In defense of TV shows

I love television. The logic then follows that I love Netflix. And I do. I spend hours — I mean hours — watching and re-watching TV shows (because let’s be honest most of the movie choices are crap). I consider that time well spent.

But we live in a world where not everyone is so enlightened. There exist humans that enjoy other, non-television activies — like physical activity sustained over long periods of time. That’s okay. Not for those poor unfortunate souls of course, but I guess you can’t miss what you don’t know. Somehow they go on. And yet for some of these people it’s not enough to just dislike television; no, they have to speak out against it.

Now, up to this point most of what I’ve said is meant to be taken with some level of sarcasm. But this next part I mean seriously: I hate when people tell me “it’s just television.”

Do you know what makes something “good television”? Of course not. There’s no formula, road map, blue print. One good show can’t just be replicated a few years later and still stay good. Do you think just any show about nothing would succeed? No. Seinfeld was special. It’s the writing, the acting, the story telling, the casting. All of those components make you, the viewer, invest. Not just your time, though certainly we will give that, but your emotions. Good TV makes you feel feels.

Take The Office. If you ever want to cry for an hour straight, watch the final two episodes of this show. Recently, I did this — for a third time. During one of the previous two occasions I was confronted by someone who asked me (as I was mid-sob): “Ali, it’s just a show. Why are you crying?” They were dumbfounded that a TV show could elicit such an emotional response.

But how could it not? I was given nine seasons of this show. And I consumed, voraciously, all nine seasons of this show. Were all of them amazing? Not really. The Robert California years were a little sub-par for me, but all of those years and episodes and Jim-pranks and cringe-worthy Michael Scott moments bred for me a deeper connection with the characters. And that’s how it’s supposed to happen.

A different perspective: You go to dinner with a friend every Wednesday night at 8:00pm. That person makes you laugh, that person lets you in on their life, they tell you their secrets, you feel their vulnerabilities and relish their triumphs. You feel connected to them. One day they decide to move away. They can’t go to dinner anymore. Don’t you feel sad? Don’t think ‘no’ just because you know this a TV metaphor. Really consider this.

I’m not crazy. Of course I know that Pam and Jim aren’t real or that Mindy Kaling isn’t my friend (but if you want to hang out, girl, I’m down). But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel connected to these people through their characters. And it’s not just The Office.

The first show I really cried at was Boy Meets World on one of the few, but still too many, times that Corey and Topanga broke up. I felt a great deal of sadness when we saw the ultimate fate of Walter White and I felt a similar level of justice when we saw how Jesse’s story ended. I’ve been experiencing a serious amount of anxiety as Trueblood moves ever-closer to it’s meeting with The True Death.

So yes, I’m crying over a TV show. And yes, you can take that negative tone elsewhere if you have a problem with that.

staying in touch

I always used to hate when people would tell me “you’ll understand when you’re older.” Probably because throughout my teen years I was more like 13 going on 30, but also because it was never fun being talked down to. But as I get/got older, I realize there’s truth to it: there are some things you really don’t get until you’re older. Like how you’ll meet people from a million places and that’s amazing and you’ll travel the world together but not necessarily come “home” to the same place, state, city, town.

Like how hard it is to stay in touch. And how hard it can be to maintain and nourish a friendship. And how long-distance friendships can sometimes be even harder than long-distance relationships. Not that I’m any kind of expert in long-distance anything. Just because you do something for a long time doesn’t mean you’re automatically any good at it. But Sunday night I realized that despite my social abilities and networking skills (which I have been made fun of, but also praised for) I’m bad at staying in touch. It’s not a personal thing; I try to spend as much time as possible on my friends who don’t live in New York. But it’s hard. And post-grad made it harder.

In an effort to reconnect with one of my best friends with whom I had recently lost touch, I told her that I think graduating forces us to be introspective. To figure out what we want, where we wanna go, to plan a road map – at least, that’s what it did for this token Type A. But in the process of figuring out myself, I realized that I’ve become too absorbed in me to keep in touch with a lot of the important people I love that aren’t in a 40-minute radius of New York City. That’s a problem. Now, I can’t blame post-grad. Well, actually I can, but it’s not a sufficient excuse for letting a friendship fall by the wayside. It’s easy to get dragged into Netflix as soon as you get home – the seemingly endless supply of 30 Rock and the West Wing have become one of my most cherished post-work rituals. And I think at this point, friends get that. But there’s only so many times someone can call and get no call back. I hereby resolve to start answering my phone a little more, to texting stories that are too long to type but that are important in continuing a relationship, and to all around be a better friend. Because at the end of the day, the West Wing is only 150+ episodes. And when I’m done with them, I’d like to know I still have people to call who will discuss it with me.