AN ABRIDGED HISTORY OF TV AND ME: A LOVE AFFAIR
1979 – 1981
SESAME STREET – watch it daily while lounging on my blanket* and snacking on American cheese (eaten incredibly slowly). Particularly transfixing to me is the alphabet and its mysterious inner workings – such as the apparent omission of my initials “M” and “O,” which for years I do not realize are contained in the ellemeno part. All is compelling and thrilling until one episode in which Bob blackens some of his teeth to play a scarecrow and I lose my shit, descend into a months-long anxiety spiral. Boycott show, constantly check for Scary Bob in basement/under beds/in closets, start sleeping on parents’ bedroom floor in Holly Hobby sleeping bag. One year later, am finally convinced to give Sesame Street another try. My first day back it is a rerun of the Scary Bob episode.
ELECTRIC COMPANY (reruns) – delightful in every way except one major flaw: it is followed by 3-2-1 Contact whose aggressive theme song gives me panicky feeling. Get around this by leaping across the room to shut off TV the millisecond my show ends, sometimes even before.
SNACK: American cheese still. Occasionally Muenster.
1985 – 1987
(weekdays) BRADY BUNCH – Constantly. Back to back episodes. No amount is too much. The organized, highly structured Brady household floods me with happy calm. Am in awe of their bare, gleaming counters and taut bedspreads. Deeply long to be a prim, Brady-ish girl with always-brushed hair and darling frocks, but fully understand the reality of the situation: I am a ruddy-cheeked, generally sweaty type* who wears un-matching, often outlandishly creative ensembles.
SNACK: Capri Sun, Triscuits
(weekends) SOLID GOLD followed by the NBC PRIMETIME LINEUP. Try desperately each week to stay up for SNL so I can chime in with hilarious-seeming references the boys at school make, but inevitably fall asleep during local news.
SNACK: N/A. Have eaten Totino’s pizza earlier upon sitter’s arrival
SANTA BARBARA – My dear and largely unsupervised friend Carolyn introduces me to this show and it is a revelation to me. Reasons: 1) Highly compelling drama that includes missing persons and a nun being killed by a falling neon sign. 2) Lingering, close-up camera work lets me scrutinize Eden Capwell’s makeup job for educational purposes. 3) The overall mellowness is mesmerizing – hushed speaking tones, dimly lit sets, commercials for home cleaning products and easy dinner solutions like Hamburger Helper.
SNACK: anything born of a mix: ramen, blueberry muffins, Knorr soup in a mug, etc.
Take a break from TV to be a very good student. Am not aware of this at the time, but this is the smartest I will ever be.
BEVERLY HILLS, 90210 – Deeply, deeply impressed by idea of outdoor lockers.
SNACK: Diet Coke
SNL, KIDS IN THE HALL – Euphoria. Continually want to leap up and shout “YES! People are SO like that!” Memorize sketches, re-enact them with my brother. Look down on people who call sketches skits.
SNACK: Cape Cod potato chips
Take a break from TV to make the most of college, e.g. drinking vodka/Hi-C cocktails from my Nalgene, bringing my kitten to parties, frequenting a cappella concerts and shagging Nick in his thesis carrel.
THE PRACTICE – discover optimum TV-watching position that allows Nick and me to jointly recline on the brown velour Salvation Army couch in our vile yet zillion-dollars-per-month San Francisco apartment. For first time ever, law jargon does not flummox or intimidate me. Vaguely consider possibility of law school. Imagine Lindsay Doyle would be great mentor. Also imagine I’d look good in a slate gray suit and glasses and toting a skinny briefcase.
SNACK: Peanuts. For years, had been hypochondriacally attached to the idea that I was allergic, but am totally not, which I finally confirmed one day by sitting w/ Nick and my mom in a car outside St. Luke’s hospital and nibbling peanut toffee and waiting for anaphylaxis. Celebrate the good news by consuming vast quantities of peanuts in every possible form: butter. brittle. honey-roasted. blister. trail mix.
