For many people, television was essential to their sanity during the pandemic. TV was their main source of entertainment, a distraction from the unknown, a stress-free topic to discuss with friends and family, an educational learning tool, and an inspiration to broaden their knowledge on a range of topics.
For me, television has always been these things and more.
I was raised in an educated household of avid readers and lifetime learners. I was expected to be knowledgeable on current events and to be able to discuss them at the dinner table. I also had strict curfews, pre-approved driving destinations, limited phone use (no kids’ line), and the general understanding of what my mom said went.
Once I reached my preteen years, my parents never regulated my watching of “quality” television. This “freedom to view” did not include anything on MTV or shows like 90210. My parents abhorred shows like 90210 with their simple characters and their irrelevant problems.
However, my “freedom to view” did include the movie HBO debuted on Friday nights and the classic movie marathons AMC aired every weekend. And eventually, many miniseries on premium cable networks. The more shows I watched the more I began to understand human nature. The same character traits, reaction to adversity, thought processes and courses of action always led to an individual's or group's demise or success.
In the years that I grew from a preteen to a young adult, television was completely revolutionized. Quality programming was readily available on multiple premium networks. HBO dominated Sunday nights. From my parents’ den to my college dorm to my first apartment, I gathered with many over the years at 8:50pm EST to watch the new Sopranos episode. I can still hear the white noise sound and then the blasting of “woke up this morning” as Tony drove the New Jersey Turnpike.
Since television is so accessible and appeals to all generations, it makes for successful small talk at dinner parties, on long flight, or at the doctor’s office. Mutual interest in television genres is always easy common ground and rarely leads to controversial topics or anything too personal.
It is also an immediate way to judge character and identify potential friendships. If you fail to find a reciprocal affinity for any series you are most likely not compatible and no longer need to waste your time conversing.
It is a great tool for maintaining long distance friendships and familial bonds. Household chores and exercise always go by faster when you are distracted by a show. And whose marriage isn’t better when you are both invested in a series and look forward to watching together at night.
Worth the Hype TV: The Sopranos, Game of Thrones, Band of Brothers, Breaking Bad, Mad Men
FX: The Americans, Justified, Sons of Anarchy
Hidden Gems: The Knick, Normal People, The Bear
If you can endure subtitles: Babylon Berlin, Charité, Deadwind
Comedy Favorites: Curb Your Enthusiasm, Episodes, Moving On, Weeds
Personal Favorite: The Wire