When we were married, my ex-wife and I had a rule. No watching mutual TV shows without the other. After years together, raising a toddler, managing a strict budget, television shows became an easy, reliable escape for the two of us. We didn’t watch exorbitant amounts of television. Usually less than an hour a night. But we did not have much time to spare every night, so that hour of TV time was something we both nurtured.
[Image credit: Yiping Lim]
I’m not going to argue the merits of spending time with your spouse on a couch watching TV. Sure, we could have talked more. We ate too many dinners with the television as our third wheel. I know couples who don’t even own a television (cavemen? luddites?), and they seem happy enough. You can make whatever assumption you like. My marriage didn’t work out, but neither of us ever blamed the TV for our troubles.
More importantly, we limit the TV time for our toddler, and he is much more interested in his Lego bricks and his train set than he is in “Yo Gabba Gabba.” To be honest, I think my ex-wife and I like “Yo Gabba” much more than he does.
When we decided to split, it did not take long to divide the property. I never liked the furniture. We chose classic, sturdy pieces to furnish our house with gift money from our wedding. They have lasted well, but they aren’t the style I would have chosen if I were living on my own. The same goes for the artwork and tchotchkes. I think my ex did a fine job decorating, and certainly better than I could have done. Left to my own devices, our house would be clad in red, black and stainless steel. It would be dark and modern, and not warm and inviting.
I did not realize how much I disliked the furniture until it was time to decide to give it up. Once I considered it, the decision was easy. She could have everything she liked. I would take the pieces she did not want, but only as a way to stock my own apartment until I could afford something more in keeping with the style I’m trying to develop.
Thing is, she didn’t like much of it either. She happily gave away our king size bed frame, most of our living room, including the new couch, and a few other pieces. I started to wonder how much our taste was shaped more by the intersection of our personalities than it was by our own distinct desires.
I’m still living with her, and everything is progressing as it did, until the end of this month when I’ll be moving out. But for now, we’re in our old patterns, mostly. That includes the TV time. In fact, now we can watch TV relatively guilt free. We don’t have to feel like we should be stoking the flame of our relationship. That fire has been doused.
While she was away on a business trip, I did what would have been unthinkable before. I watched Fringe without her. In fact, I watched a couple episodes of Fringe.
My wife has interesting taste in movies and television. She likes the romantic stuff, but not the syrupy sweet movies. There has to be a hook. Throw in a Tuscan countryside, or a bit of royalty, and she’s on board. She likes American Idol and Oprah, both of which I cannot stand, but she does not watch any reality TV at all.
She likes sci-fi if there are interesting characters. She doesn’t like horror, but she can handle when things get a little freaky. She was a fan of The X-Files when we met. We both watched Lost, and now we both like Fringe.
This past week, I asked if she wanted to watch the latest episode. I had been away all of last week, and I figured she had caught up on the missed episodes. But she hadn’t. She had watched plenty of TV without me. The Event, The Mentalist, even Lie to Me, a show we barely tolerate unless there is nothing else to watch. But she had not watched Fringe.
“I was too freaked out to watch it without someone else here.”
That’s the state of our relationship. I’m just someone else now. Oh well, so it goes. Poo Tee Weet.
This got me thinking about what I’m watching just to pass the time with her. What shows I really don’t like, deep down. We watch “No Ordinary Family.” It’s not a horrible show, and it’s actually getting better. There is finally real action, and killing and mayhem and more super powers. But it’s also kind of slow. Too much is about high school kids who refuse to use their super powers for no apparent reason. A girl who can read minds and influence peoples’ thoughts. Why is she not running her high school? Why is a super genius not using his super brain to dominate the mathletes team, or the demathalon, or whatever? When a show about super powers features characters who refuse to use those powers, it smells like a lack of budget for cool special effects, and not realistic character development.
The show about which I’m most unsure is “Chuck.” If you had asked me three months ago, I would have told you “Chuck” is one of my favorite shows. And it still might be. It’s got solid sci-fi references, usually under the radar and underexplained, the way I like them. But I wonder if part of my thrill from watching “Chuck” isn’t turning to my wife and explaining the quotation from “Blade Runner,” or the off-handed reference to “Tron.” How superior can I feel if nobody hears me laugh when Chuck says “Now that is a big door!”
On the other hand, I can now fill in my time with shows I really enjoy. Everybody I know in the tech industry loves “Doctor Who,” and almost nobody talks about it. It feels like crossing the threshold into nerdiness, past a point of no return.
I love zombies. My ex-wife thought she loved zombies. She watched “Shaun of the Dead,” which is an excellent comedy and zombie movie, and she expects all zombies to be a bit funny. Except that none of them are. Zombies are dystopian and gory. Traditionally, a zombie movie does not end well.
If you like zombies, by the way, skip “Walking Dead” and find “Dead Set” from the BBC. Besides some annoying characters and lightly latent anti-semitism, it’s actually a solid, terrifying zombie mini-series.
When we split our property, I’m giving her one of the flat screen TVs. Against my better judgment, I’m also giving her a TiVo. We have two, the first of which (hers) dates back to November, 2000. That’s a month after we got married. I’m not going to get nostalgic about that, because that TiVo sucks. It lacks storage. It can’t record in HD. For a long time, I’ve been thinking about trading it in and getting a newer model. Or maybe switching to U-Verse and giving up TiVo altogether.