistic than all of the "shop for two weeks of lockdown" and "we just need to flatten the curve" prognostications, it wasn't even anywhere close. When M went to college, we kept him in the loop by FaceTiming with him every Monday night and setting the phone up in front of the TV. E bought me the discs for Season 2 for my Birthday in August and then Season 3 for Christmas. We're going to need Season 4 pretty soon. I just hope the pandemic ends before we get through all ten seasons.

When one of requires the television equivalent of macaroni and cheese in between Friends Nights, we watch a couple episodes of the BBC/Masterpiece production Jeeves & Wooster, with the madcap duo of Hugh Laurie and Stephen Frye, or (also BBC) Death in Paradise.

Family TV

When your kids reach a certain age, they want to spend less and less time with you, and one of the only ways of spending time together that doesn't lead to some kind of confrontation (except over who gets what seat on the couches) is to sit down in front of a show everyone can enjoy. Soon after he came home from college last spring, M and I were casting about for something to watch when we came upon Scrubs. C and I used to watch it when it was on network TV (a concept totally foreign to my kids), and I forgot how funny it was (that is until the totally unnecessary and off-the-rails last season). 

Before we had kids, C and I used to come home from work, cook dinner, and sit down to eat in front of the nightly Friends and King of the Hill reruns. We kept up this ritual after M was born, until the night when his little diaper butt bounced up and down tin time with the theme song of King of the Hill. After that, we moved dinner to the kitchen table and relegated television to after the kid was in bed time. We reintroduced M to the show, and he loved it still, but instead of his diaper butt bouncing up and down, he took to talking like Boomhauer. Another show we remembered from out network days and that did not disappoint in the humor department (until yet another excessive final season) was My Name is Earl.

We've made Friday night another regular TV night with E and Z, watching The Mandalorian, which I admit I didn't love, then Wanda Vision, which I thought was such a great, original story and a fantastic departure from the predictable plots of most superhero movies. Now C and the boys are watching Winter Soldier and The Falcon, but while I sit with them, I usually read or do a craft project and don't pay much attention, because I don't really like the Winter Soldier as a character and I really don't like the gun violence (as opposed to super hero power violence).

Girly TV

It seems that being trapped at home with four large male people, sometimes going weeks without seeing another woman in person, caused me to gravitate toward shows with women as the primary characters: New Girl and The Mindy Project got me through the rough period of last spring, and often I stayed up way too late at night bingeing on them, avoiding going to bed where I'd have to think about...stuff. I've also been slowly working my way through The Gilmore Girls, but I can only watch that when C's not around because he hates it. He claims the acting is poor, but I tease him that he can't stand watching a show that is entirely focused around women and their concerns, only some of which involve men. (I think I'm at least partly right.)


Life is dramatic enough these days that we've mostly stuck to comedies, though we have continued our Sunday night Masterpiece tradition. I've forgotten about most of these at this point, except a WWII show set mostly in Warsaw after the invasion, which was an extremely traumatic thing to watch during apocalyptic times, and All Creatures Great and Small, which I found lovely and sweet and soothing. Perfectly pastoral.

The Best for Last

It took a couple of years of many people recommending Schitt's Creek to me before we finally dove in and watched. It's true that the premise sounds pretty dumb. And it's true that the first few episodes will have you thinking that it's a show about a bunch of vain, selfish people being not very nice to each other. But it turns out to be very funny, very smart, and also very, very sweet. The characters change and grow over the progression of the seasons, when usually sitcoms work because the characters don't change. They're very loving to each other, in their vain, selfish way, and they love each other in spite of each other's quirks. 

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