I love talking TV. Parks & Rec, Gilmore Girls, Project Runway. You name it. I could talk about TV endlessly (and I probably have with many of you). I like hearing about what people are watching, what new shows they're hooked on, and what they thought about the most recent episode of ______. And, quite honestly, TV is one of the few things that I really keep up on. I could have a conversation about TV with just about anyone, and I would be able to find some common ground.
TV was probably the topic of 81% of the conversations I had with my friends in my English masters program. (Books were probably the topic of 4% of our conversations.) Each year as part of our program, we went to a progressive dinner where we students mingled with the professors from our emphasis. As me and my friend Vilja arrived, we made a pact that we were not going to talk about TV. We would be social, we would be intelligent, and we would discuss things like Heidegger or the tensions inherent in academic freedom. If we got really desperate, we would talk about teaching and tell anecdotes about our students or grading. This was our plan.
We inched our way through the food line, secured our soup and rolls, and bravely sat at a table with a new member of the English department. Almost immediately after introductions, I blurted out, "So, what kind of TV do you like?" I know. It's horrifying how little self control I have. What was even more horrifying was Professor X's response: "I don't own a TV." I was stunned. I stumbled over some question about his current research interests, and I tried to inwardly recover from this blow. I understand the logic behind not owning a TV. In fact, part of me likes the idea of minimizing the intrusion of technology and striving towards a quiet and focused life that doesn't bother itself with Liz Lemon's new boyfriend or who Ben will give a rose to. But it seems like a casual TV knowledge is a necessary aspect of engaging with American culture. Like knowing who the presidential candidates are or who's competing in the super bowl.
So, I guess I should revise my previous statement to say, "I could have a conversation about TV with just about anyone EXCEPT PROFESSOR X, and I would be able to find some common ground." Well, when I moved back to Vancouver a couple months ago, I was determined to find such common viewing ground with my mom. My mom doesn't watch TV. Aside from some sewing shows, a few seasons of the Cosby Show, and a some episodes of Extreme Couponing on TLC, I don't think my mom has spent more than 25 hours in front of the TV.
Until I changed all that.
We started with a few seasons of Gilmore Girls. She had watched some with my younger sister and had liked it, so we finished off the series. Not a major triumph since she was previously interested. Then, after trying out a few shows like Parenthood and Friday Night Lights, I finally got her hooked on something new: Bones. Turns out Temperance Brennan's narcissistic crime solving appeals to all. Over a few months, we watched all available seasons. Most recently, I've made some serious headway with Downton Abbey, which my mom (a hater of period dramas) originally resisted.
And now, after spoiling my mom with the joys of TV on DVD, we have to wait a week or more in between new episodes of both Bones and Downton Abbey. While I'm used to this minor annoyance, my mom is not taking it well. I mostly watch TV at my liesure on Hulu and very rarely follow a show anxiously enough to faithfully watch it on TV during it's allotted weekly time. (I don't have Tivo these days.) But now that my mom is hooked on these shows, she wants to watch them as soon as they are available. So, when we sat down last week at 9pm on Thursday evening to watch Bones and Bones wasn't on, my mom was flabbergasted. I guess before it went on Christmas break it was on at 9pm, but post-Christmas it had changed to 8pm. Since Bones is on Fox, it isn't available on Hulu until 8 days after it's original broadcast. This would not do. And, as the introducer of TV, it seemed to fall to my responsibility to keep better tabs on our shows.
Then fast forward to tonight. My mom and I are finishing up a friendly game of speed scrabble when my mom abruptly pauses and asks, "Isn't Downton Abbey on tonight?" I had forgotten because of my previously noted liesure approach to viewing. I responded, "Oh yeah, we've probably missed it by now."
And my generally very sweet and kind mother responded, "Well, way to go!"
I've created a monster. But at least we've found some common ground.