ALIAS – Am fascinated by Sydney Bristow’s competence, particularly her ability to own so many gadgets yet not seem clutter-y. How does she get away with not having a backpack or large tote? Mercilessly mock Syd’s “at home” scenes for always being so the same — indie rock playing softly, warm candlelight, mug of hot tea steeping – but secretly look forward to these scenes.
SNACK: burritos, which I enjoy slicing into mini “wheels” a la sushi rolls; this may well be the early days of my attraction to diminutive, bite-sized foods.
Move to Los Angeles
LOST – Love, then hate, then settle into a comfortable love/hate. Generally succeed in maintaining positive attitude, yet remain distracted by certain things. How can Hurley not lose weight? Doesn’t the tropical rain pattern make it impossible to ever thoroughly dry one’s clothes? Also – really, not a single shellfish allergy?
SNACK: Vito’s veggie pie, often enjoyed with dear friend Jeremiah who joins for Important Episodes. Adore J for the way he, like me, gets really jazzed dreaming about what he will eat next.
2006 – 2007
IDOL – So much lip gloss, so many teeth. I’m obsessed with teeth and actually have good teeth myself but unfortunately am not much of a singer. Simon makes me hot.
SNACK: Kettle corn, the suddenly obvious solution to the sweet/salty merry-go-round.
SYTYCD – Initially only check it out because a friend claims a contestant looks like me (Jessica* from season 4). Am immediately hooked. Dance crack. Resolve inevitable feelings of laziness by doing pushups during judges’ feedback.
SNACK: Pull-n-Peel Twizzlers
DEXTER – Finally truly understand the expression being on the edge of one’s seat. Almost can’t take it. But can. Opening credits montage where Dex preps his breakfast thrills me to no end, though am continually disturbed that he brews coffee *after* the meal. Buy Canadian bacon in effort to copy his breakfast, but find it gross, way smokier than I expected.
SNACK: Whatever my friend Kelly prepares, since she hosts. One time it is Cuban cuisine, to honor show. One time it is blueberry cream pie. One time, while secretly pregnant, I consume an entire canister of Blue Diamond smoked almonds. Always, we have hot tea in antique-y china that has a ladylike feel. Love being at Kelly’s house watching this fucked-up-good show.
MAD MEN – brings up a question that I’ve always pondered vis à vis people from previous generations: Sex-wise, do they have the same menu we have today? Or was the repertoire smaller? Muse about generational bias; wonder if my daughter will think my life before her was simple and quaint. Also, vow to re-introduce red lipstick for fancy occasions.
SNACK: the frosting part of Joan’s on Third cupcakes
THE SOPRANOS (DVD) – In my high school you could tell who’d gone on the Italy exchange trip because everyone came back wearing these not super cute leather jackets the color of hearing aids. First time I watched The Sopranos, I instantly recognized this same look. Throughout series remain tickled by this. Sure, Tony and his peeps = badass and murdery, yet I can’t help but also see in them sweet, mildly acne-ridden 12th graders in high-waisted, peg-n-rolled Gap jeans.
SNACK: pasta, wine. Goal is to eat what/when Tony eats.
The Current Day (the dawn of 2011)
THE WIRE (DVD) – still just on season two, yet so far am actually following a-OK. Had expected a prolonged, weeks-long, wandering lost-ness since large doses of info outside my wheelhouse — including (but not limited to) anything related to the hierarchy and operations of law enforcement, the 9th circuit court of appeals, finances, things involving percent signs, “emissions” of any kind, all terms bandied about in the preparation of taxes –- tend to send my brain into a paralytic red alert state where it shuts down entirely except to bark at me from within ARE YOU UNDERSTANDING THIS? ARE YOU? UNDERSTAND IT! FOCUS, DUMBHOLE! FOCUS HARDER! Was fully prepared for this to happen with The Wire, but somehow it is not happening. Somehow, very miraculously, I am not lost. Which is cool. A little gift, really. Which I will – proudly, humbly — take.